Having lived in London all my life it’s very rare that I get to play tourist literally a couple of miles outside of my neighbourhood, but that’s just what I did when I was invited to join Eating Europe Tours Brick Lane Flavours of India Food Tour one sunny day in May.
Eating Europe Food Tours pride themselves on allowing visitors to experience a city through its food, offering commentary and insight about the culture, history of the local area while they’re at it. It’s weird that although I’d previously worked less than a mile away from Brick Lane, I’d never stopped to appreciate the history of the place.
The format of the tour involved a 2.5hr whistle-stop tour of a number of authentic Indian establishments and restaurants, sampling items on their menus. I arrived at the first venue, Nazrul, on Brick Lane and was met with a small group of international visitors who were looking forward to discovering more about the flavours and culture of India.
Our hostess was Monica, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, herself an immigrant from Australia who now lives in the UK. At Nazrul we enjoyed a delicious chapati and accompanying sources and dips. This was a great start to the event and we were warned not to fill up too much as we had a further eight stops along the food journey!
Along the tour I was fascinated to learn that the oldest Indian greengrocer, established since 1823, was still going strong and thriving in the heart of Brick Lane. On first entry into the store you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in India because of the vast array of unfamiliar but interesting fruit and vegetable on display.
Monica was very knowledgeable about the Indian foods and lifestyle and offered a lot of interesting facts as we walked. I was really interested to hear that Indians really did look after their own having set up businesses, banks and shops to ensure that the money stayed within their community, ensuring a more prosperous life for the community.
A highlight of the day for me was our main course at Tayyubs restaurant, just a short walk away from Brick Lane. This restaurant had an interesting back story with the current owners’ direct descendants of the man who started the business decades ago. Tayyabs is extremely popular and has an enviable reputation as being the best place to have a curry in London. The walls are adorned with signed photographs of celebrity fans who have eaten here. I enjoyed a dish of perfectly cooked lamb curry and fragrant rice. We all felt fortunate to have gotten the chance to eat there as we were told how hard it is to get a reservation there.
The day was made even more enjoyable by the company of the other guests. In all I recommend the Flavours of India Food Tour as an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon to learn about the rich culture and food of local Indians. It says a lot that the restaurants and establishments that we visited were all patronised by Indians themselves giving you a clue that these were authentic Indian delicacies.
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