As a resident or visitor to London, there are a variety of foods and drinks that must be tried in order to count yourself a local. To help you on your quest to satiate your hunger and quench your thirst English style, we’ve compiled a list of everything that represents the best (or at least the most treasured and traditional) of British cuisine.
Originating in the village of Cheddar in Somerset, cheddar is a hard variety of cheese with a strong, sharp taste and often crumbly texture. Cheddar is by far Britain’s most popular cheese, accounting for 51% of the English market annually. If you are to stay in London for any amount of time, cheddar is sure to become a staple found in your fridge or your summertime picnic basket, not to forget the other fantastic cheeses available in a multitude of cheese shops and delicatessens throughout the city.
All over London you will see signs outside cafes and restaurants proclaiming the availability of an ‘English Breakfast’. This meal is the perfect slow to start to any lazy Sunday and usually consists of sausages, eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes and bubble & squeak – a London staple traditionally made by frying the vegetables left over from last night’s roast.
Fish & Chips
Fish & Chips is perhaps one of the most famously British dishes and is available in a variety of venues, from casual take-away shops where your meal is served wrapped in newspaper to pubs where it is the star item on the menu to fancy restaurants that add their own twist to tradition. Try it with malt vinegar and salt for a truly English experience.
Meat pies have been consumed in England for hundreds of years; from the traditional variety of thick pastry encasing any number of fillings including chicken, beef, lamb and potatoes to more exotic mixtures such as balti curry. London is also home to the Pie and Mash shops, an East End specialty for hundreds of years and their unique Pie and Mash is particularly to be enjoyed covered in green ‘liquor’! The Cornish Pasty and Steak & Kidney Pudding are two varieties of meat pie that offer a slightly different makeup and enjoy substantial popularity.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘bangers’, English sausages are made using fresh meat resulting in a more delicate taste. English sausages are usually pork but other varieties are available; there are estimated to be around 400 types of sausage in the UK. Black pudding is a very traditional British sausage made using pig’s blood – a must-try for the adventurous.
First served in coffee houses in the early 1800s, curry has since become the most popular alternative to traditional English cooking. Many even claim London to be the best place in the world to enjoy a curry – whether these people have visited India remains to be seen however, there is no doubt there is quality Indian food to be enjoyed within the bounds of the city. Chicken Tikka Masala is widely recognised as one of Britain’s most popular dishes. Take a stroll down Brick Lane to enjoy a plethora of options when it comes to curry houses.
To feel as though you are part of the olden-day aristocracy, nothing beats afternoon tea in a well-chosen venue. With options to suit every budget scattered across London, there is no reason not to try this dainty tradition. A full afternoon tea consists of tea served with a variety of cakes and sandwiches.
Britain favours warm, comforting desserts that promise to fill the tummy and warm the body during the dreary winter months. Bread and Butter Pudding is a favourite, made with layers of bread, butter, spices, raisins and either cream or butter and milk, then baked. Treacle Tart is a beloved dessert made of pastry filled with a thick filling of golden syrup and made world-famous outside the UK thanks to being the favourite dessert of literary hero: Harry Potter. Eton Mess, worth trying for the endearing name on its own, is a dessert traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket match against Harrow School. Eton Mess is, as the name describes, a messy combination of strawberries, chunks of meringue and cream – we advise the use of a spoon. Trifle is another favourite – layers of custard, fruit, sponge cake, jelly and whipped cream await in this popular dessert.
It almost goes without saying that one of England’s favourite pastimes is sipping a cup of tea. Since it was first brought to England in the 17th century, tea has slowly trickled down as a purely upper-class tradition to become affordable to all. The British usually enjoy black tea such as English Breakfast with milk or Earl Grey, only to be served with lemon.
Beer is naturally also a popular choice, as evidenced by the number of workers standing in clumps nursing their after-work pint outside the various pubs that dot the city. There is not any beer in particular that is the obvious favourite today, bitter and stout being two of the more classic choices – now all are enjoyed with equal voracity.
Pimm’s is a staple found everywhere in summer. This brand of fruit cups is normally mixed with lemonade and freshly chopped ingredients such as apple, cucumber, orange, lemon, strawberry and mint. Served ice cold in jugs, Pimm’s is a refreshing delight made to be shared outside in the sun – can you tell we miss summer?