web analytics

Most people who visit England probably don’t go there for the food. And who can blame them? English food has the reputation of being some of the worst – in the world. So when we went to London in August I didn’t expect a whole lot in regards to food – except delicious fish and chips which I thoroughly enjoyed on a previous superbrief visit. And boy, was I surprised! Either all these people who complain about English food have never actually tried it or they just didn’t know where or what to eat. I was there for a week and didn’t have a single dish I didn’t like. I do have to admit that I avoided such horrible-sounding things like black pudding and tripe… but why would I order that anyways when I had so many other great-sounding things to choose from? So, here’s my personal guide to great English food in London. There will probably a post or two about specific places that I really loved in a little while, so stay tuned…

  • English_Breakfast_nic

    via Wikimedia Commons

    English Breakfast. Let’s start with breakfast. From what I have seen it typically includes eggs, sausage/ham/bacon, sauteed mushrooms and/or tomatoes, baked beans, toasted bread, and jam. I think cereal, granola, and yogurt are common as well. And of course, there are coffee, tea, and juices. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the sausages, but loved the ham. Everything else was just typical breakfast stuff for me – except maybe the baked beans, but I am used to those from Texas BBQs and actually like them. Breakfast is where you could maybe find the dreaded black pudding, but as I said, I would have stayed as far away as possible from that anyways. My aunt wasn’t so lucky in her breakfast pics: First, she put Marmite on her toast and was very surprised by the salty/Maggie-like taste. Then, she started chewing on a Weetabix bar and quickly stopped when her mouth was getting drier and drier. Lucky for me I wasn’t in the mood for jam or granola bars that morning in the hotel. I might have picked the wrong stuff too!

 

  • Great English Food in London: The Grapes in LimehouseFish and chips. I’m not sure if this is actually considered traditional English food, but it sure is popular and a classic choice for people visiting England.  It’s sold everywhere in London! For your best experience, I would avoid little food stalls and fast-food places and splurge on a good seafood restaurant. It’s worth it! My sister took us to The Grapes, an amazing fish restaurant in Limehouse. The whole place is really authentic and I loved the views of the Thames. Everybody ordered the same thing: the catch of the day (a white fish – battered and fried of course), chips (i.e., thick-cut fries and not the Pringles-kind), and mushy peas (mashed peas). It was super delicious! And way too much. We made the mistake of ordering sides per person… next time, one side for two people. For dessert we ordered traditional apple crumbles with custard or ice cream and lemon & rhubarb possets (a creamy, lemony, mousse-like dessert with rhubarb at the bottom). I loved the posset!

 

  • Chicken Tikka Masala and Naan

    via Wikimedia Commons

    Indian or Bengali food. I know, not really English, right? But apparently it depends on what you order; I learned that my favorite “Indian food”, Chicken Tikka Masala, isn’t even Indian at all. It was supposedly invented in Glasgow and is the United Kingdom’s most popular restaurant dish according to some survey. And apart from the Tikka Masala, the Indian/Bengali food in London must be some of the most authentic outside of their respective countries given that the restaurants are owned and run by immigrants from those countries. Yummy! So when in London, head over to Brick Lane, a street where you can find a ton of Indian and Bengali restaurants. I found it a little annoying that people would try to get you into their restaurants by reciting special offers to every person passing by on the sidewalk, but I am told that it’s way worse on the weekends. Kind of reminded me of Khan-El-Khalili in Cairo 🙂 Either way, the food is really good on Brick Lane! The only one who went to bed hungry that night was my grandpa. He’s not a very adventurous eater and was put off by all the spices he didn’t know – my grandma made up for that by eating for two. Literally! I have never seen that tiny woman eat so much food before 🙂

 

  • Great English Food in London: Bangers and Mash at The ApolloBangers and Mash. Around lunchtime one day we were on a Hop On Hop Off tour through London and got really hungry. Must have been all that fresh air on the upper deck 😉 Luckily, we found this bar/restaurant, The Apollo, and not one of the dishes we ordered was bad. Marco was tempted by the ribs they were selling and still blames me for NOT having them. Why not? Well, we live in Texas and were going back a few days later and I kind of convinced him that it would be more fun to order English food. He finally settled on Bangers and Mash (sausages on mashed potatoes) and liked it… but deep down he still thinks he missed the best ribs ever I think.  After the Bengali food boycott the night before, my grandpa was very happy with the much more English cuisine at The Apollo. If I remember correctly he went for more fish and chips 😉

 

  • Great English Food in London: Chicken and Ham Pie at The ApolloPies and Pasties. I instead had a delicious chicken and ham pie at The Apollo. The pastry dough was nice and flaky and the filling reminded me of chicken pot pie in the States – except that it also had ham. One evening we went to a more upscale kind of place, the Paternoster Chop House close to Saint Paul’s, and I ordered the cottage pie. I don’t know why it’s called a pie because there is no traditional pie crust, but I do know that it is really good. It’s ground beef with a few veggies, topped with mashed potatoes, and then baked in the oven. I would have it again in a heartbeat! Just FYI, apparently the same dish with ground lamb instead of beef is called a Shepard’s Pie. I’m honestly not quite sure what the difference between a pie and a pastie is. I’ve tried to look it up online, but the explanations differ depending on the source. Some people say that a pastie is different from the pie because it has a pastry top on it. But, the chicken and ham pie had a pastry top, so that can’t really be it either. It’s a mystery to me 🙂

 

  • Great English Food in London: Sticky Toffee Pudding at Paternoster Chop HouseDesserts. The Paternoster Chop House was also the place we tried two of the most traditional English desserts ever: sticky toffee pudding and an almond & marmalade tart. Want to hear something funny? After looking at various English menus I concluded that the English must eat a lot of pudding and that pudding was some sort of traditional English dessert. But, not all desserts are puddings. Pudding just means dessert. And that’s why I kept seeing the word “pudding” all over the dessert section in the menus. So, buyer beware, just because it says pudding, that doesn’t mean it is pudding. Sticky toffee pudding for example is sort of a small sponge cake with dried fruit bits covered in toffee sauce – no pudding anywhere inside. It was good though! We didn’t find any on the menu, but apparently another popular dessert is spotted dick, a soft pastry with dried fruit and served with custard. Cracks me up!

 

  • Whisky-brands

    via Wikimedia Commons

    Pubs. Irish pubs are much more well-known than British pubs, but the pub culture in England is huge. I didn’t go to too many, but I liked the ones I went to: kind of small, very cozy, lots of beer, and good hearty food. My dad and grandpa loved the whiskey selection and the only English guy at the table just about died when he saw how much water they poured in. I didn’t actually think it was that much, but apparently too much for the quality of whiskey they were drinking 😉

Here are a few word you are likely to find on an English menu that you might not be familiar with. I am sure there are more, but we continuously ran into these few here:

    • aubergine – eggplant
    • courgette – zucchini
    • chips – fries
    • crisps – chips
    • minced beef – ground beef
    • porridge – oatmeal
    • rocket (salad) – arugula (salad)

Other random observations:

  • They have mac and cheese also in England. It seems to be called “macaroni cheese” though. By the way, I still haven’t tried the American typical mac and cheese yet…
  • Chili seems to be popular. I saw it on quite a few menus.
  • I think I might know where the PR problem the English have with their food might come from. While the English food I tasted was delicious, some of the descriptions on the menus sounded really off-putting. It might just be me, but why would I order something called “spatchcocked poussin” (see The Apollo Menu pic below)? And Scotch duck eggs? I actually saw them somewhere and they looked delicious… there’s just something about the names of some things…
  • Fun fact: There’s a Texas Embassy in London. It’s a restaurant we saw from our Hop On Hop Off bus tour. Marco and I had a good laugh when we saw the sign 🙂 We didn’t actually eat there, so I can’t say anything about the food. If I lived in London, I would try it out though. On such a short trip, I decided to stick with the local cuisine.
Great English Food in London: The Grapes in Limehouse
fish and chips and mushy peas

via Wikimedia Commons (not from The Grapes)

Brick Lane

via Wikimedia

Indian Food Set

via Wikimedia Commons

Great English Food in London: The Apollo

Great Food in England: Menu at The ApolloGreat English Food in London: Cottage Pie at Paternoster Chop HouseGreat English Food in London: Desserts = Puddings at Paternoster Chop House

Great English Food in London: Almond Marmalade Tart at Paternoster Chop House

Great English Food in London: an English PubThe Texas Embassy - a restaurant in London we didn't try

© 2011 – 2012, Country Skipper. All rights reserved.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

20 Comments

  • R. Sherman says:

    I think English pub fare is closer to Bavarian cuisine–heavy on the sausages and potatoes, though more emphasis on vegetables than Southern German. I’ve always liked it though.

    Cheers.
    R. Sherman recently posted..Religious Sacrifices

  • Ana says:

    Hey Sabrina! I too think that English food doesn’t deserve its bad reputation.

    Sometime you’ll find fried bread (a slice of bread fried in bacon drippings) in the breakfast menu, which is also called fry-up for obvious reasons.

    “I’m not sure if this is actually considered traditional English food” Actually, fish and chips is sort of their national dish 🙂 The closer you are to the sea, the better quality you get.

    Scotch eggs are yummy! And I adore black pudding too. It’s an acquired taste but I grew up eating it 🙂

    To add to the pudding confusion, you’ll find savoury puddings too. They have the same fillings as those of pied, like steak and kidney, but are wrapped in a suet-based pastry instead of puff pastry. They are incredibly heavy.

    I saw the Texas Embassy too and ran away haha! 🙂
    Ana recently posted..West Texas Road Trip: Day 2

    • Sabrina says:

      Bread fried in bacon drippings? Sounds sinfully delicious 🙂 You know, I think having grown up with certain things is probably the only way to ever fully appreciate them – I can see how black pudding is one of them. And honestly, having never tasted it, I shouldn’t judge. The description of it just grosses me out, so I don’t think I’ll ever actually try it 🙂 Savory puddings? Live and learn! I never even knew.

  • I think English food has improved over the years! Seems to be everyone has their version of Mac and Cheese. I had it in Austria and it was made with spaetzle instead of noodels. Yummy
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Salzburg Beer Experience

  • Shivya says:

    I couldn’t have read this post at a worse time. Was planning to skip breakfast, but now all I want is one of them English breakfasts and some pastries.

    And really, Chicken tikka masala was invented in Glasgow? I had no idea.
    Shivya recently posted..Friends, until proven otherwise.

    • Sabrina says:

      Skipping breakfast? That would never happen to me 🙂 I don’t think I’d be able to wake up without food 🙂 I was surprised by the whole Glasgow thing as well. How can my favorite Indian dish not even be Indian? Shocking!

  • Great list. I was not overly impressed by the food in London. Had great fish and chips and Indian food though. Will have to consult your list next time.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Packing Round 2

    • Sabrina says:

      We got lucky with a few good finds (like The Apollo), but also had lots of help. My sister and her husband lived in London for a few years before we visited, so they took us to some of their favorite spots close to home (like The Grapes) and if we were somewhere where they didn’t know any restaurants, we followed recommendations from their local friends. I’m not sure of our picks would have been this good if we had been left to our own devices 🙂

  • Loved reading your views on Great British cuisine although I have to say, you missed out not trying the black pudding. Sounds awful, tastes divine! 🙂
    Julia
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Fethiye Day Trip: Saklikent – View Down Karaçay

    • Sabrina says:

      Thanks! And really? You’re the second one to say this…. I’m starting to think I should give it a try next time… maybe… I’m still scared though!

  • Laurel says:

    I love how tasty Indian food is in England and of course the fish and chips too! Also love the pub culture, although I’m adjusting very well to Munich’s beer garden culture 🙂
    Laurel recently posted..Cheese Please: The Best Cheese I’ve Ever Tasted

  • Andrew says:

    Wandering around York I found a pasty store. They had 30 different types from meat to veggies to sweet. All warm and cheap. It was great, if greasy and filling.
    Andrew recently posted..German Winefest

  • Suzy says:

    I haven’t been to England in a long time, but I don’t remember much about the food. Although fish and chips are always good in that part of the world. That was my diet in Ireland. I would agree with you on the names. I certainly wouldn’t order something called Scotch duck eggs!
    Suzy recently posted..24 Hours of Ambling Around Asheville

    • Sabrina says:

      Based on the name not, but then I saw a picture of them in somebody’s post a few weeks ago and they look delicious: hard-boiled egg, wrapped in meat and breadcrumbs and them fried. Sounds much better now, doesn’t it? 🙂

  • Pit says:

    Hallo Sabrina,

    This post of yours prompts an “old Anglophile” like me to comment quite a bit. And therefore I’ll divide my comments into more than one.

    Let me start with English breakfast: that, to my mind, is the most important meal of the day there, and I’ve always enjoyed a “full English breakfast”, sometimes also called “cooked breakfast”. I’ve never opted for a “continental breakfast”, which, to my mind, is just a poor excuse for a breakfast.
    Anyway, one item you haven’t mentioned, and which really should be part of a traditional English breakfast, is porridge. I’ve never tried it as I don’t really care for it. Some people disrespectfully call it “English glue”, btw. 😉 What I’ve always liked about a full English breakfast is the fact that it lasts you through most of the day, so that you can do with a light snack for lunch and then a good supper in the evening.
    As to the “fried bread”: that, traditionally, comes with the fried bacon/ham. It’s also called “fried toast” as it’s just that, a slice of toast fried in the hot bacon/ham grease. Possibly not very healthy, but definitely tasty!
    Re Weetabix: I don’t care for that stuff, but that is due to a personal experience when I was in London in the early sixties. One morning – and that was the first time I ever had Weetabix – the milk I put on it had gone off already. Nevertheless, since I had always been told at home that you have to eat what you put on your plate, I ate that stuff even so. But that has put me off Weetabix ever since.
    As to the eggs: I really like that you can get them cooked whichever way you want, boiled, fried, scrambled, poached etc.

    Well, that’s about all for now. More in another comment.

    Best regards from southern Texas,

    Pit

    P.S.: A travel report with plenty of pictures about my trip to England [mainly a tour on a narrowboat] is in the makings in my “Bilderbuch” weblog. It starts here: http://pitsbilderbuch.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/england-fruhjahr-2011-1/ Maybe you’d want to have a look.
    Pit recently posted..England-Reise Frühjahr 2011 [108]

    • Sabrina says:

      I’m more of a continental breakfast person during the week and full breakfast on the weekends myself 🙂 Weetabix with sour milk? Sounds terrible! No wonder you don’t like it! And porridge? That’s regular oatmeal here in Texas, isn’t it? Not a big fan I have to say, but who knows… maybe I just haven’t tried the right one yet. Nice pics on your blog by the way. We once took a ferry from Germany to Denmark and I kind of liked that – so far only flown into London. Would like to fly into London City one of these days. The views of the city on a sunny day must be fantastic!

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

Bombax Theme designed by itx

© 2010-2017 Country Skipper All Rights Reserved