Dan and I went to London over Memorial Day weekend this year. It was Dan’s first trip to London and my first time in London in 13 years, so clearly we had to take a food tour! Of the many options available in London, we choose a food tour that went through East London, a somewhat sketchy part of town that I spent some time in those 13 years ago… The food tour ended up being awesome and East London has changed SO MUCH!
Our group met at Spitalfields Market, which is a totally charming market that I would have liked to explore in depth but, as is often the cases on these types of food tours, the first “stop” was just an easy meeting point. After introductions, we walked a few blocks to our first proper restaurant – St. John’s Food & Wine Spitalfields! St. John’s is a super cute bakery serving sweets and breakfast foods. I would definitely return to St. John’s for a meal! Also, Anthony Bourdain is a huge fan of the original St. John’s restaurant – sold!
At St. John’s everyone on our tour tried a bacon sandwich on freshly made bread with homemade ketchup. And wow, was this sandwich AMAZING. First, the bread was excellent – well made and freshly buttered. Next, the bacon (more like ham for US readers) was delicious. Finally, the ketchup, which I usually do not even like, was so tasty. It had a slight kick to it and paired perfectly with the bacon sandwich! St. John is also rumored to make excellent doughnuts. Unfortunately, I missed the doughnuts!!
Our second stop on our food tour was a few blocks from St. John’s at a very old English pub called The English Restaurant (very original). After a quick tour of the restaurant – it dates back to -the 1600s – we enjoyed an English pudding with orange and vanilla! This was surprisingly delicious and completely decadent! The pudding was so heavy that I could not finish it all – highly recommended.
We next made a stop at the most delicious cheese shop called Androuet! Androuet specializes in British cheese, which are actually really good, and we tasted two! Androuet also had this amazing sign:
I cannot remember the name of the second cheese that we tried, but we tried a traditional British blue cheese, kind of like stilton. Both were excellent, and it was nice to have a little break from the heavy food (and the heavy food that was to come…).
As if we did not have enough food, we next stopped at Poppies for the well-known British fish and chips! London is home to a lot of fish and chip storefronts, known as “chip shops,” and many of them are not of a very high quality; they cater to tourists or drunk people and really have no reason to go above edible. However, Poppies is one of the oldest chip shops in London (since 1952) and the owner was sitting across the street in a folding beach chair (on the sidewalk!) watching his shop while drinking coffee! #lifegoals. We tried the traditional fish and chips with a side of mashed peas. Delicious!
I had really high hopes for our next stop – an historic pub called the Pride of Spitalfields. While it was a cool pub with a lot of history (once associated with a Jack the Ripper suspect!), we only tried a small pour of regular beer and a small pour of cider (ciders are HUGE in England (and Ireland)) – disappointing. With all of the good craft beer near London, it would have been nice to try something more crafty. However, it did the job of displaying a traditional British pub!
After our beer break, we finally arrived at my most anticipated stop – a curry restaurant!! I LOVE Indian food and eat it frequently at home, so had really been looking forward to a proper London curry in London! Our stop in East London was called Aladin and the marque and interior were done in true Disney Aladdin theme… However, the food was excellent and made up for the tacky decor! At Aladin, we tried a vegetable curry, a chicken curry, and a lamb curry. The chicken was my favorite, but they were all pretty delicious! For people who do not like spicy food, none of these dishes were very spicy.
We had a bit of a break after our curry stop, which allowed us to view some of the awesome art in East London and people watch. East London is really interesting these days, and we even passed a real live Banksy!
We eventually made it to our next stop – London’s “most famous bagel shop,” Beigel Bake for a British bagel with corned beef and mustard. I was initially a bit iffy on this stop, as I live just outside New York and everyone knows that New York makes the best bagels, the best pickles, and the best corned beef. However, I was surprised and throughly enjoyed this dish – the bagel was quite soft and chewy and the corned beef was excellent! The mustard set it off just the right amount! Definitely worth a stop in London!
Our final stop was for dessert and English tea at Pizza East (yes, I was a bit dissapointed that we did not eat pizza…)! Everyone enjoyed a cup of tea and the MOST decadent salted caramel tarte. I mean, it was totally amazing and super decadent! The salted caramel tarte was accompanied by fresh creme, and it was ridiculously delicious!
Our last stop also gave the group an opportunity to sit down and ask our guide for recommendations, and to recap our favorite spots. The bacon sandwich and the corned been bagel topped the list on my tour!
All in, this food tour was really fun and it was a great way to try some traditional British food without the tourist crowds. Our guide also gave his some history of the area and frequently pointed out art, etc. that I may have missed on my own. I would certainly recommend this tour to any traveler to London!
STEAL OUR TRIP
East London Food Tour: £69/person. Reservations should be made online in advance.
St. John’s Food & Wine Spitalfields: 94-96 Commercial Street, London, E1 6LZ (across from Spitalfields Market). Serves breakfast 8 – 11h30 during the week, 8h30 – 11h45 on the weekends. The bacon sandwich cost £6,90.
The English Restaurant:52 Brushfield St, London E1 6AG, UK. Open Monday – Friday 8 – 23:00, Saturday 9:30 – 23:00, and Sunday 9:30 – 19:00.
Fromagerie Androuet: Spitalfields Arts Market, 10 Lamb St, London E1 6EA, UK. Open daily 10 – 19:00.
Poppies: 6-8 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR, UK. Open Monday – Thursday 11 – 23:00, Friday and Saturday 11 – 23:30, Sunday 11 – 22:30.
Pride of Spitalfields: 3 Heneage St, London E1 5LJ, UK. Open daily 11 – 00. No reservations.
Aladin: 132 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU, UK. Open 12 – 22:30 on Sunday, 12 -12 Monday – Thursday, and 12 – 1 Friday and Saturday. No reservations.
Beigel Bake: 159 Brick Ln, London E1 6SB, UK. Open 24 hours. No reservations.
Pizza East London: Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ, UK. Open 12 – 12 Monday – Wednesday, 12 – 2 Friday, 9 – 2 Saturday, and 9 – 12 Sunday. Reservations can be made on their website but are not required.
ON A BUDGET
East London is a fabulous part of London to simply explore if you are on a budget. While it has experienced gentrification in the last decade, you can still find cheap eats in East London and there is tons of free art and music around, especially on the weekends!