Believe it or not there is more to British food than fish and chips!
Most tourists in London will find themselves in a pub where they will inevitably try fish and chips. Nothing wrong with that, except that people tend to assume that it’s the be all and end all of British cooking. Maybe for a few years they’d have been right, but British cooking has come a long way.
The street food revolution has really kicked the British food up a few notches and it’s safe to say that these days London is a gastronomes dream.
This list includes all classic British dishes that have been either given the gentrified treatment or have endured and been recognised as classics.
The Sausage Roll
Original British street food came in the form of meat in pastry and most people across the UK would equate the sausage roll with the chain Greggs.
But the Ginger Pig sausage roll is something else. A large hunk of perfectly spiced and moist pork meat encased in a buttery puff pastry – it’s the stuff that dreams (and heart attacks) are made from.
The Ginger Pig is a chain of butchers and they are found in several locations across the city, but the most accesible for tourists will be Borough Market. Those staying in central London will also find one in Shepherds Bush and Marylebone.
This one is the first on the list for a reason. It’s relatively cheap, it’s tasty and it’s a classic.
Pie and Mash
The London cockney is a dying breed and so is the pie and mash shop. This most classic of London dishes is now not that easy to find thanks to the proliferation of Five Guys burger chains (probably not their fault but I’m blaming them anyway).
In central London, your best bet for a proper Laahhhnnndaaan pie and mash is Mother Mash in Soho (just off Carnaby Street). They do a variety of pies and even various different types of potato and gravy.
Go for the traditional minced beef, normal mash and parsley liquor (it’s non alcoholic!).
Alternatively, if you can go out from central head to M. Manzes in Peckham or Goddards in Greenwich. Both of these are the genuine article and are super cheap.
The Roast Dinner
The Sunday roast is a British institution and what constitues a good one can be a personal thing. But most Brits will agree on a few things: Crispy roast potatoes, lashings of gravy, slow cooked meat and an assortment of steamed or boiled veg. Oh and big fluffy Yorkshire puddings to soak up the gravy at the end!
Hawksmoor have several branches across the capital and their Sunday roast is held in high esteem. Be warned though, at £20 it’s a lot more than you’d pay anywhere else. Saying that, Blacklock are also supposed to be exceptional but expensive.
In all honesty a Sunday roast in London will pretty much always set you back around £15 anyway. But really, pick ANY pub in central London and they will have a roast dinner.
Don’t forget the mint sauce.
Salt Beef Bagel
Salt beef was bought to the UK by Jewish immigrants who weren’t too keen on the British affinity for pork. And across the city you’ll find small cafes doing ‘Rubens’ or salt beef sandwhiches.
The best by far is Beigel Bake (the white one) in Brick Lane and it’s near neighbour at Beigel Shop (the yellow one) a close second.
Soft and fresh bagels served with a stack of tender salt beef, lashings of mustard and a fat gherkin to top it off. Cheap, filling and awesome. There will be a queue. Get in it.
Alternatives are Monty’s Deli in Maltby Street (only open weekends) and Nana Fannys in Borough Market.
The Bacon Butty
The British love bacon. Seriously. Mums, football, bacon. Pretty much in that order.
The Bacon Butty is basically a bap with some bacon in it topped of with red sauce or brown sauce. Builders, cabbies and truck drivers up and down the country live off these things and if you have a good one you’ll know why.
You can get a bacon butty from posh places like The Wolesley, Dishoom or Breakfast Club… All decent, but not quite the same as getting your bap from a real market stand or food truck.
For the genuine article head to the Cabman’s shelter in Hanover Square (Chelsea) for a genuine butty. Better still, head south of the river for what is easily the best sandwich in town at Dirty Baps in Peckham.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Another import, Chicken Tikka Masala is now considered as British as Stella Artois (Belgian) and Prince Philip (he’s Greek).
The Indian restaurant is a high street standard across the UK, there probably isn’t a town without one. And Chicken Tikka Masala is the flag bearer. Mildly spicy, tangy tomato sauce and tender chunks of chicken served with pilau rice and a garlic naan bread.
Choosing one place to get stuck into a good CTM is pretty tricky but if you’re going to go anywhere, head to Tayyabs in Whitechapel. It’s a local institution and pretty much always busy. It is definitely worth booking ahead.
Other great options are Khans in Brixton, the Dishoom chain in central London and Rajdoot in Marylebone.
For a glut of Indian options head to Tooting, Whitechapel or Southall. Although there are amazing Indian restaurants everywhere…
Full English Breakfast
The Full English is probably one thing that most visitors will get while in town. And in answer to ‘Do British people eat this every day’. The answer is NO.
Bacon, eggs, sausage, beans, toast, mushrooms and if you’re lucky some black pudding. Washed down with a strong and milky cup of tea. There is no better hangover cure.
The best and most famous spots for a Full English breakfast are E. Pellici in Bethnal Green, Regency Cafe in Pimlico and Hickeys CafeRest in Shepherds Bush/Goldhawk Road.
Coming to London? Be sure to find a good hotel deal before you arrive…
Have we missed somewhere amazing off this list? Or is there a classic British food item that you think should definitely be on here and isn’t…?? Let us know in the comments below.
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