Doing my foodie research before heading to London I stumbled upon a foodie walking tour that was just finding its feet. I got in touch with Charli and we organised WALK.EAT.TALK.EAT for a Sunday afternoon to meet up just along Brick Lane.
Charli, our guide hoped to give us the history of the area, the stories behind what we were to eat, plus point out the best places to shop, drink and generally enjoy ourselves.
I was a bit hesitant about the tour as this was my old stomping ground and felt like I knew the place like the back of may hand – I literally spent every Sunday doing hat became known as ‘the walk’ – a wander down brick lane with WordMonkey to check out the stalls and students selling their wares before returning back to their country of origin (basically like a continuous garage sale). But I believe if you do anything and you can take a few new things away with you that you didn’t previously have at hand then it is time well spent. I will let you now my thoughts at the end of this piece.
First stop was a food stall I know well as I have stopped many a time to grab a sample but never properly eaten. The Rib Man sets up shop every Sunday morning at 3am to start cooking his ribs. This was the first time I have tried his secret weapon with the ribs – Holy Fuck Hot Sauce.
The meat just fell off the bone and the sauce was very hot but not brain-numbing. I was still able to enjoy the ribs through the trees of hot sauce.
We left the small group to go check out the London Print Club – a great little club with prints from amateur screenprinters. Will definitely pick up a piece when next living in London.
Our next stop was a hunt that I frequented when it was my turn to do brunch – Beigel Bake – the oldest beigel shop in London established back in the 1800’s (though the sign is a little more recent.
The story goes is that a Jewish family set up camp here to ply their trade and their children upon receiving their inheritance, fell out and one brother ended up opening a rival beigel shop two doors down. There is a huge rivalry between the two shops but this is still the oldest and best.
I have been known to stop past here after a big night out (they’re open 24 hours) and just watch the small team hand make and hand cook every single beigel they serve in the shop. And they need to do massive amounts due to the crowds they pull.
They are best known for their hot salt beef beigels – a staple in this part of London. We were given one of these to eat while touring a few of the walls with London’s best known street art (blogged about Here, Here and Here). But I did stumble onto a few I had missed:
We stopped upon a mound with a bandstand atop of it. Charli explained to us that we were in the central area of what was known to be London’s worst slum back in the days of Dickens. I have previously blogged about ‘the boundary’ which divided policed London and the slums that no police would dare enter. We were smack bang in the centre of the slum.
Back in the day the government of the time ordered the slum to be bulldozed and all of the rubble was moved into the centre of the old slum and a bandstand was erected. I could imagine that is Time Team were allowed to burrow in they would find a huge amount of history.
Nest stop was Leila’s Foodstore. I had been here before and they sell a small but well-chosen selection of goods.
But one place we would religiously got to for brunch was the café next door Leila’s Shop which had what I would deem as the most open kitchen in the world. They would literally be cooking your meal beside you and they did eggs in a skillet that would have WordMonkey coming back for more. Not many know of this place – and is best kept that way until our return.
The antique shop on our next stop was the biggest surprise for me. I had walked past here hundreds of times but never even bothered to give it the time of day. We were taken in, I wondered why an antique shop was worthy of a stop of a foodie tour. And then when I hit the top of the stairs:
Wowsers. I called myself and East Londoner who was more local than many of the locals. We were here for a beer tasting and again I was put in my place. It was a brewery from a one of my favourite streets in East London that totally passed me by. It is actually the street where Allpress Espresso has opened their first London coffeeshop. I tried a taste of the beer from my new favourite brewery: Hackney Gold, Hoxton Stout, Shoreditch Blonde and Bethnal Pale Ale. All perfect in their own little way.
Next stop – a chip pie. Poppies is very new to the area and was not there a year ago but it was doing a roaring trade to those who thought it may have been here for centuries. Yes, chips and battered savs are an important part of East London’s history but this place had no soul. The guys inside wore the right uniforms but so do the people working in themed restaurants. We should have stopped somewhere where the owner shouts at you to either order or ‘get the fuck out’ – his words not mine. More on that in my review of Broadway Market.
But get chips we did. They were good but nothing spectacular as most chips tend to be. And FYI travellers – there is a difference between hot chips (known as chips) and bags of chips (crisps). A great way to start a chat in a pub.
Finally we arrived at The Adnams Bottle Shop where we were invited to try a number of different beers and French wines. If you just want to see how a real posh English bloke speaks, then drop by here for a chat.
We tried two different beers, both gold medal winners and two different wines from the Rhone Valley in France to compare. A great way to end the tour and disappear into the darkness of London.
So – was it worth it? For me, I don’t think I would have got as much out of it compared to someone new to the area or visiting. If I had the guts to do a tour there are a few destinations I would have changed and would have included a bit more history on the area – but they are in the early stages of setting up the tour so I can only see improvement.
But for those of you who are travelling over there and have limited time and want ot get off the well trodden tourist path then I would highly recommend it. You will be taken places you would not normally have ever gone to and open your eyes to what sets the East End apart from the other boroughs of London.
Post tour and If I can ever get my arse into gear, I would set something like this up in Melbourne – a tour that is very affordable, foodie friendly, has a number of stops where food is bought and consumed with a bit of history mixed in for good measure. Or I might wait to get back to London to do it as the history part of it will have a bit more meat.