Lanterns in Chinatown, a stop on the London food tours

A Rocking London Food Tour

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We know what you’re thinking: London food tours? Yes, British cuisine has long had a negative reputation. Ask anyone to name a dish from England and you’ll probably get a unanimous answer: fish and chips. Such views die hard. However, wandering the Soho neighborhood in Central London, we discovered there’s a lot more to British cuisine than beer batter. We joined Eating London for their Twilight Soho Food Tour to see what’s new on the British culinary scene.

It’s important to understand the destination. London’s Soho neighborhood has a checkered past. Originally the location of aristocratic hunting cottages, this rural stretch of countryside was quickly enveloped into the rapidly expanding city (although technically just outside the city limits of London proper). Those hunting cottages gave way to wealthy town homes, which fell into disrepair.

Sign outside The London Gin Club
Guess which way we went

Soho has been the home to the wealthy and the marginal of society. This is where a young Mozart played for fans, where Karl Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto, where the Rolling Stones got their start, and where prostitutes set up shop. As a neighborhood, it’s been a great melting pot. And each group has added its own cuisine to the mix.

Highlights from London Food Tours

La Bodega Negra

The Twilight Soho Food Tour started at a Mexican taquería. I know what you’re thinking, Mexican food in London? Yup. In this case, it’s a Mexican restaurant started by the grandson of Winston Churchill, and it’s super authentic. Mexican is our favorite cuisine and this place is outrageously delicious. At La Bodega Negra, we sampled the pork al pastor and the camarones (shrimp) tacos along with a delicious frozen mango margarita.

The tacos at Bodega Negra in Soho
Tacos at Bodega Negra

Don’t be deterred by the entrance to the restaurant – it’s a sex shop with only the number “9” telling you that you’re in the right place. But if you dare to enter, you’ll be rewarded with some excellent tacos. We loved La Bodega Negra so much that we went back a few nights later to sample their carnitas tacos, which were exceptional. If you can’t make it to London, they also have a La Bodega Negra outpost in New York City.

The London Gin Club

The British discovered gin during the War for Dutch Independence and the country hasn’t been the same. Gin is still the spirit of choice for most British. In the 1930’s, a small café opened just off Dean Street. Today, the granddaughter of the original proprietor has turned it into a fine drinking establishment called The London Gin Club, which features over 200 different gins.

Gin & tonic, plus meatpie at The London Gin Club
Gin & tonic, plus meatpie

While gin & tonic is served, I skipped the tonic and enjoyed mine on ice. To accompany the beverage, they served a gin-infused beef pie. Meat pie, once served with birds (usually magpies), is a staple of British cuisine and the London Gin Club makes an excellent one.

Note: The London Gin Club is closed until further notice. The club sits immediately adjacent to the Crossrail construction site, which is the new Elizabeth Line tube. In January 2019, the engineering firm Laing O’Rourke punched through building foundations, causing unprecedented damage and flooding to the historic buildings. The club will attempt to re-open.

Enrique Tomas

The Enrique Tomas location is the Iberico ham shop from the Spanish company of the same name. The London outpost is run by “Jamón Ron,” who lives up to the image you have of someone going by that name—he’s gregarious, passionate, and loves his cured pork products. And he’s quick to share his passion and knowledge with you. We thought we knew about jamón from our Barcelona food tour earlier this year, but we were wrong. Jamón Ron started by sampling a serrano ham from the white-footed pig.

Plate of Iberico ham and cheese at the shop Enrique Thomas

However, the real delights were the acorn-fed, black-footed Jamón Iberico. We sampled both a 24-month and a spectacular 36-month ham, the latter being absolutely buttery. Each had an accompanying cheese, and the wine-pairing was a Tempranillo.

Pix Bar

Around the world, it seems Spanish tapas is all the rage these days. The local chain of Pix Bar in London has a location serving pintxos, the long-stick tapas from Basque region. This location is also known as a bit of celebrity hangout, with actors and rock musicians being frequent guests. It was about this point in the tour that our guide Joe mentioned that we might want to pace ourselves, which turned out to be solid advice.

The pintxos, the long-stick tapas at the Pix Bar

However, that didn’t stop me from having the albondigas (spicy meatballs) and the patatas bravas (roasted potatoes with a spicy red sauce), paired with a white Cava wine (naturally).

Opium

The first clue that Opium was something special was the burly bouncer at the door. He greeted our guide and directed us to the top floor. The bright lights of London’s Chinatown were blacked out, and we entered the dimly-lit underworld of an opium bar. It wasn’t really an opium den, but it had that vibe.

This is a decidedly high-end establishment serving fine white peony tea paired with two, large steamed dumplings: mushroom with truffle (deeply earthy) and crab (sweet and savory all at the same time). The dumplings were addictive.

Said Chocolate

Before we concluded our London food tour, it was time for dessert. The folks at Eating London came up with a winner at Said Chocolate. Originally from Rome, this shop feels more Persian than British or Italian. The smells of chocolate permeate every corner of the café and linger on your clothes long after you leave. It’s delightful! We sampled the milk hot chocolate paired with individual servings of tiramisu. It was the sweet finale to hours of walking through Soho.

The hot chocolate and tiramisu at Said in London
Hot chocolate and tiramisu

Soho is a rocking neighborhood, and there’s no better way to get a feel for it than on a food tour. We didn’t know what to expect, but we encountered a melting pot of cuisines that challenged our concept of British food. Even the dishes that had originated elsewhere (tacos from Mexico, tapas from Spain, and dim sum from China) were steeped in British culture and came out feeling somehow unique.

The Eating London Twilight Soho Food Tour

Tour time and Duration

Monday-Friday at 4pm, 4:30pm, and 5:30pm. The tour runs from 3 ½ to 4 hours.

Tour Cost

£99 per person. Discounts offered for booking in advance.

Starting Location

The meeting point for the tour is near the Palace Theatre. The nearest underground stop is Leicester Square (on the Northern and Piccadilly lines). The tour will end near the Piccadilly Circus underground (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines).

What to Bring

While the walk is not strenuous, comfortable shoes can be very helpful. The tour runs rain or shine, so if rain is expected, be sure to bring a jacket or umbrella.

Notice: As there are alcoholic beverage pairings, you must be 18 years of age or older to take the tour.

Where to Book

http://www.eatinglondontours.co.uk/

Helpful Advice

Outside of Soho, London’s food scene is hopping! We strongly encourage visitors to seek out food markets in some of the other neighborhoods like Camden and the South Bank. Of particular interest to us was the Borough Market, located just a few short blocks from both London Bridge and The Shard. We usually eat lunch here at least once every time we visit London. If you decide to go, please check out this fantastic guide to Borough Market.

Where to Stay

London has a ton of hotels, although the city is known for being very pricey. We’ve found some sites that you may want to check out that offer good London hotel deals.

A final taco for the road during our London food tours

We were the guests of Eating London food tours. As always, all rocking opinions of the sweet, salty and savory are our own.


Have you ever been on one of the London food tours? What’s your favorite food to eat in London?

London's Soho neighborhood is a melting pot of cuisines and cultures. See what delicious things this area has to offer on a London food tour.

2 thoughts on “A Rocking London Food Tour”

  1. Yum! La Bodega Negra is greeat during the day and very lively at night too. Also in that area is Wardour Street, which has just about every world cuisine in every price range possible. It’s one of the streets in London that I recommend to people visiting for the first time and not sure where to eat.

    1. That’s a great tip. We actually ended up eating in Soho about half our meals. It was a walk through every cuisine in the world. Lots to sample and enjoy!

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