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You might not find many people scribbling “British food” on their London to-do list when planning a visit to London. But, that’s not to say there’s not some classic British dishes you should try while you’re in town! So here’s 7 must try dishes in London, to give you a taste of Great British cuisine!
By Silvia Bortoletto
The Brits cherish their breakfasts more than any other meal, and none more so than the Full English, which is also known as a fry up. It’s no wonder that pubs often proudly announce, on A-shaped blackboards boards covering half of the pavement, that they serve a Full English Breakfast all day! This explosive combo, also found in diner-style casual cafes, dares to pair greasy bacon rashers with sausages and eggs – pan-fried, poached or scrambled. The protein bomb is usually accompanied by juicy beans, fried or grilled tomatoes and fried Portobello mushrooms. A couple of slices of buttered toast and a black coffee (or tea) perfectly complete the colourful picture.
Where? At Regency Cafe, 17-19 Regency St, Westminster
Another British classic - worshipped by some as tasty comfort food, discarded (possibly too harshly) as tasteless and greasy by others – is Fish and Chips. You should eat this at the “chippy” - the endearing colloquial term refering to the local fish-and-chip shop. It's usually a small joint with a few non-pretentious tables or even just a hole-in-the-wall for take-away-only endeavours. Expect a generous portion of battered cod (or haddock if you have a “salty” palate) with a gargantuan side of deep-fried thick-cut potatoes. Be ready as you will be asked whether you want vinegar with your fish. Say yes: the vinegar brings it to life. If you're a first-timer, get a handful of sachets or little pots of all the sauces they may offer (be that mushy peas or tartare sauce) and play with the flavours.
Where? At Poppies
A British colony until 1947, India had its cuisine deservedly make UK's top foods charts. Curry is in fact a national dish. The word itself “curry” has been exported to the world by the Brits and has now come to identify – albeit incorrectly – a wide variety of vegetarian or meat dishes served with a spiced sauce. Needless to say that Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants abound in London. Indian cuisine entails a clever use of cooking spices such as turmeric, cumin, ginger and does not shy away from deploying eye-watering and lip-numbing chillies. If you're concerned you won't be able to tolerate the heat, start easy with a neutral, creamy, coconutty korma and leave the vindaloos to the chilli-lovers. Don't forget a side of good old Basmati rice and surely don't leave without trying a few chutneys.
Where? At Gymkhana, 42 Albemarle Street
The next treat is more of a ritual rather than a dish in its own right: it's the afternoon tea, otherwise called cream tea. Some hotels and cafes (but also buses and boats!) provide the experience which can feel less of the bargain portrayed at the time of purchase and often just an insanely overpriced snack. It is indeed a ritual and the price is justified with the perceived pomposity and regality of the event: an inviting three-tiered tray of elegant savoury and sweet nibbles towers over a scolding chubby teapot of another colonies-era famous export, tea.
Photo credit: urban pixels
Enjoy the savoury finger sandwiches with butter, salmon or pickles, the buttery scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream and the other scrumptuous pastries and creamy desserts on offer. Whether you feel like a royal or like a character from Alice in Wonderland, play the part: indulge in the sumptuous banquet with the noble composure of a 19th century British aristocrat or … keep switching seats like the Mad Hatter!
Earthy, comfort food is the type of food you will find in a British pub. There are over 3000 pubs in London and, despite the number having fallen over the years, you can’t miss eating at least one meal in a pub! Other than the English breakfast, pubs are a must-go destination for at least one more dish you should scoff down with the help of a local cask-conditioned ale: the juicy Sunday Roast. It is a delicious composition that includes roasted beef and crispy roast potatoes, with fluffy and delicate Yorkshire puddings, a mix of roasted or boiled veggies such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas and carrots, and a pungent, meaty gravy sauce to inundate the dish with, enriching it with the necessary moisture and creamy oomph it requires to bring together all the flavours and make it sing.
Where? At The Harwood Arms, Walham Grove, Fulham
A traditional working-class favourite, pie and mash can be found in dedicated shops around London as well as on some pub menus. This dish features a stuffed pie with a side of creamy and buttery mashed potatoes. You wouldn't expect elegance or a particularly adventurous combination of flavours from a decent pie and mash; instead look for a sturdy and hearty plate of food. The parsley sauce (sometimes replaced with gravy) is generously poured over a crust-based pie with a puff pastry cover, traditionally stuffed with eels but easily found in other variations such as steak, chicken or lamb, giving it an undeniably messy appearance. The taste will nevertheless make up for the unbothered shabbiness it displays!
Where? At Goddards at Greenwich, 22 King William Walk Greenwich
Photo credit: Evening Standard
Meat, and beef in particular – despite the rapid rise of vegetarian and vegan aficionados – still plays an important role in Britain. Hence why most British restaurants would offer this next shamelessly meaty dish, the Beef Wellington. There may be doubts around the origin of the name: may it refer to the 1st Duke of Wellington or Wellington, a town in New Zealand? - but either way, this delicacy is as tasty as it is tricky to prepare. It consists of fillet steak coated with a layer of paté de foie gras, or mushrooms cooked with onions and shallots, wrapped in puff pastry and then baked. You know it's cooked well when the outside of the pastry is crispy, the interior, enveloping the meat, is moist and the heart of the meat is pink and extremely tender. It's a triumph if enjoyed with a side of potatoes and other root vegetables, assorted greens and a red wine jus.
Where? At Roast, Boroug
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