"To me food is much about the moment,the occasion, the location and the company as it is about the taste."
Heston Blumenthal, Michelin star chef, UK
This was a spectacular summer…we decided to spend some time in England (my aunt invited us to her lovely home in London) to beat the heat of Dubai.
My mind had already started working on the food scene in London while I was in Dubai. Though I had to arrange lots of sightseeing for my little ones, I know I had to squeeze in some time for tasting a bit of London!
I booked myself for a walk with a food walking tour with a company called Secret Food Tours (www.secretfoodtours.com). I did not want to explore Indian food in London - which undoubtedly is getting much attention – instead, I wanted to explore British food that isn’t talked about that much. We have heard of Sheppard’s pie or steak and kidney pie…I wanted to see what food really lies at the heart of this beautiful city.
View from my seat ....somewhere in Rajasthan...
I met my guide of the Secret Food Tour , Oliver, outside London Bridge station and we started the walk at the famous Borough Market. I had two fellow foodie travelers with me, John and Sarah, who were a pleasure to walk with.
Just having celebrated its 1000th birthday last year, Borough Market (which is situated south of the Thames) started as a street market in the 11th century and was a cheap alternative to the markets in the North bank, unlike nowadays where its one of the most expensive market places in London!
It was closed down in the 18th century since it was causing a lot of congestion on the streets, and the residents of Southwark were granted permission to open another market some distance away. So it was that in 1756, Borough Market was established in its present place by a handful of locals, mainly for trade, but it has now turned into a foodie haven! It has made it to the CNN and National Geographic Top 10 fresh markets in the world.
All the purveyors and restaurateurs are very proud of their fresh and high quality produce that is sold in the market. Today it is home to some of the finest cafes, restaurants and high quality foods.
But, I found, it’s not only about the quality of food…it’s the people and the buzz of the place, that makes it so special.
We entered the area which housed food stalls on one side with fresh produce and chinaware, linen etc on the other. Rich smells of bagels, fresh bread, cheese, chocolates, spices and fruit intermingled here with middle eastern fare and artisan food.
Our first stop was the Mountain’s Boston Sausage Bap, established since 1852! . The burgers that are available here are generally eaten for breakfast..
Traditional hand-made Lincolnshire sausages produced using only the finest ingredients by a Boston-based family butchers founded in 1852.
The stall sells Boston sausages, Boston chipolatas, farmhouse sausages, raw and cooked haslets, sausage rolls and sausage pies. They also sell hotdogs made using the famous Boston sausage.
The Boston sausage bap was so fresh and flavourful. Such a simple sandwich is made delicious because of the quality of the ingredients..All of the sausage products are made using only the finest locally sourced ingredients, handmade and filled into natural casings. They don't use any preservatives, additives or flavour enhancers.
The Breakfast sausage
We passed the ‘Bread Ahead’ Bakery School…where we could see many people taking bread-baking classes! It’s definitely on my list for next time…the smells of freshly baked bread filled the street and we could see the wonderful loaves of bread lined on the shelves.
A must do when in London!
Rows of freshly baked bread
One long baguette!
We were given about 20 minutes or so to walk around the stalls ourselves and to taste whatever we could….and I couldn’t wait to start! From here , I take you on a visual treat to one the worlds most amazing fresh food markets...
Cheese,chocolates,fruits,meats,breads,condiments and chinaware....all under one roof!
We gathered back at the Fish!kitchen, which adjoins the stalls opposite the Bread Ahead school . According to our guide Oliver, it serves the most tastiest traditional fish and chips in town..
The seating is minimal in a very narrow lane, you will be lucky if you get a seat at all! But it dishes out the most perfect, golden, crisp English fish and chips. Served in boxes, with creamy tartare sauce, we could just go on and on…the fish just melted in our mouths…and didn’t feel oily at all..
Red Chilli Paste
Fish and chips became a stock meal among the working classes in England as a consequence of the rapid development of trawl fishing in the North Sea, and the development of railways which connected the ports to major industrial cities during the second half of the 19th century, which meant that fresh fish could be rapidly transported to the heavily populated areas. Deep-fried fish was first introduced into England during the 16th century by Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain, and is derived from pescado frito,(Spanish fried fish).
In 1860, the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Joseph Malin. source: Wikipedia
Walking through the market, we were then treated with a box full of strawberries …so fresh, so juicy, so sweet…..as we bit into the strawberries, we knew we had tasted the freshness of the earth they were grown in - absolutely delicious!
Our next stop was a famous Oyster Bar called Shucks and we were told that we were in for a real treat! It’s a really small shop serving naked, dressed or blown oysters..We were given a visual treat to blown oysters flavoured with jalepeno …this was the first for me and its cooked in front of you with a blow torch...As I scooped it into my mouth, the soft flesh mingling with the jalapeno was a real food experience.
Oyster bars are very popular in London, and Shuck is a temporary pop up of the Wright brothers , oyster famers and shellfish merchants who source their oysters from the British Isles and France and their own Duchy Oyster farm in , Cornwall.
The shellfish come in sizes one to three, with one being largest and most costly.
As long as there is an R in the month...thats the season to eat Oysters...the rest of the months they are left to procreate.
There are the native varieties that come from all around Britain, Scotland and Ireland, each having their own flavours.
Pacific Rock Oysters are as succulent as the native oysters and cheaper , but many prefer the firmness of the native species.
The key to a good oyster is freshness. It should smell of the seashore as the tide recedes over seaweed-covered rocks. It should be full in the shell, firm in texture, and brimming with the natural juice that is its life blood (not just sea water); every spare drop of this should be soaked up with bread. The heel of the oyster, in the deep part of the shell, should be a creamy or ivory colour. The frill should be moist and pulsating, and the oyster should always look bright. Finally, if the shell isn't firmly closed it should do so immediately when tapped.
Oysters should be chewed liked any meat, though some just swallow it.They can be eaten with lemon juice, vinegar or tabasco.They can also be eaten lightly grilled, fried or baked.
Spiced up with Jalapenos
After the delicious oyster experience we carried on walking into the narrow lanes of Borough...
We had a surprise stop below the London Bridge called the Mug House. It’s a beautiful pub - very much vintage in its looks - brick walls and rustic interiors - with hardly anyone inside and was a perfect stop to cool ourselves down since it was a warm summer day! We couldn’t believe it when Oliver told us that the place used to house stables before.…we ordered Ale and a mix of British Cheeses..
That's Oliver...guiding us to the Mug House..
Our selection of English Cheese..
Our Cheese Board..
The Ale was so refreshing! The Cheddar was perfect, and the Stinking Bishop and the Caerphily were the stars! All from different backgrounds, we discussed a bit about ourselves and a lot about food.
We walked a bit further and came to ‘Number One Place’ from where we got some spectacular views of the Tower Bridge, and the more recent modern buildings adorning the London skyline like the Gherkin across the Thames.
The skies were clear ... and the enjoyable walk coming to an end....but not without a sweet ending..!
We then walked into another pub nearby which was quite unlike the previous one. This was full of people. It served English tea and dessert too. We chose from the selection of English teas and ordered the Warm Belgian Chocolate Brownie, Cambridge Burnt Cream and the famous Eton Mess - the perfect way to end a wonderful morning! As I walked out of the pub, I came out so much richer in foodie experience after having tasted some of the most delicious, high quality foods with likeminded foodies!
Cambridge Burnt Cream..on the menu clearly written .."'the dish the French stole from the British, cmmonly referred to as Creme Brulee, this dish is said to have originated in Cambridge University"'
One of the most amazing Belgian Chocolate Brownies ...
The Eton Mess..A manadarin version...Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries or bananas, pieces of meringue, and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School.
On this walk, I experienced a totally different kind of food walk from the ones I usually do, a treat for all my senses through a food market that has evolved through hundreds of years with the same ethos – the importance of high quality and fresh ingredients. This was a walk through the streets of London, where the old met the new. I can conclude that with the change of times, food evolves, and some places just embrace all kinds of food as their own…keeping the few that evolve with the rest …that’s what food in London is all about…
My awesome guide and wonderful foodie walkers!
There are lots of restaurants and cafes in London that are worth visiting...I leave you some of the foddie memories of London..one of the most memorable being waiting for 2 hours to get a table at Dishoom,mostly due to the wonderful company of my brother and sister in law...the popular Bombay Cafe at Covent Garden . A dedication to the Zorastrian immigrants who opened these cafes in Bombay in the early part of the previous centuary..now only a few remaining open much to the dismay of Bombayites...it did serve delicious fare but could do better in seating management .
No. 1 place to eat in London...according to Yelp in 2015...