I love to travel and I especially love to eat, in fact I love to travel to eat – there’s nothing like food, simple ingredients delivered fresh from nature & cooked with mouth-watering cultural expertise.
I wasn’t exactly on holiday but we were in London to celebrate my hubby’s big birthday. I’d already booked a lush hotel in Soho with a roof top hot tub plus Yottam’s restaurant next door for lunch, so what better way to celebrate our comparable passion for the yummy stuff than a food and drink walking tour.
I say ‘comparable passion’, I’m usually the one cooking it and he’s the one eating it!
Anyway, we booked ahead with ‘Eating London Tours’ for the ‘Soho Twilight Food Tour’ meeting at 4.30pm in front of an old haunting spot of mine, a pub I used to frequent in my London Cheffing days.
We were treated to two tour guides, one had just completed training and was more than capable, both were actors and well averse to delivering a confident and fluid tour, with friendly and fun professionalism.
And we were off, a good old introduction to the mainly American group with a small group of British girls, about 10 of us plus the guides. Not too big that you’re trailing behind unable to hear, but small enough to be friendly as we walked around, it’s a very sociable thing.
Our first port of call was at a local Mexican a very short walk away for a delicious mini frozen Margarita and a couple of tacos. There’s a lot to eat on these tours, so its advised to come hungry (maybe not go to lunch at Nopi, even if you take it easy and share a dessert!)
It’s good to know there’s a jug of water in each venue along with toilets which comes in handy.
There’s a great deal of knowledge as we walked around, all about Soho’s history, its famous residents, its architecture and its seedy side – especially its grotty core, which makes it such a special and exciting place.
I worked as a chef in London for 10 years, spent a fair bit of time in Soho but I got to find out all sorts of things I never knew, saw things I never noticed and was amazed by all the oddities of Soho, along with what Soho actually means? (I’m not going to tell you)
I loved the next stop after a brisk walk through the park and tucked away up some alleys was the Gin Club, we got a full-sized G&T with an introduction from the owner. And if that wasn’t enough we got a mini British pie, which worked well with the botanics of the house Gin.
Enrique Tomas was next, with its magnificent window display. These Spanish ‘parma ham’ beasts are becoming very popular all over London, with new branches popping up all over the place. We tasted 3 Iberico hams and 3 divine cheeses along with a good slug of rich red wine.
It’s worth mentioning that every stop includes a sit down, making the tour manageable for all ages and abilities, as long as you can cope with the small walks in-between. This tour very much focuses on food from all over the globe, which is what Soho’s all about, an eclectic melting pot of all sorts.
My favourite foodie spot was the Basque Pintxos joint where we got to choose any 2 dishes each from the amazing display of hot and cold tapas. I went for a hot salt cod croquette and a creamy Catalan dessert. Both delicious and no Twilight food tour would be complete without a little drinky to go with the food, so the waiter poured out some wine from a great height into little chunky glasses.
China Town was next on the list, a hidden gem of a Chinese restaurant, for some moist and moorish steamed dim sum and a decretive pot of fragrant cocktail.
As if we weren’t full enough and packed full of interesting facts, our final destination was ‘Basement Sate’ for a well-deserved sweet conclusion of chocolate yumminess, oh, and of course a little mini champagne based cocktail.
Wow – – ‘oh, what a night’. Walking around from light to dark. Eating, drinking, chatting, listening and enjoying all Soho has to offer.
We finished around 8pm in Carnaby Street, early enough for ravers and late enough to enjoy one last tipple before we dragged our worn-out and slightly tipsy bodies back to the hotel.
The tour was £95 per person. I initially thought it expensive but on hind-sight it was good value. Six good sit-down places for snacks and drinks, a guide with the knowledge, a good old walk and over 3 hours of entertainment.
A fab time was had by all – –
By Zena Leech-Calton ©
Food writer and cookery tutor – – I do Food Tours in Norwich too, you know!