You wouldn’t think it but I’ve always found pub crawls to be quite educational. In my early twenties, they taught me that I could indeed keep up with the boys and manage be to fresh-faced and chipper for my retail gig at 9am the next morning. By my late twenties, they taught me that those magical abilities had disappeared. And now, in my thirties they’ve finally taught me something worth sharing at my next dinner party. Some history of the London Docks; yes ladies and gents… I went to a pub crawl, didn’t get smashed and actually learnt something. Early-twenties me would be shocked, surprised and just a little bit impressed, I think.
I’d like to pretend I changed my ways all on my own but that would hardly be plausible. In reality, I have Eating Europe Tours and our very enthusiastic guide Nicole, to thank. We walked, we talked, and we ate and drank more than enough during this four hour experience… it was filled with lots of fun facts and stories about a part of London I don’t know well at all so the time literally flew by! We started our tour somewhere in Rotherhithe looking out onto one part of the Thames, ended down by St Katherine’s Dock, looking out onto another part of it… and saw a lot along the way. Here’s what you can expect if you decide to join the London Old Docks Historic Pub Tour…
Historic Pubs and Pints
This Eating Europe Tour took us to five pubs, each dripping with history and utterly unique in their own way. I often think that a lot of London’s pubs are styled to feel like they have an alluring past, but these ones are the real deal. They have all been serving pints to their punters for hundreds of years now, but preserving their trade hasn’t been easy and as a result, many are now owned or affiliated with large breweries. While I might have previously turned my nose up at these arrangements, the reality is that many old pubs simply wouldn’t exist without them and they’ve still kept their original features.
However, there are still some free houses out there; the one we visited had such a distinct atmosphere, it was truly like stepping back into time… Turns out it’s so authentic and sets such a striking scene, that this particular pub has been used in several television shows and films! Different pubs will appeal to different people, but the one thing they all have in common is of course the beer – we enjoyed everything from a refreshing lager to a more subdued ale, to a rich chocolatey stout which was undoubtedly my favourite!
Classic Pub Grub
As Eating Europe Tours are responsible hosts, they made sure that we indulged in plenty of classic British pub grub alongside our beers. There were sausages, pies, fish and chips, and a porky pub snack which definitely divided the group… I was a firm fan but it’s certainly something to be eaten in small doses! Of all the delicious dishes, the fish and chips just edged out the bangers, mash and black pudding to be my favourite of the day. I’ve always been dismissive of British fish and chips; the chips are always too soggy or the batter is never crispy enough but these were actually perfect. Perfectly light, crunchy, and if you get rid of the mushy peas as I did, then these were almost as good as the ones we have back in New Zealand!
I was really impressed by the quality of all the food which was actually a pleasant surprise. We all know that not all pub food is created equal; don’t expect fancy gastropub league food but equally, this isn’t the mass-produced microwaved rubbish. It’s a happy, satisfying middle ground. This tour starts at lunch time and I would seriously recommend you only have the tiniest of breakfasts beforehand because there is a lot of food… the portion sizes are generous and the dishes are all hearty, full-flavoured affairs!
Exploring The Old Docks
Learning about the history of this area was quite eye-opening for me because I always thought it was a bit of a residential wasteland. A harsh and completely unfounded view, but that’s my shameful, ignorant truth. I had only ever ventured as far as Tobacco Dock once or twice for food events, and didn’t really think there was much to the area… I am partially right as there are lots of apartments, peaceful streets and pretty spots to gaze out and contemplate life from, but this Eating Europe Tour proved that there’s also a tale lurking round every corner.
Back in the day, it was bustling trading port – ships came in and out carrying anything from rum to wool to elephant tusks. We learnt of pirates and their hidden treasure, machiavellian judges with murderous streaks, and a few famous writers and artists who made these pubs their favoured haunts! I will happily traipse from pub to pub for a decent pint and hearty grub, but finding out about their history really made each stop come alive and was truly what made this tour interesting and exciting!
Have you explored this part of London before?
Thank you to Eating Europe Tours for such an eye-opening jaunt round this part of London, by as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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