Curry Crazy on the Eating London Brick Lane Tour

Guilt prompted me to book the Eating Europe Brick Lane curry tour in London. Due to a salt beef bagel sandwich addiction fed by the nearby Beigel Bake, I spent over 2 years in the city without having tried a Brick Lane curry. Brick Lane is literally lined with Indian restaurants and eateries, many with staff that attempt to usher you in from the street. And thanks to the Eating LondonFlavors of India & Beyond Brick Lane curry tour, I collected a few new favourite Shoreditch treats during our meal-on-the-go.

Our group of seven, coincidentally all Americans, met tour leader Rebecca at Nazrul, the first restaurant on Brick Lane. She poured us a glass of BYOB Cobra beer, and we eagerly started in on the “bread basket, Bengali style.” We loaded up our crispy papadoms with a variety of sauces, yogurt raita and a punchy sour lime pickle. After brief introductions, including a rating of how spicy we can handle our food (“ – I’m a white person 8 out of 10” confessed a jokester), Rebecca reassured us that the dishes were suited to English tastes and very toned down from a private dinner she attended with one of the restaurateurs.

Photo Credit: James Drew Turner, used with permission by Eating London

The History of Brick Lane

The two and a half hour Eating London Brick Lane curry tour dove into the history of Bengali peoples abroad and continued their narrative journey in their London “Banglatown” neighbourhood. Only 60 – 70 years ago, the Brick Lane population was predominantly Jewish and signs were written in Yiddish, but today most residents can trace their heritage back to the small Sylhet region in Bangladesh. Many first generation settlers arrived in the UK to work in the textiles and garments industry, but thankfully, some found a calling in cooking and sharing their unique cuisine abroad. London locals took a shine to Indian cuisine as they sought exotic meals, and curry has since earned its place as a national favourite dish.

Photo Credit: James Drew Turner, used with permission by Eating London

Brick Lane Curry Part I

The Taj Stores, the oldest Bangladeshi green grocer in the UK, flies produces in daily from Bangladesh to supply the busy Brick Lane restaurants. Here, we admire the myriad of rich coloured spices and try the gummy, fibrous tamarind. The Eating London Brick Lane tour continues with piping hot fried snacks called telebhuja: samosa, which was created as a sturdy traveling pastry, and aloo chop, a hearty potato croquette. And even if you can handle a dollop of chilli sauce on your appetizers, you will appreciate the cooling mango lassi when you dine upon two seriously delicious fish dishes at the authentic, no frills, Gram Bangla eatery.

P.S. – Do make sure to eat with your hands, as suggested, mixing the rice and the curries… It really does enhance the taste!

Brick Lane Culture

At this point of the tour, my nearly full belly happily took a break from eating as we ambled to the next restaurant. Although Indian food is the focus of the tour, Rebecca points out relevant street art, buildings and designs. A simple, yet powerful mural by Stik features a Muslim woman and a white man holding hands. An enormous black and white crane piece by ROA helps the residents to feel at home, and a mosque that previously served as both a church and a synagogue demonstrates the demographic changes. Although we saw people near the mosques, the Brick Lane eateries and snack shops were mostly empty during our visit as the Muslim people fasted for Ramadan.

Brick Lane ROA Crane

Brick Lane Curry Grand Finale

Who knew naan bread could be so indulgent? At Tayyabs Punjabi restaurant, the thick fluffy naan breads are the perfect vehicles to down some more curry. The word kari originally meant sauce, but the Anglicised version of the word, curry, eventually became synonymous with Indian food. Tayyab’s presents a hearty spinach vegetarian plate and a rich lamb dish, and while the curries are lovely and filling, they make make the prospect of eating dense sweets difficult. However, do not miss out on a pinch of traditional multi-coloured cleansing seed mix called mukhwas… It gave my group the power to miraculously find extra stomach space for dessert at Altab Ali Park.

Eating London Tours

The Eating London Brick Lane tour provides great insight into how the Bengali population consciously and collectively transformed this vibrant London community into their permanent home. The care that Rebecca took in scouting out the food scene and building connections with the business owners is apparent, as they smile warmly upon greeting and she offers a cheery dhanyabad (or ‘thank you’) upon departure. No wonder two of our group members repeatedly book her food tours when visiting London, and that they will join the newly launched The London Docks – Historic Pubs and Classic Grub Tour on their next trip. As for the Eating London curry tour, it will surely satiate your appetite for fantastic Indian cuisine and fill your mind with interesting cultural and historical tidbits.

Disclosure: Up&AtEm Travel was provided Brick Lane curry tour admission in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to work with me, simply contact me for possible collaborations!

18 Comments

  1. haha yeah there’s a lot of curry places around London. Never ventured out specifically for them though. Maybe I should one weekend 🙂 Great blog!

    1. Author

      Hi Natasha – I think tasting the food around Brick Lane made for a great day out with friends, doing something different. I definitely recommend it! 🙂

  2. Looks like you had a great time tasting delicious food. I like tours like this one. You not only try new dishes but also learn about culture and history.

    1. Author

      I did have such a fun time. It sounds like we have the same travel style. Learning about the culture and history of the people in Brick Lane really made the tour feel complete!

  3. I never had a chance to do an eating tour while I was in London! I had heard there was a huge Indian influence there. I will have to try this next time.

    1. Author

      Oh, I sincerely hope you do try this next time! It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. 🙂

  4. What an interesting food tour you just had! It’s always nice to experience cuisines and dishes from different culture! Your food photos looks yummy!

    1. Author

      You’re absolutely right… Experiencing cuisines from another culture can be so informative!

  5. Nice, so it is most Indian food or I can safely say Indian continent’s food. You have given good details.

    1. Author

      Hello Sapna, thanks for stopping by. There was a brief explanation about the use of the term “Indian food” since it is generally used to describe food from the Indian subcontinent. Thank you, also, for pointing that out! 😉

    1. Author

      Emily, I do hope you get to try the Brick Lane curries out for yourself!!

  6. I would love to do a curry tasting tour! Love how you explained the history of the area as well as how delicious the food was. If I ever make it to London I will have to stop by Brick Lane.
    -Kristin
    countdowntofridayblog.com

    1. Author

      Thanks Kristin, I think you would really enjoy the Brick Lane food tour! Just remember to bring an appetite 😉

  7. Brick Lane is such a fun Region of LONDON. also, loved taking the Street art tour. Was a highlight

    1. Author

      Hi Ariana, it sounds like you’ve explored Brick Lane frequently! I agree. The culture is so interesting – from the food to the street art. 🙂

  8. Looks like a delish tour! I can see how you got addicted to salt beef beigels. Having lined up and eaten there myself I can still remember how delicious they are

    1. Author

      Hi Jean, I am glad you also appreciate the salt beef beigels. But next time, I urge you to try the curries, too! 🙂 There are great snacks, so you can fit both into your tummy, lol.

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