One of the absolute highlights of my few days in London was a tour of the street food scene in the East End, which I booked through Vayable.com — a website where locals can offer their expertise and share their favorite places with visitors. I kind of detest the mainstream tour companies and aimed to avoid the hordes of tourists swarming other areas of the city. Along with one other woman visiting from Boston, our “local insider” Matthew spent several hours showing us around London’s East End — one of the most diverse and storied areas of the city, which has seen a lot of change since the 2012 Olympics.
We started our tour in Whitechapel and slowly made our way north, walking through Spitalfields, Shoreditch, Hackney, and ending in London Fields. The focus was mostly on the street food stalls that have popped up in the last several years (with a similar ethos as Portland’s food trucks), but we did check out one or two shops too. Our first taste of food came near Brick Lane with a yummy Bangladeshi pastry filled with eggs, greens and onions and covered in a hot sauce. Next came London’s famous flat white coffee (actually from Australia and New Zealand) at a trendy coffee shop (not a part of the tour, but we all felt the need to caffeinate). After a bit of wandering, we also sampled falafel, Persian stew, and Italian quesadilla — and sat ourselves down at some outdoor tables to chat, talk politics, and enjoy our food.
Afterwards we tested out the pulled pork sandwiches from The Rib Man, a real London street food original, whose Holy Fuck Hot Sauce has made it’s way into some of London’s restaurants as well. (His Christ on a Bike and Holy Mother of God Hot Sauces are pretty popular too.)
By this point I was starting to get pretty full, but we gave ourselves time to digest with a short picnic in a nearby park. We then continued our walk while munching on Poutine — a Quebec invention of french fries, gravy, and cheese. Our last food stop was for Bunny Chow at Box Park in Shoreditch — a specialty from Durban of meatball stew inside of a hollowed out loaf of bread.
To close out the tour, we made our way through the Hackney flower market and towards London Fields, where our little group drank a locally brewed beer together.
The entire afternoon was super pleasant and felt more like a friend showing off his favorite neighborhood spots than an “official tour” — exactly what I was hoping for. Matthew was super knowledgeable, fun to talk to, and able to comment on the authenticity of much of the food based on his own personal adventures around the world (he’s a journalist by trade). We wandered down side streets and over canals and in and out of markets and made the most of the sunny, blue skies. It was a perfect taste of the city and offered a peek into everyday London life. I loved it!
What’s your opinion about the street food scene? Either in London or elsewhere?
For more posts on London, check these out: