How do you like to explore a new city? I love a food tour to find out all the facts of an area whilst getting stuck into some special regions treats. I’ve been on food tours around the world and even written about how to create your own when travelling. But if that seems a lot of hard work and you want an expert to take care of creating a fabulous adventure for you then a tour group could be the answer for you.
I was kindly invited to try Context Tours new London Food Tour before Christmas to see what their tours were like and to explore a new area of the city with plenty of fantastic food along the way.
Context tours specialise in small and private tours, with the guides with specialist and scholars to get a unique experience that not only is educational (with 80% of their guides with MA or PhD level degrees) but fun ways to learn the untold stories, and joining the dots between cultures, history and geographies.
Our tour started at Bermondsey tube station, meeting our lovely guide Cindy and with two other ladies as a part of the group. With the smaller group size, we could travel through the busier areas without losing anyone or having to waste tour time waiting for members of the group to catch up. That being said, I never felt hassled or rushed to move on at any time, but Cindy kept a good pace to the tour moving and on to the next delicious treat.
We headed to Spa Terminus market, opened on Saturday’s and a complete foodie haven, with over 20 producers ranging from coffee roasters, butchers, ice cream makers, urban beekeepers, bakers and so much more! Taking the space of the railway arches, the perfect space to showcase some of the finest foodie spots to explore. From one archway to the next you can be transported to France, then to Greece, then to Spain and right back to England.
First stop is Neal’ Yard Dairy. A church of cheeses, with towers of Cheddars, boards of oozy ripe British Bries and all the crackers you could ever want. Neal’s Yard works with about 40 cheesemakers in the UK and Ireland. Being one of the first producers at this food hub, with long-established clients with the queues going out the door on Saturday’s with people stocking up on all of their cheesy dreams and wants for the weekend. There are all sorts of cheeses to satisfy all tastes, and with the extremely knowledgable staff, they can help you handpick the perfect cheeseboard selection.
Little Bread Pedlar. The little beauty has been on my visit list for a while after first glancing at their beautiful pastry creations on Instagram, like the Parma Rose, pastry rolled up with Parma Ham that aged for 36 months from our neighbours The Ham & Cheese Co (but more on them in a minute).
Being a few weeks before Christmas, we had to try their buttery rich mince pies. Especially as my American fellow tour-goers had never tried one before. They were so lucky this was their first taste of these seasonal specialities. Pump rich vine fruits, packing a spice hit all in a buttery crisp pastry. Perfect with a flat white from their next-door neighbours, Coleman Coffee Roasters.
The Ham and Cheese Company. A company name that tells you exactly what they do! Specialising in sourcing directly from butchers and farmers across Italy to source some of the finest ingredients. Selecting items that carry rich tradition in it’s preparation and care to the plate to be enjoyed.
A favourite of the taste selection we had was the Culatello di Zibello, where it’s been made for the past 100 years the same way in the small stretch of river plain that runs from Parma and the Po, where the fog from the river carries interesting moulds, the hams are stored with small windows to limit the amount of fog as well as no refrigeration means it can only be produced in the winter so a gem when able to have a taste of this buttery and tender sweetness to the meat.
As well as their beautiful meats, of course, there’s cheese too! Plenty of choices to pair with some delicious wines, my favourite sight was seeing the huge gooey gorgonzola being spooning out for a Christmas celebration. As well as a sheep cheese from160 Basco Béarnaise sheep in the Pyrenees, which the cheese, other than The Ham and Cheese Co, selling it, the farmer’s other retail spot, his mum selling it from his farm front door!
A ten-minute walk for the archways of Spa Terminus we headed to even more railway archways Maltby St Market. The viaduct provides unique spaces for start-up and star traders, where you can eat around the world in a matter of yards. There’s Venezuelan street food, decadent brownies, juice stalls (if feeling particularly healthy!), small-batch gin, grilled cheese sandwiches, gyoza dumplings, Jamaican, Lebanese and the list goes on and on! For such a narrow, short market, it sure packs a punch in the choice department!
We stopped at what caught our eye, and you can’t blame us to be drawn to these gorgeous canelés from Babelle!
If you haven’t had a canelés before then you really need to rectify that! Described by Babelle, ‘A caramelised crust with a soft custardy heart, this Canelé is flavoured with aged dark Rum, a French classic.’ They have a satisfyingly chewy crust and custardy middle. Which I could happily eat all day long!
Another first for my new American friends, Scotch Eggs by Finest Fayre. As the story goes, Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented Scotch eggs in 1738, as a traveller’s snack and perfect for picnic’s which they were also renown for and named the method of the coating of breadcrumbs not coming from Scotland. These modern Scotch Eggs had a wonderfully crisp coating straight from the fryer, classically seasoned sausage meat and an oozy yolk in the middle. A bit of a guilty pleasure.
Our final stop was the delightful 40 Maltby Street Wine Bar, specialising in the showcasing of natural free wines, working with producers who don’t use pesticides or chemical fertilisers, allowing the grape, land and careful production shine through in the drinking. The Cabernet that we tried, had a wonderful slight fizz and minerally note, with a deep berry flavour which on a cold December day, made for a warming drink.
Ending on a sweet note, a mountain of rich stem ginger truffles to at some zing and to wake us up after all the food! And for a festive finish, Buttermilk pudding, mulled clementine and a gingernut biscuit. A soft set pudding with a gentle wobble with a zesty topping from the clementines and spice note. The gingernut biscuit had a lovely treacly flavour, perfect for dunking in the pudding.
I had a wonderful time on the tour, it lasted for around three hours and we covered so much ground in global food, leaving nice and full as well as being armed with new facts and new favourite food markets to bring friends and family to. Thank you to Context Travel for my invite to try out the tour, for someone who visits London regularly, it was fantastic exploring an area I had never been to before. If you have some travels planned, check out Context Travels range of tours available in over 60 cities covering tours on art, architecture, history and even more food!
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