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London East End Food Tour: Something for Everyone

by Barbara Rogers

Dec 8, 2017

© Stillman Rogers

Age Specific / Teens

Food tours are a great way to get into a city’s dining scene quickly, and we always seek them out to find the best neighborhoods and learn about local specialties. We weren’t so sure what our teenagers would find to love on our tour of London’s up-and-coming East End, but we needn’t have worried — there’s something for everyone here.


We met our Eating London Food Tours guide at Spitalfields Market, a lively remake of London’s oldest market hall, where we browsed in shops and kiosks selling everything from chic wearables and imported Italian delicacies to toffee and vintage vinyl. The first question the girls asked our guide was why the market had such a yucky name. Well versed in East End history, she told us it refers to one of England’s most important hospitals, built here in the 1100s and now long gone.


The neighborhood’s history wove in and out of the entire tour, a side benefit of bringing the girls, as it gave them some background on London, told in engaging anecdotes. As we hopped from taste to taste we also followed the neighborhood from its Roman origins through the arrival of French silk weavers and later immigrant populations.


Photo: Stillman Rogers


More recent immigrant groups still flavor the East End, mixing their ethnic dining spots with the traditional English eating places, some of which have been there for centuries. Not quite that old, but a well-loved spot since the 1950s, Poppies Fish and Chips serves the delicious fries in faux newspaper cones and the batter-fried fish gave us all a high standard to hold later chippies up to. Around the corner, we sampled signature bacon sandwiches with apple ketchup at St. John Bread & Wine, a trendy nose-to-tail restaurant across from the market.


On the other side of the market, The English Restaurant gave us our sugar fix with a classic bread and butter pudding drenched in custard. So far the girls were on board, and they both enjoyed the next stop for a drink at a traditional pub, Pride of Spitalfields. We sampled English cider, and they had a good choice of non-alcoholic options. But it was Lennie, the pub cat, that charmed them.


After an unscheduled stop at the chocolate paradise of Dark Sugars, we plunged into the boisterous confusion of Brick Lane, a street reputed to have the highest concentration of curry houses in the world. We could easily believe it as we jostled with the noontime crowds to follow our guide to Aladdin’s. This was the only place we lost the younger set. While we sampled from generous bowls of several different curries in varying degrees of eye watering-ness, the girls nibbled delicately from a


Photo: Stillman Rogers

couple and quickly followed with chasers of steamed rice.


They regained interest at the street-side window of Beigel Bake, where we were served tender slices of salt beef with English mustard on a soft fresh-from-the-oven bagel. Owner Sammy, who came to London from Israel and opened this hole-in-the-wall Jewish bakery more than 50 years ago, insists on spelling them the original way.


The last stop on our East End Food Tour was at Pizza East, a chic brick-walled restaurant in a former Shoreditch warehouse. The slice served us there was not of pizza, but a sweet salted chocolate caramel tart — layers of salted caramel, chocolate ganache and Chantilly cream. Our 3.5-hour tour wasn’t cheap, but it fed us all a hearty lunch, and there was a hefty discount for teenagers. And we left with a lot of good ideas for places to eat during the rest of our stay in London.


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