I think that food is one of the greatest indicators of culture. The way people shop for ingredients and prepare meals tell you a lot about their tastes and the land; the stories told around the table are indicative of the heart and values of the culture. And so when I visit a new city (or revisit an old favorite), food tours are a way to get my bearing.
Last year’s trip to London was spent exploring the quirky afternoon tea scene and the East End, and I never saw a single famous tourist attraction. No Big Ben, no Buckingham Palace, and no Tower Bridge. But this trip to London will be different! I joined the London Bridge Secret Food Tour to taste my way through one of the city’s most famous neighborhoods!
I don’t want to spoil all the secrets for you (this company has some delicious tricks up their sleeves). I’ll share a few of my favorite stops, though, to whet your appetite and entice you to discover the secrets on your own.
Secret Food Tours London Bridge
Is British food bland?
At the beginning of the tour, we each shared what first came to mind upon hearing the term “British cuisine.” Most said fish and chips with a cider or an ale thrown in between. And then a woman from the Philippines said what most of us were thinking, “I’ve heard it’s pretty bland.”
Jamie Oliver’s favorite spot
I’ve seen beautiful photos of Scotch eggs on Instagram, but never tried one in real life (my brunches are usually a sugar base, topped with more sugar). Wow- am I glad I waited! The Scotch egg from Ginger Pig uses chorizo instead of the typical pork shoulder and it is divine.
I guess I’ve got good taste, because rumor has it that Jamie Oliver purchases his meat from this butcher, too! This famous English chef and restaurateur saved my Thanksgiving with the perfect turkey recipe. Now, I’m happy to follow his footprints anywhere he goes… especially if they lead to more Scotch eggs!
Heston Blumenthal’s triple cooked chips
We leaned into the British fish and chips stereotype at Fish! Kitchen, voted one of London’s best chippys. As we chowed down, we learned that haddock and cod are the most eaten fish in London, despite efforts by the government to encourage branching out to prevent overfishing.
While we ate the chips, we learned that Heston Blumenthal created and patented triple-cooked chips. Anytime you see these boiled, blanched and fried potatoes on a menu, know that Heston just got a little richer! Restaurants serving these chips must pay royalties to Heston for using his patented potato product.
Perhaps romance is a bit misleading. Although the adorable Norwegian grandpa on our tour asked me if I have a boyfriend and immediately began scouting the market for suitable choices, I did not find love on this tour.
What I did find was honey mead, which we learned is responsible for the term “honeymoon.” It’s said that during medieval times, a bride and groom were given enough wine to last through the first full moon cycle of their marriage. It was believed that this sweet wine enhanced fertility and virility, and while that might not be 100% accurate, I wouldn’t say no to a month’s supply of honey mead!
We enjoyed this drink under the remains of Winchester Palace. Our awesome guide Eddie even showed us an artist’s rendition of the original palace.
A taste of Borough Market
I love the behind-the-scenes access granted by a food tour, but I also like to go a bit rogue and explore on my own. Secret Food Tours gives you some time to stop and avail yourself of free samples at the food stands in Borough Market.
Dermatt at Heritage Cheese let me taste test several English and Irish cheeses including unique flavors like elderflower cheddar. I went home with a small wheel of Triple Rose from Armagh. This triple cream cheese is similar in texture to Brie, but is much more flavorful. I’m ready for a new wheel already!
Just across from Heritage Cheese, I also had the opportunity to try a blood chocolate and wine sausage. It was a unique way to try the traditional blood pudding!
And I loved trying ouzo soaked kalamata olives while learning about the different suppliers who stock Oliveology’s shelves with Greek honey, olive oil, balsamic and more!
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” –Bridget Jones
Thankfully, no one’s life fell to pieces on this tour. However, we did pass by Bridget Jones’ apartment, located just above the Globe Pub.
This is just one of the movies filmed in the Borough Market. We also got the behind the scenes scoop on other movies filmed in the area, including Guy Richie’s method to convince the owner of the Globe Pub to let him use it as a filming location for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Bland food? Not a chance! While London took a little while to come into her own on the food scene, she now rivals any major city. From Michelin-starred restaurants to cheap and cheerful street food this city will leave you completely full, yet craving more. We were all stuffed by the end of the tour, when Eddie took us to a spot to see the Tower Bridge and eat donuts. Although we weakly protested that we were too full, every one of us finished our delicious Bread Ahead donut.
This tour offered several amazing British dishes and our guide dished out insights you’d never know by just walking the streets near London Bridge. For views of Tower Bridge and insightful commentary about Southwark’s history, check out the Secret Food Tours London Bridge tour.
Note: This article contains affiliate links. I was hosted by Secret Food Tours on this tour. All opinions are my own and and I’ll never recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!