Here at Boutique Travel Blog, we are all big fans of food and drink tours. They’re an excellent way to get to know a new culture. We’ve also been impressed by the many great tours and tastings on offer here in the UK, where most of us are based. We’ve brought together a collection of the very best food and drink tours, from gin tasting in Scotland and chocolate in Ireland to sparkling wine in Sussex, not forgetting the fabulous London and Bristol food scenes. Here’s how we recommend eating your way around the United Kingdom.
Eating London Food Tour
By Kathryn Burrington, Travel With Kat
One of the best food tours I’ve been on anywhere in the world was right on my doorstep in London. We’d been warned to arrive hungry and by the time we met in Spitalfields Market at 11 am my tummy was starting to rumble. It wasn’t long, however, before I was munching on one of my favourite English traditions – a bacon sandwich with thick cut, lightly toasted bread and homemade tomato ketchup. The perfect start to any day.
At the next stop, we were served a delightful mini bread and butter pudding with custard, another very traditional English dish. We also visited a typical English pub and a superb chippy (that’s short for a fish ‘n chip shop), but the tour was confined to just dishes originating here in England. In Brick Lane, we were treated to a seriously tasty bagel from a Jewish bakery and a little further along the road, we sampled one of the best curries I’ve ever tasted. Brick Lane is well known for its fabulous Indian restaurants, and curry is so popular in England that it is now considered right up there with fish ‘n chips as one the country’s favourite dishes.
Visit my blog to read more about my experience Eating London. To find out about all the tours on offer, visit Eating London Tours. The tour I went on costs £69 and I’d highly recommend it as a great way to get to know a very interesting area of London while tucking into some of the best dishes London has to offer.
Rathfinny Wine Tour and Winemaker’s Lunch
By Suzanne Jones, The Travelbunny
Rathfinny is a state-of-the-art vineyard near Alfriston, East Sussex and the future of English sparkling wine production. On course to export a million bottles of Sussex Sparkling a year it’s England’s largest single-site vineyard. I took a Rathfinny tour followed by a ‘Winemaker’s Lunch’.
The tour starts in the vineyard. Richard James, the estate’s Operations and Environment Officer explains why different vines are planted higher or lower on the south facing slope. Rathfinny has three main types of vine; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The vines are planted in regimented rows in a south facing bowl protected by the South Downs.
The winery was designed by a local architect using locally sourced materials. The rolling roof is planted with wildflowers and blends into the South Downs. The building uses recycled water, solar panels for energy, and is designed to be sustainable. We visit the presses and gleaming fermentation equipment to learn the winemaking process.
Lunch is in the Tasting Room with panoramic views over the vineyard. The meal is a delicious range of locally sourced produce and Rathfinny wines. Our starter is a sharing platter of vegetable salsa, Mackerel pate and broad bean and mint crostini.
Individual quiches made with Sussex Charmer cheese and green salad are followed by lemon posset. The food is delicious, as is the light, crisp Rathfinny 2014 Cradle Valley white that accompanies it.
London’s Borough Market Food Tour
By Lucy Dodsworth, On the Luce
London’s oldest food market, Borough Market dates right back to the 13th century. It started life as a wholesale market, but now over 70 producers sell to the public from Wednesdays to Saturdays. There’s everything from rare-breed meats and freshly baked bread to Spanish tapas and British cheeses. It’s a great place to wander through, eating your way around the stalls, but if you want to learn a bit more about what’s available, then you can take a market tour with food writer Celia Brooks – Borough Market’s only licensed guide.
Our tour started at 10 am on a Friday morning, before the market got too busy. We started off in Roast restaurant overlooking the market, where we tucked into Welsh rarebit and got some background on Borough Market before heading down to the stalls. Celia took us around about ten stalls where we met the producers and found out about their produce. And of course, there’s lots of eating, with freshly seared scallops, Spanish chorizo, ostrich burgers and handmade chocolates along the way. You can buy as you go along and get the stallholders to hold it for you so you don’t end up laden down with bags, before finishing off – very full – with a wine-tasting in Bedales wine bar.
Taste of Borough Market Tours with Celia Brooks take three hours and cost £75 per person.
Belfast Food Tour
By Kathryn Burrington, Travel With Kat
Having visited Belfast for the first time last year at the start of their Year of Food and Drink, I already knew it was a wonderful city with a great food scene. However, my tour with Taste and Tour earlier this year was to open my eyes to yet more edible and drinkable Belfast delights.
The tour set off to a flying start at St George’s Market, where we sampled freshly prepared humous and pesto and nibbled on moorish breads including champ soda bread and treacle bread – the latter was particularly good, being deliciously tasty without being too sweet – as well as seaweed (an acquired taste, I believe).
Two more highlights from the tour were a visit to a fabulous chocolate shop and gin tasting in a pub oozing with character – Jawbox gin with Fever Tree Ginger Ale is now a firm favourite of mine.
The tour ended at a wonderful restaurant, where dish after dish came out for us to share. Along with the food came a great range of local beers and cider. There was so much food, in fact, that I didn’t think I’d be able to eat anything else for another week.
The Belfast Food Tour from Tour and Taste is excellent value at £50 a head. You can read my full review on my blog, Chocolates, gin and seaweed on a fabulous Belfast Food Tour.
Taste Bristol Food Tour
By Heather Cowper, Heather on Her Travels
Brian Iles founded EatWalkTalk Bristol Food Tours as a way to share his passion for Bristol and food with the world. Since I live in Bristol, I assumed that I had a pretty good knowledge of the Bristol food scene, but on joining the Taste Bristol food tour I realised that I had a lot to learn! The food tour really opened my eyes to what a foodie destination Bristol has become, as it showcases the high-quality independent food stops that you might not find on your own.
The tours run daily from Temple Mead Station and our first stop was the legendary Hart’s bakery, which I’d heard a lot about but probably wouldn’t have found myself, since it’s tucked away under the station arches. We progressed towards the old centre of Bristol, with Brian feeding us with historical titbits as well as delicious food at some of Bristol’s finest artisan food producers.
There were best-of-British favourites like fish and chips, bacon sarnies and Pieminister pies, but also Somerset cheese and local craft beer. We rounded off our ten-plus tasting stops with some SWOON Gelato and chocolates from Guilberts. I loved the way that Brian wove the history of Bristol into the food stops and his enthusiasm for Bristol was infectious. The food tour is a great way for visitors to Bristol to dive into the food scene, get restaurant recommendations and learn about the history of Bristol at the same time. The convivial atmosphere of the group would be great for those travelling on their own as well as couples, families, and groups of friends.
The Taste Bristol food tour takes place every 10.30am from Tuesday to Saturday and costs £35 per person. Bristol tours with afternoon tea are also available and Brian also offers bespoke tours for your group. Find out more at EatWalkTalkBristol.com. And you can read more about Heather’s culinary adventures in Bristol on her blog, Heather on Her Travels.
Edinburgh Gin Tour
By Lucy Dodsworth, On the Luce
Scotland might be the home of whisky, but gin is giving it some stiff competition, especially in the capital. Edinburgh Gin is one of the city’s top distilleries, tucked away beneath the city streets at the end of Princes Street. We headed underground to join them for a Discovery Tour to learn more about the history of gin and how it’s made. The cellar tasting room is full of cosy leather sofas – and if you can’t make the tour, it also turns into a gin bar called Heads and Tales in the evenings.
Our guide, Abby, took us through Edinburgh’s murky history with gin, from the 18th-century ‘gin craze’ where people drank gin instead of water because it was cleaner, through the regulation and the Victorian gin bars, right up the modern gin renaissance. We also took a look at the stills and smelled some of the botanicals that go into their gin – including some special Scottish ingredients like milk thistle and heather.
The tour ends up with a tasting of their flagship gin, and you get a 10% discount in the shop so you can buy some to take home with you. Their gin liqueurs were a particular favourite, lighter in alcohol and flavoured with elderflower, rhubarb, and raspberry, they’re perfect for a summer’s day.
Edinburgh Gin’s Gin Discovery Tour takes 45 minutes and costs £10 per person.
More Great Food and Drink Tours in the UK
Further food and drink tours that come highly recommended around the UK include a visit to the
Penderyn Distillery in Penderyn and also in Wales, Loving Welsh Food in Cardiff and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.
Have you been on any great food and drink tours in the UK? We’d love to hear about it.
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Boutique Travel Blog, a luxury, boutique and eco-chic travel and lifestyle blog.