London Food Tour - Covent Garden with Celia Brooks

On a chilly and bleak London morning I huddled outside of Covent Garden tube station with a small squad of hungry strangers. We'd all be invited to try out Celia Brooks's new food tour of the area, and fortunately she knows how to get a group giddy and chatting right from the start.

Once introductions were made she simply opened a box procured across the road from legendary macaron-maker Ladurée, and the brilliantly coloured discs instantly lit up the atmosphere. Pistachio, black currant, salted caramel... there wasn't a wrong choice to be made and the box was soon empty.

Celia is a cook, food writer, and guide of London gastrotours around Portobello Road, Marylebone, and now, Covent Garden. Over several hours she led us to some top quality shops, market stalls, and cafés where we tasted everything from English cheese to Venezuelan corn cakes to Indian street snacks. She offers nuggets of historical trivia along the way, and her love for food is clear when she introduces each of the producers on the tour.

Our first stop was for cheese, glorious cheese....

Neal's Yard Dairy has been in Covent Garden since the 1970s and is a champion of British cheese. The staff here talk about cheese like a sommelier waxes lyrical about wine. They really know their stuff and encourage you to taste as they talk, which we did happily. My favourite was the fresh, mild goats cheese that Celia recommended, Childwickbury.

Our next stop was the Slow Food UK shop around the corner in Neal's Yard. This is the first retail outlet for Slow Food, a not-for-profit organisation that works to encourage environmentally-friendly growing methods and healthy eating in all age groups. The shop sells Slow Food approved products and provides information on their programmes. We stopped to taste a selection, and while we crunched and sipped, Slow Food's CEO told us about their recent activities in the UK.

Tour guide Celia Brooks (left) talks with Slow Food UK CEO Catherine Gazzoli (centre)

We then ambled over to the Covent Garden piazza where the Real Food Market appears on Thursdays, offering a trip around the world with its wide variety of international vendors. We first stopped at Karantania Delicatessen's stall, blanketed in beautiful Slovenian pastries, sweet and savoury. We sampled the 8 Layer Cake, which was filled with lovely things like poppy seed, apple and walnut.

After a brief talk from Celia on the history of Covent Garden piazza, we rounded the corner for a true taste of Venezuela. The Caracas Corn House stall is the only place in the UK you can get Venezuelan cachapas - corn pancakes stuffed with a choice of filling. The batter is made using corn imported from Venezuela, which has a high starch content necessary to bind the cachapas correctly. It was a totally new taste experience for everyone in the group and one I would definitely go back for.

Cachapas stuffed with black beans and cheese, topped with traditional Venezuelan pepper and avocado salsas.

We then entered the Covent Garden covered market, and Celia led us downstairs to the unassuming Café Chutney. I'll be honest, it didn't look that enticing, but a good food tour guide excels at taking you to worthwhile places you might otherwise walk by.

Celia placed an order and soon plonked this plate in front of us. Again, not something that is particularly visually appealing, nor anything I'd ever seen before. It's a savoury Indian snack called bhelpuri - a chilled combination of puffed rice, fried noodles, chick pea crackers, diced tomato, and more, coated in a tamarind and coriander dressing. Crunchy, tart, and refreshing, we all agreed it would make an ideal beach snack, washed down with cold beer. 

Our final stop was at a new wine bar in the area, Dalla Terra, where the charming owner Giuseppe Gullo, from Sicily, welcomed us and talked us through a tasting of selected Italian wines and small plates of food to accompany them.

I particularly liked the red wine made from grapes grown on the slopes of Mt Etna, it has a unique, earthy (volcanic?) taste. One nice feature of this enoteca is that you can buy and wine off the shelves and are only charged £7.50 on top of the sticker price to drink it there. Then you can settle in, sip, and try some of their 'peasant food'. I was most fond of the puntarelle (a variety of chicory) on fava been mash coated in truffle oil.

We were all so intrigued by the puntarelle that Giuseppe ran back into the kitchen and came out with the head from which the stalks and leaves had been snipped. This was yet another food first for us, and that is why I recommend Celia's tours. She can lead you through an area you've been to many times before, but the you'll see, and taste it, in a whole new way.

I was invited to join Celia on this tour.


  1. Gorgeous photos, I am definitely going to get myself one. I did smile a the memory of Childwickbury.

  2. Some lovely photos - such a diverse range in such a small area of London - really tells the story

  3. Thanks Solange and Nick for your lovely comments - that food was very photogenic!


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