Many of us who joined Eddie on his food tour that explores Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Brick Lane were pretty familiar with the area. At least, that’s what we had assumed before we set off.
Over the next three hours, the Not In The Guidebooks team got a taste, quite literally, of one of our experiences for the first time in what felt like forever. We wandered the atmospheric streets around Shoreditch and discovered the quirky, unexpected facts you only get to know when you’re with a local who has made some real effort to learn about their home, and got a flavour of some of the very best food in the neighbourhood.
Pintxos and Wine
Like any good city tour (or at least the vast majority of them), ours began with some incredibly good food and wine.
One of the great things about London is that, as a truly global city, local food isn’t limited to jellied eels or fish and chips. The fact that we were near Brick Lane was the perfect example of this global culture. We learnt that there was the traditional area for immigrant populations to live and establish their culture, from the French Huguenots, the Jewish people, then the Bangladeshi immigrants, all of whom brought their own culture and cuisines.
Essentially what this all means is that genuinely authentic, top-quality cuisine from all over the world can be found in London – if you know where to look.
Fortunately, we had Eddie to lead us first to a traditional Basque restaurant, to try a cuisine that doesn’t often find itself in the limelight.
If escaping from the steady, grey, East London drizzle into the warm, relaxed atmosphere of Sagardi wasn’t enough, then the generous helping of pintxos (think Basque tapas, cured meats, cheese and anchovies and more on small slices of bread) certainly sealed the culinary deal.
We were shown the proper way to help ourselves to these delicious little creations, and enjoyed an explanation about the way the people of the Basque country cure their most prized commodity, beef. A couple of glasses of wine and a couple more pintxos later, it was time to head back out to explore further.
The Old Nichol Slum and Even Older Stories
Wandering east towards Shoreditch High Street, stopping briefly to pick up some doughy fuel in the form of Nutella and salted ricotta stuffed pizza (trust us, it works), Eddie began to bring the old East End, a world now only hinted at by remains of tenements and intriguing back alleys, old storefronts and hidden signs, to life.
Stopping in Arnold Circus, we learnt about Jack London’s journey to the heart of the Old Nichol Slum and his resultant novel, The People of The Abyss, and some genuinely fascinating facts that explained London quirks we’re so used to, but never know the cause of.
It would be telling to give away too many secrets of the tours now though, you’ll just have to head out with Eddie yourself to find them out…