Eating in London’s East End

Eating in London’s East End

Please sir, can I have more!
Even though we were in Oliver Twist’s territory, these words were definitely not uttered on our Eating London Food Tour! From one gourmet stop to another, Nicole from Eating London led us through the back streets of this fascinating area of London that she now calls home, all the time weaving historic anecdotes and local gossip into her stories.

Eating London Food Tour map

 

The East End was once an area of crime and neglect but it has undergone a complete change and it is now worth visiting not just for the food!

Spitafields Market

The morning started at the historic Spitalfields covered market, a huge area filled with stalls selling vintage clothing, tee shirts and memorabilia. The produce market has since moved to the New Spitalfields market but hidden in the corner of this older area is a fabulous cheese shop called Androuet.

Androut Cheese Shop, Spitafields

Two brothers, Leo and Alex have taken over their father’s business that he started in France in 1909. They pride themselves on stocking seasonal cheeses most of which are made by small artisanal producers and aged in their own maturing rooms.

Androut Cheese Shop

We are introduced to three cheeses: Waterloo, a cheese similar to brie which is made in Berkshire by the Wigmore Family. This unpasteurised cows milk cheese has an intense and creamy flavour with a light oily film over over it. As unpasteurised cheese is not allowed to be imported or processed in Australia, it was a treat for us. The second cheese was a Westcombe Cheddar from Somerset. I love a good English cheddar and this one did not disappoint! It had a sharp, earthy flavour, the result of ageing for eighteen months in a cheese cave. Finally we try Stichilton, another unpasteurised blue cheese that was made in Nottinghamshire. Delicious!

This, however, was not our first stop. We had started the day at St John’s Bread and Wine where we were introduced to their famous bacon sandwich. The bacon from Bretts Farm, is cured in salt and sugar for two weeks and, together with their grilled bread and a dash of secret ketchup, make this sandwich pretty special. Of course if you’re a bit late for breakfast, the lunch and dinner menu which changes daily, looked a treat.

Bacon Sandwich at St John Bread and Wine Shop

 

From there we headed to The English Restaurant, a very olde world shop that dates back to the 16th century. It is the oldest house in Spitalfields and over the decades has been a Jewish bakery and a nut factory. The pews and wood lining the shop were salvaged from the local church, Christchurch, that was destroyed by water in the 17th century.

The Engish Restaurant, Spitafields

The Engish Restaurant, Spitafields

The English Restaurant is well known for their bread and butter pudding! Bread and butter pudding dates back to the 12th century, a time when nothing was wasted, not even the left over scraps and crusts of bread which were then soaked in milk and used to make the pudding. Kay still makes hers the old fashioned way using bread but there’s a twist…banana is added and together with the delicious rum custard, it is certainly a winner!

Bread and Butter Pudding at The Engish Restaurant, Spitafields

 

From here, we walk through the streets which lead past a car park made famous as the place where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was found, past streets that made up the red light light area when prostitutes outnumbered locals and past the beautiful facade of the Jewish poor house that was built in 1902 where needy people were fed bread and stew. At the time it closed in 1992, 1500 people were still being fed daily.

The Soup Kitchen, Shoreditch

 

Our next two stops also happen to be in Time Out’s list of Top 100 Tastes to try in London.

The first, Poppies, arguably the maker of the cities best fish and chips, certainly wins my vote for the best fish…the lightly battered cod is delicious!

Fish and Chips at Poppies

 

But what would fish and chips be without pea mash…so this is how it is served!

Fish and Chips at Poppies

Poppy has been serving fish and chips for many years even though he has only been in this shop for 4 years. Entering the shop is like stepping back into a diner in the fiftys. The waitresses are in red bellhop uniforms,  a juke box takes pride of place in a corner and the walls are decorated with memorabilia that remind Poppy of his life including a collection of toy soldiers, war time posters, borders of rhyming cockney slang and pictures of famous  people who have eaten here.

Poppies Fish and Chip shop

Our Jekyll and Hyde..guide…tells us of the especially printed newspaper. The only problem is that 20 tonne was the minimum order so you’ll never miss out on having your takeaway fish and chips served in newspaper for many generations to come!

 

Also on Time Out’s list are the bagels from Beigal Bake in Brick Lane

Sammy is the king of the beigals…he spells them in Yiddish. He has been making old fashioned boiled beigals since 1937. The most popular are those served with salted beef though there are many other fillings to choose from.  The shop is open 24 hours a day and we’re told that queues form down the street from early in the morning.

The Beigal Bake, Brick lane

 

3000 bagels a day are served here! This last snippet of information was told to us by Paul Gardner who sells paper bags to Sammy for his bagels. They look after each other here!

Paul’s paper bag shop is like no other. The shop is an institution in the street, so much so that when the rents in the area were increased a petition went round asking that his not be raised as they didn’t want to lose a village icon. Just as well Paul knows where everything is as there is no way you could find anything here. The bags seem to be taking over the shop!

Gardner's Paper Bags

 

 Brick Lane is probably the best known street in the area. It has a fascinating background. Brick and tile manufacture started here in the 15th century giving rise to the area’s name.  Brewing followed in the early 17th century with the Truman family establishing a brewery. Around this time the French Huguenots bought their weaving skills to the East End and in the 19th century the Irish and the Jews settled here. Now, the Bengali people call the area home.

 

Brick Lane

 

Brick Lane

 

Brick Lane is famous for its curry houses. Believe it or not, curry is the national dish of England. There are over 15,000 curry houses in England…more than Delhi and Mumbai!

Every curry house in Brick Lane claims to be the best but Nicole has done her homework, tasted them all,  and we head to Aladin to try 3 different curries…a vegetarian bhuna, lamb pathia and the chef’s speciality, a chicken marsala all served with hot naan straight from the tandoor oven. Delicious….and not too spicy though if you do love a hot curry, this can be arranged for you!

 

Aladin Curry House, Brick Lane

 

There’s also some fascinating street art in this area..so much that it is worth a separate tour but here a few we saw!

Street art, Brick Lane

 

Street Art, Brick Lane

 

What’s a food tour be without a stop at an old English pub and it just so happens that Nicole’s local is on our route! The Pride of Spitalfields is a free house which means they are not aligned to a specific brewery. The local brewery, Trumans, which ran from 1606 to 1989 has just had a new beer made under their name which the pub is trialling. We try this along with a cider that won the best British cider award in 2012.

The Pride of Spitafields,

The Pride of Spitafields,

 

Our final stop on the tour was one I had been looking forward to! Pizza East, a well know pizza house run by the team from Soho House, have created a great business that flows easily from breakfast to lunch to dinner and then becomes a cocktail lounge in the evening. We’ll have to see this part of it on another trip, but their chocolate salted caramel tart was the perfect finish to our tour, along with that fine British custom…a cup of tea!

Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart at Pizza East

 

Nicole’s enthusiasm and careful planning of the many delicious food stops makes this one of the best food tours I have taken. Next time you’re in London, I recommend you join her to explore this wonderful area of the city through its food.

 

Where have you taken a food tour?

 

Eating London Food Tours
Food tours for up to 12 people depart daily except Sunday at 10am and last 3.5 hours.
The cost is GBP59 per adult
Please see their web site for further information and bookings.

 

 

Our thanks to Eating London for their complementary tour.

 

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44 Responses to Eating in London’s East End

  1. Jennifer January 15, 2014 at 12:25 am #

    I did this food tour too and it was seriously the best I’ve ever been on! Oh that cheddar. No, wait! The salt beef bagel. Or yum, the salted caramel tart! I am making my mouth water just thinking of it all again.

    • Jenny Freedman January 15, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      I agree Jennifer, it really is one of the best I’ve ever done too! I loved the way we also learnt about the history of the area as well as tasting some seriously fabulous English dishes. Maybe we should ask for version two for next time!!

  2. Shing January 15, 2014 at 5:32 am #

    I love the vibe in Spitalfields! Really glad to read about Aladin because I had the worst (and I really mean the worse) curry I’ve ever had on Brick Lane and never had the faith to go back, I guess that’s when a tour like this really comes in handy.

    In an area with so much street art and diversity, this is more than just food tour. I just need to try it out for myself now (and I’ll make sure to go on an empty stomach!)

    • Jenny Freedman January 15, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      I hadn’t realised what a great area Spitafields was before doing this tour. I’m going to have to do a street art tour as well when I return to London! Food tours are a great way to learn about the best restaurants in the area. Try Aladin Shing…the curries we had were very good! Even better..why don’t you do the tour!

  3. budget jan January 15, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    It is strange to me to have peas with fish and chips – but then we like mushy peas with our meat pies in N.Q., so we can’t talk. The lightly battered cod looks delish. The cheese paddles are calling out to me, and curries are my favourite food. If I got to eat all of those I would love the salty choc tart to finish off :)

    • Jenny Freedman January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      The cod was fabulous Jan…the lightest of batter and fresh, delicious fish. I wasn’t sure about the peas but it does work…just as it does with pies!! No dinner after this great tour Jan…everything was delicious and the portions were very generous!

  4. Sarah Walton January 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Now that’s my way to see a city! I am hopefully heading to London this year, so will be sure to look them up.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

      This would be a great tour for you to do Sarah. it’s an intersting area of London.

  5. Mrs. Chasing the Donkey January 15, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    All of that sounds and looks delightful – but is it wrong that I am just craving that fish and chips?

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 9:59 pm #

      No, the fish and chips were delicious. The batter was so light..it was one my favourite dishes on the tour.

  6. Karen (Back Road Journal) January 16, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    What a great sounding tour. Not only good food but all the history of the area. It sounds like you had a good time.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

      It’s such an interesting area of London Karen. I loved that we learnt a bit of the history of the area as well as tasting some fabulous food!

  7. Natasha von Geldern January 16, 2014 at 4:49 am #

    Great post Jenny about a fab part of London – some excellent tips here for eating out!

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

      Thanks Natasha. It would be a great one for you to do in London. The steet art in the area is fabulous too!

  8. Muza-chan January 16, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    Everything looks delicious…

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

      It certainly was Lili…a great tour!

  9. Leigh January 16, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    I feel full now – make that stuffed after the food tour.

    You know I’ve never taken a food tour – and I’m in Montreal right now where such a thing would be fantastic. Your tour sounds simply amazing. What a fun way to get to know the city.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

      I was full too Leigh! it’s a fabulous way to see the city and learn a bit about the history of the area as well. Montreal would be a great place for a food tour. I’m sure you’d love it.

  10. Jess @UsedYorkCity January 17, 2014 at 1:55 am #

    Oh I would have loved to tried those fish and chips at Poppy’s…and what a cute concept for a restaurant! I’ve taken a Chinatown food tour here in NYC which was quite delicious, and I loved discovering hole-in-the-wall places!

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

      The fish and chips were great Jess! It really is a great way to find out about different places to eat. We did a couple of food tours in New York as well this trip. Chinatown is on he list for the next visit!

  11. noel morata January 17, 2014 at 2:37 am #

    Now that is a fun tour…I’ve never done one of these and would love to do it someday…preferably the one you took with Eating London!

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

      Food tours are fabulous Noel. They can give you a great introduction to a city. This would be a great one to start with…a little but of history and some great food stops!

  12. Marcia January 17, 2014 at 6:43 am #

    I like bacon and I like ketchup but I’d never thought of putting them together. Granted, this is a secret ketchup so I’m sure it must make it extra special.

    Thanks for taking us along on your tour, Jenny. I’m definitely going to do it the next time I’m in London.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

      We all tried to guess what was in the ketchup but it was funny how everyone’s idea differed! It was certainly excellent and was delicious with the bacon. This is a great tour to do Marcia..an introduction to an older area of London and some typical English foods

  13. Carolyn January 17, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    What an amazing tour. That bread and butter pudding looks divine – oh, and so does the salted caramel tart (can you tell I’m a sweet tooth?!).

    I was served mushy peas with fish and chips in Cornwall last year and whilst they tasted OK, it just didn’t seem right. I guess that’s one British tradition that we Aussies haven’t followed.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

      The fish was so delicious I’m not sure that it really needed the peas but you can’t go against tradition! AS you said, it’s not really an Aussie thing! Eating London had certainly chosen some great food stops for the tour!

  14. Johanna January 17, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Bread and butter pudding, fish and chips, mushy peas … ahh the cuisine of my childhood! Dave’s Mum and Dad were Cockneys raised in the East End and had so many stories to tell us (I wish we could ask them more questions now). It’s such a colourful area with so much interesting history, and you’ve done a great job on the culinary journey – love your pics!

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:27 pm #

      Thanks Jo. You would love this tour, especially with the family history. It was a great introduction for us to this area of London…one I’ll certainly head back to on our next visit.

  15. Jackie Smith January 17, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    Oh my! Mushy peas and fish and chips — my all time favorite English meal…what a great post!!

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

      Thanks Jackie. I’m sure this is a tour you would love! You’ll have to head to Poppies for fish and chips…and peas next time you’re in London!

  16. Mary {The World Is A Book} January 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    What a great food tour! I wish I knew about this last summer. That bread and butter pudding looks delicious! I love the variety of food you had and the quirky little places they were in.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:38 pm #

      It’s a fairly new tour Mary, so may have not started when you were in London but it’s definitely one to do next time! I agree, Eating London have chosen the places we visited well and gave us an excellent mix of dishes to try.

  17. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} January 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    I’ve never taken a food tour, but now I really want to. This one looks absolutely fantastic. My mouth was watering reading your post.

    • Jenny Freedman January 17, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

      Food tours are fabulous Michele. This is a great one to start with. It gives you an interesting mix of history and some delicious English food to try!

  18. Neva January 18, 2014 at 5:29 am #

    Now that’s an amazing way to really get to know about life and history. I would love any and all of those foods. Great photos.

    • Jenny Freedman January 20, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      I’m all for taking tours in places to give you a new perspective on a city and this was one of the best Neva! I can highly recommend it!

  19. Jennie @ Got My Reservations January 19, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    I loved this post! I’m signing up to follow you and I’m pinning this on my Travel Lust: London board. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/121597258663299953/

    • Jenny Freedman January 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      Thanks Jennie for following A Taste of Travel. I really must get back to Pinterest. It used to take up a lot of time that I really should have put to a different use!

  20. Marisol@TravelingSolemates January 19, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    Hi Jenny, I enjoy all the food tours you have introduced tp us. You gave me something new to look forward to when I return to London. I have not visited a lot of these places that sound like a “must go.” You made me want to go to Poppies really bad. Who wouldn’t to have the best fish and chip in London? I haven’t had a mash pea and would love to try it.

    • Jenny Freedman January 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      I’ve still got a few more for you Marisol!! It’s so easy to keep doing the same things in a big city such as London, so it’s great to find something new to do..especially something as fun as this. Yes, fish and chips in London…you can’t get more English than that!!

  21. Jerry E. Beuterbaugh January 20, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    I hope 2014 proves to be a good year for you and yours!

    • Jenny Freedman January 23, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      Thanks for your well wishes Jerry.

  22. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 28, 2014 at 6:08 am #

    I’m going on this soon for my birthday and if I wasn’t already excited enough, your post and pictures has got me craving all the foods already – cannot wait!!

    • Jenny Freedman January 28, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

      You’ll love it Shikha. It is a fabulous tour..have fun!

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