London From Scratch Gastro Food Tour – Soho
Stuck on what to do on a London day out with my brother in law and his wife my inbox threw up the perfect solution just the day before. I subscribe to lots of alerts for days out, restaurant recommendations etc and one of my favourites is Lime & Tonic,, in their own words “Curated Activities, Events & Places”. It’s a great resource to find something unusual to do in London every day of the week. You can visit the website or download the app which sends out alerts.
And that is how I happened upon London from Scratch Soho Food Tour lead by Antipodean, chef, restauranteur and fellow food lover, Michelle Francis. Purchasing 4 tickets for our intrepid group only two days before the event through Eventbrite we met in the middle of Soho Square at 10.30am one fine Saturday morning in late May (why has it taken me so long to write this review??). We were a mixed, cosmopolitan bunch of Londoners (well nearly), New Yorkers, a Kiwi and a couple of others who I can’t quite remember their origins but of course the common denominator here is that we all LOVEd food!!
I have worked in London for most of my adult life and spent much of my teens working my Saturdays for my grandmother who catered for the top hairdressing salons in London and so was often dispatched to Soho to the fabulous Italian delis and Berwick Street Market for fruit, veg and deli delicacies so Soho is not unknown to me but Michelle unveiled some new places for me as well as some old favourites . The ticket price is £59 p.p which includes 10 taster courses, drinks (water, tea and coffee, no alcohol) and starts at 10.30am, finishing at 1.30pm approximately.
Soho still has echoes of the salacious 60’s and 70’s vice scene but increasingly Wardour Street and surrounding streets are being taken over by both chain and independent eateries. Before we sat down to our first tasting we set off passing Pizza Pilgrims on Dean Street, a crowd funded pizzeria that started as a Pizza Van found at the various street food markets but now opening a string of restaurants using authentic recipes and the finest Italian ingredients (will definitely be reviewing this another day).
The great thing about Soho on a Saturday morning is that is is relatively empty, unlike weekdays so we were able to traverse as a group speedily – our first port of call was Princi, a rather chi-chi Milano artisan bakery on Wardour Street where we picked up an Olive Sfilatino packed with lush green olives (and a few tastings from the bar – yum!). *Make note to self to return to try the amazing array of filled foccacia.
On to Lina Stores, a delicious duck egg blue authentic Italian deli serving up cured meats, homemade ravioli and rich chocolate brownies, the brownie was tucked in a box for us to savour later …
Then on to I Camisa on Old Compton Street to pick up the freshest, most moist Braesola I have ever tasted …. this makes you realise how bland and rubbery the pre packed supermarket stuff is. We gobbled this up *whispers “on the street” ….. although scoffing one’s lunch on the street is commonplace I still find it all a little vulgar but nevertheless the Braesola wrapped around the bread from Princi’s was amazing. We washed this down with a steaming cup of coffee from The Algerian Coffee house also on Old Comtpon Street ….
And that is where I will stop with descriptions of where we went lest I spoil it for you should you decide to take one of Michelle’s tours – but I can tell you there were fresh dim sum dumplings, Vietnamese rice noodle, incredible handmade salted caramel chocolates and some Middle Eastern Baba Ganoush, pitta and pickles finished off with tea and Viennese pastries in the most spectacular venue tucked away near Picadilly Circus.
Michelle’s tour is lighthearted, informative and a lot of fun …. it’s not hard work walking so no level of fitness is required but you are kept to a strict time guideline as there are lots of stops on the way as well as an update on the new Soho Food Movement about to unveil their new eateries including Alan Yua (owner of the Princi bakery and a diverse collection of other Soho establishments open and soon to be opened). And Michelle’s parting gift to us all was her own, homemade Peanut & Pistachio Brittle …. delicious!
Also en route Picked up this great little book ….. Food Lovers’ London which details everything from Supper Clubs to food markets and beyond
And next week’s tour has a special twist in honour of London Cocktail Week (6-12th October 2014) so check out Michelle’s website for details here …. London From Scratch … this is a one off tour including some delicious cocktails