It took 20 minutes of travel time from St James’s Park to reach Aldgate East via the District Line for the Secret Indian Food Tour London. We went out of the tube station as instructed (Exit 3) and met our escort at the White Chapel Art Gallery. The gallery is right at the exit to the tube station.
Our tour guide greeted us 6:40pm, a little ahead of schedule. Radha was an Indian girl in her twenties. We were the only two people on the tour for this evening so our adventure began right away.
We started by walking down Brick Lane. The roads and sidewalks here were cramped with numerous shops and restaurants all connected to Indian cuisine or culture. On the way to our initial stop, Madhubon Sweet Centre, several shop owners approached us seeking our business. Competition for our patronage was intense. At Madhubon, our guide explained the range of sweets available and purchased two varieties for us to savor at the end of the evening.
Onward we walked down Brick Lane to our second stop at Arzu Savouries & Confectionary. Arzu’s is a snack shop offering quick take-out cuisine. There were many choices available and several caught my eye such as the Paneer Samosa, Spring Rolls, and Onion Pakora. However, today, our guide chose the samples. Radha assembled three dishes consisting of Green Peas and Lentil Kachori, Mixed Pakora, and Dhokla (a food comparable to corn bread). We ate these items standing in the shop, dipping each into a spicy hot Chili Tamarind sauce. I plan to revisit Arzu Savouries & Confectionary on a future visit.
Before our departure, I noticed a small plaque outside the shop. It said, Haroon Shamsher, founder of influential music collective Joi, lived here from 1965 to 1999.
Now with food in our stomachs we headed further down Brick Lane to TAJ Stores International Supermarket. Our guide showed us several brands of Indian vegetables, spices, and rice. We wondered up and down several aisles noting all the other consumables. The market was highly specialized to include fresh produce from Asia, Africa, and Europe.
As we departed the market, we swung right and headed further down Brick Lane to our next stop, the Eastern Eye Balti House Restaurant. At the restaurant we relaxed with our guide while she provided a background of Indian spices and their use in everyday cooking. We felt, crushed, and sniffed each spice and gave our best guess as to what it was. A few minutes passed and the attendant served wine along with the Secret Food appetizer of the tour. This appetizer is a tour exclusive and does not appear on the restaurant menu. No spoiler here, sorry. Next we moved onto the main course. Our meal consisted of Rice, Tarka Daal, Chicken Karai, Saag Lamb, and Naan.
Our tour now took us back up Brick Lane where we spotted several illustrations of detailed graffiti in the alleyways. Next we reached the Brick Lane Mosque founded in 1976. The building however, was originally constructed in 1742 as a Protestant chapel, then from 1891 operated as the Great Spitalfield Synagogue.
We crossed over Mile End Road and headed through Altab Ali Park and cut across several streets. We arrived at our final destination of the tour, the original world-famous Lahore Kebab House. The restaurant is a favorite of the locals. If patrons wish to enjoy an adult beverage, there is a bring your own policy. A store adjacent to the restaurant offers a variety of spirits for sale.
After arriving at our reserved table, the restaurant owner came by and invited us to tour the kitchen. This was a nice extra as we were excited to go behind the scenes and experience the chaotic workings of an Indian kitchen. The cooks provided precise instructions on Naan preparation and cooking while showing us the extremely hot clay ovens.
Our meal arrived at the table and was nothing short of a feast consisting of Lamb Chops, Paneer Tikka, Chili Mogo, Garlic Naan, Salad, and Yoghurt Mint Sauce. We were so stuffed we were only able to sample each item.
Then, just as we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, the tour guide reminded us of our earlier desert purchase at the Madhubon Sweet Centre. The deserts, Ladoo and Gulab Jaman, were both very sweet in taste and we sampled these as well.
After asking our final questions of our guide we bid our goodbyes and were escorted back to Aldgate East station. Arriving at 9:40pm, our personal tour had lasted 3 hours.
It was another great night out in London. I would encourage you to arrive hungry if you are planning to take the Secret Indian Food Tour London.
Cruise Port: London, England
Tour Name: Secret Indian Food Tour London
Tour Operator/Guide: Secret Food Tours London / Radha