Tips from a Food Tour Guide on “How to find the Best London Food Tours”

THE FOOD TOUR PHENOMENON

The concept of the Food Tour is a recent phenomenon that is spreading all over the world. From lesser known villages to famous large metropolises, Food Tours are one of most popular activities to do when visiting a new city or country, and London is no exception to this Food Tour craze.

Best London Food Tours

With all of the choice out there – how can you find the Best London food tours?  As a Tour Guide, who has been working in the Food Tourism industry since 2008, I will try to give you some of my own insider tips to finding good tours versus the fake ones, because whether you’re a foodie or not… there’s nothing worse than paying for a bad Food experience!

 

 

FINDING THE BEST LONDON FOOD TOURS

2015website76As a massive foodie, I love the idea of doing food tours when I visit new cities. I can’t think of a better way to learn about a local culture than through their local foods. However, just like trying to choose a restaurant, sometimes it’s not easy to tell which company has a heart and which one is just in it to take advantage of you.  Having worked as a tour guide for many years, and I have worked with companies that truly had passion for their clients and their business and other companies that didn’t.

I’ve put together a list of things I recommend to take into consideration when choosing a tour. Hopefully they will help you find the BEST London food tours and anywhere else you may go:

 

  1. GO LOCAL: 

2015website8The best-quality London Food Tours are run by locals – not a company that has tours in 10 other cities around the world. Small is everything with culinary tours. I always like to read the profiles of how people got started. This makes a big difference when it comes to their local knowledge and personal touch, as opposed to running it like a mechanical, rehearsed script. Many people would be really surprised to know that some of the more popular and “professional-looking” food tour companies may not be the BEST option. Quite a few of them aren’t even run by people that live in the city where they are running the tour. I know it might not seem like there’s a big difference between doing tours with big companies or local, small businesses, but it really comes down to the authenticity of your tour. A big company isn’t going to do the work to find out what local culture is all about. They will pick cliché foods that they think tourists will want to try in that city – and even if they seem super authentic, that makes a huge difference. It’s like choosing between a corporate food chain that has pre-packaged portions and set menus and no creativity and that little, family-run restaurant on the corner that will take care of you in their own special way. I’ve witnessed this first-hand, when used to work for a food tour company that made me memorise a 4-hour script in order to do their tours. I had to recite it to the clients during the tour instead of allowing me to be myself. I made it look extremely natural, so most clients didn’t know, but this is what goes on behind the scenes with companies that don’t have heart behind what they do.

 

2. DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER:

The best London Food Tours aren’t necessarily always going to be found with the most aesthetically pleasing website. Remember that most small businesses don’t have the same kind of budget that big companies have. This means that there websites might not be the best in the world and they might still be learning a thing or two about social media and user-friendly websites, but that doesn’t always reflect how good their tour is. Websites are a work in progress and cost a great deal of money and time for these companies.. and if they spend more time doing tours and making their tours amazing, then their website might not be as good. So don’t always judge a tour by the website.

 

3. TOP RANKINGS IN GOOGLE DON’T GUARANTEE TOP QUALITY TOURS:

Being found at the top of the list on Google doesn’t have much to do with the quality of the tour – it just means that the Food Tour company had more money to invest in their advertising. More times than not, the companies that can afford these kinds of services are not the authentic, local companies – run by people that created a tour because of their passion to teach people about their local food and culture. It means it is run by a larger organisation that is more focused on getting a higher return for their investment. The same goes for TripAdvisor… I can’t deny that they do have some useful information, but when I look for authentic restaurants with a heart, it’s not always easy to rely on their content. For as much as you hate to hear it, many companies find ways to get people to write reviews. I used to work for one company that paid the tour guide a nice bonus if they had 15 5-star reviews a month. So the tour guides would get their friends and family members and anyone they knew, to write reviews so they could get a bonus… And even though TripAdvisor says they have strict controls for this, I can look at that company’s profile and see more than 1000 reviews – and they were definitely not from real clients.

 

4. NEW FOODS = NEW FRONTIERS:

2015-05-17 17.18.52When I used to work in Italy as a Food Tour Guide, I used to get a lot of people on the tours that had come to Italy just to eat Pizza or just to eat Pasta.. those are great options, but they aren’t the only thing Italy has to offer. I’ve found the same thing in London. Many people don’t even know what London has to offer, so they just play it safe and stick to things like Fish & Chips or Steak pies. Don’t get me wrong – there is nothing wrong with either one of those dishes, but there is so much more out there. Many of the commercial food tours will give you what they think you want…I personally think that they best tours are tours that push the boundaries a little bit.. and they don’t give you what YOU THINK you want.. they give you what the LOCALS think is the best. Be open when choosing a food tour and not only will you taste interesting foods, but you will also learn something!

 

5. “HOW” TO TASTE IS FUNDAMENTAL:

2015website62Ok, I have to admit that I have a slight advantage in creating a menu for food. As a certified sommelier, I have studied that importance of putting together flavours and not making the mistake to put things out of order. HOW you taste things makes a HUGE difference when it comes to what you can get out of those flavours. I designed the Soho International Food Tour as I would have designed a wine tasting… lighter flavours first, then medium, and finishing with bold flavours and finally dessert. It might not seem very significant, but I have a great example of just how important it is. A commercial food tour company decided to copy the majority of the stops for one of the tours I designed and since they have no experience in putting together flavours, they don’t know how much it impacts the experience of the taster. On one occasion, while I was doing a tour, I had a woman tell me that she had actually gone on this commercial company’s tour the evening before and had already sampled the tasting we were about to have – but didn’t really like it, so she was ok to skip that tasting. I told her that she should try it again – just to try it. And she did, and was completely blown away that it tasted completely different than when she had had it the previous night on the other tour. She couldn’t figure it out – but I knew straight away. She was tasting it with us while her pallet was still relatively untouched (as it was our second tasting) so she got to really taste it for what it was. It just proved to me once again how experience in flavours goes a lot farther than just throwing together flavours and tastes like many of the larger, commercial companies do.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS FROM A TOUR GUIDE

The amount of food tours will continue increasing alongside our massive interest in food-culture and travel. I actually know three people that have opened Food Tours after going on tours with me and have written me to ask how to do it and get tips on what makes it run more smoothly, so I think that Food Tours will increasingly be a way of the future – which means that you will have to learn how to be a savvy chooser if you want to make sure to have an authentic experience.2015-10-02 13.02.42 copy

I hope the above tips help you to find the BEST London Food Tours. There are quite a few choices out there – and of course I am impartial to London Food Lovers Tours – because it’s run by Tour Guides who LOVE food and LOVE what they do, but I’m sure we aren’t the only ones. Whether it’s small or large company, as long as you keep in mind some of the above points, you will be able to find the BEST Food Tours – wherever you go.

London Walking Tours

There’s no better way to get to London than exploring London on foot. A few years ago, there weren’t many London walking tours to choose from aside from the classic ones like the Jack The Ripper Tour or the London Ghost Tour.

Today you can find many more options for London walking tours that help visitors really get a feel for what London has to offer. Depending on what your interests are, there are a lot of options to choose from.

Unlike the big bus tours where you only see the highlights from a distance, walking around with a guide, can often mean discovering hidden places that most people just pass by because they are too busy running from one end of the city to the other.

Many Londoners are also starting to go on walking tours because they are aware of how little they know of this great city, and are keen to discover more!

One particularly interesting way to get to know London, is through Food Tours. London food tours are a new concept that has been breaking out in cities all over the world. They combine culture, history, tastings, and exploring new territory on foot, with a local expert. Unlike other London walking tours, where you simply walk from place to place, Food Tours allow you to go into shops, get to know new places and experience tastes that you may have never tried before.

 

Although you can find a wide variety of food tours in classic “foodie” cities like Rome, New York and Chicago, London is very new to the concept of Food Tours. Many people still don’t know what an incredible culinary offering that London has to offer! Walking around and exploring new restaurants and international cuisines might be one of the best new concepts that exist! London Food Lovers offers a very unique walking tour called the Soho International Food Tour. It is a 4 hour exploration on foot, where people can try a variety of international cuisines, while they learn about new places, the history of how those foods arrived to London, and taste new flavours! Exploring London on foot never tasted so good!

Eating in London: Myth Busting

Now is the time to forget about anything negative you might have ever heard regarding eating in London. Unlike the bad reputation that once revolved British culinary offerings, the reality that now exists in London is much different. It has broken out of its old, out-dated mould to emerge on the forefront of some of the best, trend-setting foods in the world.

London offers an array of International foods – so broad that it can even be intimidating! Visitors to London can try and “eat” their way around the city, but it would take a lot of dedication, time and money to try and sample it all. One of the most favourite activities that Londoners enjoy is eating out and trying new cuisines. New restaurants are opening on a regular basis featuring unique, new twists to tantalize and delight their diners! Because of the amount of places opening up, the competition is steep, so each one is working hard to provide something truly unique and interesting, to win new clientele and keep regular customers always on their toes. London food tours also emerge across London, allowing outsiders and locals to try many of the wonderful dishes this city has to offer.

One of the best places to try new International cuisines when eating in London is in Soho. It has a history of being known as a trendsetting neighbourhood where most restauranteurs try to open their first restaurant. If it’s a hit in Soho, then usually they will open up more of them in other places in London. It is truly sink or swim, and winning over the clientele of Soho, means you can win over clientele in other places. One perfect example of this is Kua’aina Burger. The first Kua’aina Burger to open up in all of Europe, opened in 2011 on Foubert’s Court. Being near the famously commercial Carnaby street and tucked away in a tiny corner, it isn’t the easiest place to find and one of those places that you would probably think to walk by without going in. However due to how amazing their food is and the quality behind every dish they make, they are a hit in Soho and have now opened up a second location on Googe Street. It is just one of the many success stories that come out of Soho. Kua’aina Burger is one of the favourite stops at the London food tour organized by London Food Lovers

Londoners eating in London are also really gaga for markets and street foods. Usually at lunch time, most people prefer to get out of the office and get some fresh street food made for them fresh, instead of bringing lunch from home. London offers a wide variety of markets where you can get fresh food made right in front of you – from Borough Market to Rupert Street Market, there is no lack of locations to try street foods. There are even a few nighttime markets, where people can enjoy a variety of street foods for dinner and not just for lunch! The majority of the foods in the markets are also international – from Thai to Italian to Ethiopian. For foodies and non-foodies alike, London has emerged from its old, culinary boring cocoon and spread her beautifully colorful wings as one of the richest cities in International cuisine in the world.

A day in the Life of a London Food Guide

What does it mean to be a London Food Guide? It’s definitely not the most common term. The idea of “Food Tourism” is still relatively new in London, unlike traditionally famous “foodie” cities such as Rome, Paris or Barcelona. Despite its outdated reputation for boring food, London has gone above and beyond to become one of the world’s leaders in culinary innovation and limitless selections of unique cuisines. Even most of the locals have a hard time keeping up with all of the new restaurants, markets, pop-ups and food stands that are opening at an ever-increasing speed. Food seems to be one of London’s biggest past-times, and if you don’t have the time or energy to research what’s out there, having a Food Guide in London, might be one of the best choices you could make!

The “art” of knowing where to go and what to eat is not something that one can easily master. It takes a lot of active involvement and constant research (i.e. EATING) to find London’s best-kept secrets. As a London Food Guide, I can say with confidence that it isn’t just about knowing which places are the most popular or the most famous. Not to say that it isn’t helpful to check out Food Blogs and interesting articles put together by other foodies, but the best research I’ve done has been with my mouth.  Some of the best food I’ve eaten in London I found by exploring and trying it out.  Not everyone has the time or luxury to eat their way around London, so Food Guides can be a real asset for those wanting to know more about what London has to offer.

There aren’t as many certified “Food Guides” in London as you would find in Italy, France or Spain, however as London’s food popularity grows, so will the number of culinary experts. I moved here from Rome, where there is a highly saturated number of “Food Guides”. When I do London food tours with people, one of their number one questions they as me is WHY I moved from Rome to London to do Food Tours. My answer is easy – the food scene in London is about to hit its peak and it is still very un-discovered territory. For a Food Guide, it’s amazing to be one of the first people to design and create interesting tours that teach people more about the foods they are tasting, the cultures behind those foods, and how they’ve influenced what we currently define “British Food”.

One of the most amazing things I’ve found in London is the prime interest in cooking, foods, and an openness to trying unique tastes that you would have never imagined putting together. From Heston Blumenthal to Jaime Oliver to Gordan Ramsey, English chefs are taking the culinary world by storm – if that isn’t proof of where the UK’s food culture is headed, I don’t know what is!  As a London Food Guide, it’s exciting to see how this has reflected in a growing interest in London’s food scene and I’m excited to show what we have to offer. Get ready world, London is on its way to becoming one of the most famous foodie cities in the world!

 

The Revolution of FOOD TOURS

Welcome to a new world of tourism… the Food Tour. Starting only less than a decade ago, Food Tours are taking the world by storm, popping up in cities all over the globe. Considering everything they offer, it’s not hard to understand why people are falling in love with culinary adventures!

Food tours combine the elements of a typical city tour, where visitors learn the history and local culture, and take it to the next level by adding the important role that food has played – both historically and with the current local culture.

Since the concept of Food Tours started over a decade ago, the amount of food tours around the world has grown at an incredible rate. That’s great news for people who are avid travellers and want to eat their way around the world… however the downside is that there are a lot of companies jumping on the Food Tour bandwagon – which  means that not all of the Food Tours out there are worth taking.

Of course, we are slightly impartial because we run authentic food tours, however our advice to people looking for Food Tours are the following:

 

  1. Make sure that the places you are going to on the food tour are not in the top 10 of TripAdvisor. I know it might seem strange, but remember that the majority of people writing reviews for TripAdvisor are VISITORS and not LOCALS…so if you want a truly LOCAL experience, don’t rely on TripAdvisor results
  2. Research the Food Tour Company. Make sure that they actually LIVE in the city where they operate the food tour. You’d be surprised how many companies just open tours in any city they want to – without having actually lived there. That might not seem very important, but trust me – you can only get a local experience from people that actually live in the city they do their food tour.
  3. Be careful not to overpay. Unfortunately, there are quite a few tour companies out there that actually charge you money for places where you could sample food for free. If you can, try to find out where you are going on the tour to make sure that you aren’t paying to visit places that you could visit by yourself – without the expensive add-on fees of a tour.

 

Despite running our own food tours which focus on local places, amazing foods and interesting stories, we know that there are a number of great companies that run their businesses with the authenticity that we do. They might not be on the first page of Google… but again, you have to ask yourself – how much money did that company spend to be on the first page of Google? For us, being a small business that is run with a heart, we fully support other small businesses like us – that didn’t earn a top rating in Google or TripAdvisor by paying people – we earned it by doing what we love… Food Tours.