Afghan Tea (Al Humphreys)
Interview Words : Peter Moore | 07 March

How to eat the A-Z of world food in London

Alastair Humphreys on his quest to eat his way through the world food alphabet – without leaving London

Tell us a bit about A-Z: London's World of Food

The aim is to eat in a restaurant in London from a country beginning with each letter of the alphabet. We are trying to explore all areas of London and all regions of the world while staying inside the M25. We invite people to join us on Twitter so we also get to meet new people too.

Is it just you or are other people involved?

It's me and a friend, Tom Kevill-Davies (aka The Hungry Cyclist).

What's the philosophy behind it? Are you just trying to eat lots of great, exotic food?

It's about more than the food. It's trying to get real travel experiences (meeting new people, trying new things, surprising yourself) without actually travelling. It's showcasing the positive side of Britain's immigrants – the vibrancy, the entrepreneurship. It's about exploring my own city.

How often do you 'eat' a letter?

Infrequently. It's a gentle, ongoing project that happens when Tom and I are not away on trips. We've been going for two years so far.

A is for Afghanistan: an A to Z of World Foods of London from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo

Are you working your way from A to Z or are you choosing letters randomly?

We are doing it from A to Z, though currently have failed on O and Q. (We went to Oman and did a blog and video about that, but it doesn't really count.)

How do you chose when there is more than one country for the particular letter?

We want unusual cuisines (hence Iran rather than India or Italy), we want to explore different regions of the world and also different parts of London.

And then how do you decide on the particular restaurant?

By asking for recommendations on Twitter and Facebook.

Have you been able to find restaurants for every letter of the alphabet?

We have currently failed with O and Q. We are looking for an Omani or Qatari family in London to invite us to their home for dinner as there are no restaurants in London from their countries. 

O is for Oman from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo

Do you feel food is evocative of a place? Like sight and sound? Have any of the restaurants brought back memories from your cycle trip around the world?

Absolutely! Food is integral to the travel experience. The smells and tastes, the culture of eating, the national pride it invokes.

Do you warn the restaurant before hand that you'll be taking photos and shooting video?

Generally we try to. But usually they are negative about this and it requires us turning up and turning on the charm a little bit!

What sort of gear do you use? Your videos look very intimate and candid and I imagine you can't go lugging a lot of gear into a busy kitchen.

It's pretty minimal – a DSLR and a fast lens is usually all.

Do you get the chance to enjoy the food or is it more important to get the stuff you need for your blog?

Unfortunately Tom and I are usually a bit too busy to enjoy it as much as we'd like!

You have Twitter followers who turn up too. How is that? Is it a help or a hindrance to what you are trying to do?

It's nice to meet random people who see what we are doing and just turn up. They tend to chat to each other while Tom and I are busy with the filming side of stuff.

Any plans to 'franchise' the idea – an A-Z Berlin or A-Z New York for example? Or is it an idea particular to London?

There are not many countries on earth where it would work – but perhaps New York would work. I'd love people to copy us.

What do you hope visitors to A-Z: London's World of Food will take away from the website?

To be more adventurous in your own city. Try a new cuisine. Go to a new part of town. Surprise yourself.

London's World of FoodFor more about Alastair and Tom's big food adventure, visit the official London's World of Food website.

Alastair is also the brains behind Night of Adventure, where an eclectic collection of adventurers tell tales to raise money for Hope and Homes for Children.

As luck would have it, the next Night of Adventure is in London on 11 March 2013. (Vue Cinema, Leicester Square. £20.) You'll find more information and tickets here.