London Has Great Food
Before I ever traveled to London, I was told the food was bland and boring. I can only assume this myth of London food came about during the war years, when rations were short, and the world divided. I was delighted to find seemingly endless ethnic restaurants to choose from, as well as traditional English foods. Foodies will delight with the choices London presents.
I know, many foodies will not agree, but personally, I enjoy British cuisine. London food is at its finest in a pub. Most pub fare is traditional British food. I love stopping in a pub, to enjoy a pasty or cottage pie. Most London pubs have an in-house cook that knows how to deliver delectable, hearty fare, in a hurry and on the cheap. Of course, London offers foods for a more American palette, but foodies should be willing to try one of the great joys of travel. If the weather is on the cooler side, try a bowl of Mulligatawny soup, before indulging in a pasty- a blend of meat, vegetables, and rich gravy, enveloped by a delicious flakey crust. Chips (French fries) and mushy peas accompany many of the local dishes. Try splitting a Ploughman’s Platter for a lighter lunch. While different at every establishment, Ploughman’s Platters usually feature outstanding English cheese, which is stronger than most American cheeses, pickled relish or chutney, and fine freshly baked bread. Some foodies prefer a skimpy, artistically attractive plate. London pub food generally means a hearty portion.
Great London foods run the gambit from fresh, light fish and chips to a hearty Beef Wellington, drenched in delectable truffle sauce. Little corner shops, called “chippies,” offer surprisingly high quality fish and chips. If you are looking for gourmet food, London street stalls are gaining credibility in foodie circles. A little place called Eat My Pies is described as “quintessential British” food. There are also many ethnic street vendors, which we will discuss later.
Many foodies simply must attend High Tea. Finger sandwiches and scones, sweets and tea make the menu for this traditional ritual. The pastries and deserts in London are incredibly light and tasty. Although High Tea is a formal affair, foodies can experience a traditional high tea without traveling to the Ritz, or the other costlier establishments. I prefer a more intimate setting. The Sanderson London features a “Mad Hatter Tea,” with a whimsical theme. Bond and Brook offer an affordable high tea alternative for London foodies.
Just because a place is less expensive, there is no reflection on the standards. I have found many inexpensive tearooms, where the food and tea surpassed the more expensive venues.
Ethnic Food in London
If you still have not been won over by British cuisine, or if you want to experiment tastes from the around the globe, London offers more ethnic food establishments than most major cities do. Perhaps the far-reaching British Empire brought colonial foods back to London. Certainly, this is true of Indian Cuisine. I have Indian friends who say Indian food in London is better than the food at home. I cannot attest to that, as India is one country I have not yet visited. However, I have enjoyed Indian food in some of the world’s largest cities. London takes the cake! Indian curries are popular with locals after an evening at the pub. Do not be surprised to find crowds when the pubs close for the night.
Foodies can “travel the world” with tastes from every continent, readily available on the streets of London. Travel from one London district to another, and you will find a completely new food experience. Street markets provide an ideal place to find some of the best food available in London. Some of the stalls offer great gourmet foods from every nation.
For example, Peckham features a West African flavour. Try the Benachin- a rice dish featuring an assortment of ingredients. No two are quite alike, but the delicious blend is thought to be the forerunner for Cajon Jambalaya. Brixton, Hackney and Tottenham offer other African treats, such as barbecued goat or lovely baked plantains. Caribbean food is also plentiful here because of the African influence.
Asian food is ubiquitous in London. Many Americans think of Asian food as Chinese, Japanese or Thai. Let me tell you, London eateries will enlighten you to a broader appreciation. Every major street seems to offer the London foodie an overwhelming array of Bangladeshi, Korean, Malaysian and Vietnamese options. Check out Haringey’s Turnpike Lane if you want to find stellar South East Asian food. (Although Indian is an Asian cuisine, I covered it separately because it is so popular in London.)
The continent of Europe is well represented in London eating establishments. Foodies can dine at French brassieres in Mayfair, or travel across town for Mediterranean delicacies such as Spanishtapas, Italian pastas, or Greek mezzes. North London is famous for kebabs and Turkish pizza. West London has shown an increase in Polish residents, who brought peirogi and Golabki, a delicious cabbage wrapped pork dish to places like Ealing.
American foodies are well acquainted with Latin fare from Cuba and Mexico, but London’s melting pot has attracted many South American dishes, and some outstanding Argentinean wines. (Brazillian) Brasil by Kilo found on Oxford Street, charges diners by the weight of the food on their plate. It is rather like buffet style where you choose from many dishes. Brixton offers some terrific Columbian food, favored by Latin locals.
There is no law that says you must eat at a restaurant for every meal. In my opinion, London offers a better variety of world foods than anywhere in the USA. Try a local grocery store for fresh fruits from all over the world. Buy a fresh loaf of bread, some local cheese, or try some of the bakery goods available. Brits have a sweeter palate, but the things they can do with custard, cakes and cookies make me salivate just thinking of them.
Forget what you may have been told about English food. Regardless of your taste preferences, you will find something you will thoroughly enjoy as you sample the foods of London.