British food has long ceased to be good for a cheap laugh; today, London boasts over 50 Michelin-starred eateries and fulfils all culinary desires: from Afghan to Zen food; kosher-Chinese, garlic cuisine and gluten-free options – there are many new cuisines to explore. And the sushi and tapas fever continues too.
Local specialities to try on your visit to London:
For those who are unfamiliar with English food, here are some items found in London’s
pubs, cafés and restaurants that visitors from other parts of the English-speaking
world may find puzzling.
Ale – heavier dark beer, ideally drunk at cellar temperature, with many regional variations; one local favourite is London Pride.
Bangers & mash – sausages and mashed potato. Often to be found in pubs, like bubble & squeak (mashed potato with green cabbage, originally a leftovers dish) and shepherd’s pie made from mutton or beef mincemeat, covered with a mashed potato crust.
Cider – naturally cloudy alcoholic apple drink; stronger than French cidre.
Crisps – national potato snack, not to be confused with chips (fries)!
Crumpets – round soft yeasty muffin with holes; fabulous with butter and the dark-brown, love-it-or-hate-it Marmite yeast extract.
Curry – korma and masala curries are mild, Madras curries rather hot, vindaloo is extra hot. Common starters are thin poppadums (wafer-thin chickpea-flour crispbread) with pickles (onions, mint sauce, chutney); there’s also naan bread or chipati flatbread.
Custard – vanilla sauce, often served as an alternative to liquid whipped cream, e.g. with apple pie, ice cream or fruit crumbles.
Fish & chips – the famous national dish: breaded fish & fries with salt and malt vinegar.
Pie – mincemeat in pastry, Victorian fast food, originally with an eel filling. Eel is a Cockney speciality and can be sampled (jellied or stewed) in the few remaining eel, pie & mash shops of the East End.
Roast – a Sunday roast – roast beef or roast chicken with roast potatoes and sauce – is served in hotel carveries and many (gastro) pubs.
Scones – sweet and crumbly; with butter, jam and cream (or even clotted cream) they are a firm part of traditional afternoon tea.
Restaurants serving traditional English cuisine:
This stylish five-star hotel has already received the Tea Council award for the best afternoon tea in London. In the Palm Court expect alongside finger sandwiches and scones original and unusual variations, e. g. candied orange peel in a glass filled with colourful sugar. Afternoon tea daily 2–6pm | 1 C Portland Place, Regent Street | tel. 79 65 01 95 | www.langhamhotels.co.uk | tube: Oxford Circus
Tea at the Ritz, between marble pillars and chandeliers, is a society ritual worth sharing. £53 gets you the city’s finest tea, sandwiches, scones, patisseries. You may also like to order a song from the pianist with a little card! For gentlemen, a jacket and tie are obligatory: no jeans or trainers! Booking essential. Daily 11.30am, 1.30, 3.30, 5.30, 7.30pm | 150 Piccadilly | tel. 73 00 23 45 | www.theritzlondon.com | tube: Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly, Victoria)
Old-fashioned and atmospheric all-daybreakfast café in Soho. Closed Sun | 101 Wardour St. | tel. 77 34 37 50 | tube: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo, Piccadilly) | Budget
Between Thursdays and Sundays, the bar, lounge/restaurant on the river Lea offers fabulous views of the Olympic Park, served with London smoked salmon. Booking essential! Thu/Fri 7–11pm, Sat 10am–2pm, 7–11pm, Sun 12 noon–4pm | Stour Rd., Fish Island | tel. 85 25 23 65 | www.formans.co.uk | tube: Pudding Mill Lane (DLR) | Moderate–Expensive
INN THE PARK
Location, location, location! Airy wooden panelled stylish restaurant overlooking the pond in St James’s Park. The menu is original, even if portions are on the small side for the price. Daily, closed Sun evenings | tel. 74 51 99 99 | www.innthe park.com | tube: Charing Cross (Bakerloo, Northern) | Moderate
Classic-old-fashioned family run East End caff. The listed decor is stunning: gold and chrome-opal glass outside, wood panelling and wonderful Art Deco style inside. Mon– Sat 7am–5pm | 332 Bethnal Green Rd. | tube: Bethnal Green (Central) | Budget
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more English lunch: at the garden centre! Chef Skye Gyngell presents a small menu with seasonal ingredients. On a budget? Go for the Teahouse. Church Lane (Petersham Road), Richmond, Surrey | tel. 86 05 36 27 | www.petershamnurseries.com | train from Waterloo to Richmond or tube: Richmond (District), then 30 min. Thames walk or bus no. 65 or 371 | Expensive, Teahouse | Moderate
Sound fish & chips in an increasingly trendy street in Spitalfields. The fish comes in fresh from Billingsgate Market and according to the owners is caught sustainably. Mon–Thu 11am–11pm, Fri/Sat to 11.30pm, Sun to 10.30pm | 6–8 Hanbury St. | tel. 72 47 08 92 | www.poppiesfishandchips.co.uk | tube: Liverpool St., Old St.(Northern) | Budget
Best of British in Borough Market’s Floral Hall, with a view of St Paul’s. Slightly expensive for what it is, but where else can you order an English Pinot Noir? Great breakfast, early opening for the market folk. Closed Sun eve | Stoney St. | tel. (0)84 50 34 73 00 | www.roast-restaurant.com | tube: London Bridge | Moderate
ROCK & SOLE PLAICE
London’s oldest chippie has been frying since 1871. Variable service. Takeaway cheaper and quicker. Daily | 47 Endell St. | tube: Covent Garden (Piccadilly) | Budget
London’s oldest restaurant (since 1798), famous for its steaks and game dishes, oysters and pies, has something of an old country house: massive wooden panelling, heavy curtains, velvet coverings, on the walls paintings, prints and hunting trophies. Beautiful skylight. Mon–Sat 12 noon–11.45pm, Sun to 10.45pm | 35 Maiden Lane | tel. 78 36 53 14 | www.rules.co.uk | tube: Covent Garden (Piccadilly) | Moderate
Buy the London Marco Polo Guide.