British food has a bad reputation. Not a completely undeserved one either (read below for the lasagna story). Seriously it is either fried or brown, sometimes both. In all honesty they have a sauce that they literally refer to as brown sauce. But, well done British food can be quite spectacular in taste and in its place on the world culinary scene. A fact I would not have found out until I visited. @benton8tor is British and is a foodie despite his love for fruit pastels a British ‘candy’. And despite my British heritage which has manifested itself in a hatred of roast beef, @benton8tor insisted that I have an open mind about British food before traveling to England for the first time. ‘OK’ I agreed in theory, certain I would be proved right along with all the internet trolls, turns out British food is more interesting, tastier, complex than I originally thought.
I have visited England 10 times. I have been told to try the obvious: fish and chips (meh), Sunday roast (pass), prawn cocktail crisps (surprisingly tasty chips), bangers and mash ( even more surprisingly delicious if strangely named sausages and potatoes). Here are my recommendations for the top 5 British food must trys… because if like me, you can shed your preconceived judgy notions, you will be very pleasantly surprised and maybe even astounded at the amazingness of British food.
5. The Scotch Egg – Ok not my favourite but wholeheartedly @benton8tor’s all time favorite, the Scotch Egg is Scottish in heritage. You take a soft boiled egg, wrap it in Sausage meat, coat in breadcrumbs and deep fry. Scotch eggs range all the way from on the go snacks you buy at Marks and Spencer on the way to the tube to high end gastro pub fare. Either way, it is worth a try. (So I am told)
4. The Full English. If you see this on the menu, it means a full English breakfast full of eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, bread, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes, black pudding (which you will give to @benton8tor) and sometimes potatoes. It isn’t the healthy choice but it is the delicious choice! So don’t miss out. My dad and I love to find a pub, order the full English breakfast and tea and just enjoy. @benton8tor in recent years has stopped ordering the full English. When I asked why, he told me my dad and I rarely finish everything so if he ordered breakfast and finished both of ours, he wouldn’t be able to eat again. It should be worth noting a English breakfast is extremely filling!
3. Bangers and Mash- Ah the aforementioned sausage and mash potatoes. It seems like it would be fairly standard but British sausages are surprisingly diverse and delicious. Cumbrian and Lincolnshire sausages tend to be my favourite. They are diverse in Ingredients nd flavour but always deliver. Vegetarian sausages are readily available and also quite tasty. Sausages who knew?? Also the Bear and Staff just off of Leicester Square offer some very good sausages http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/thebearandstaffleicestersquarelondon . The best we have tasted where at the Queens Head in Askham Cumbria http://www.queensheadaskham.com/ and at a variety of pubs on the Ilse Of Wight.
2. Meat Pies- Whether the traditional British Cornish Pasty ( a pastry containing, minced meat, potato, onion and turnips) or a baked meat pie the combination of pastry, meat, and sometimes gravy or potato is intoxicating. No doubt it is the quality of ingredients that make these pastries sing but they are truly truly tasty. Served in pubs, restaurants or in small town the post office, try a meat pie today. @benton8tor swears the best Cornish pasty he ever had was from the lunch counter in the post office in Kirkbride in Cumbria. http://www.kirkbridecommunity.co.uk/local-amenities/post-office/
- Ploughmans Lunch- When I first saw the ploughmans lunch on the menu, I was all WTF? but turn out a Ploughmans (named for serving farmhands during the workday) is cheese, bread, Branston pickle (if you are North American, not a pickle but some sort of uber yummy brown paste?), pickled onions and sometimes ham and boiled eggs. British cheese is vastly underrated. The British produce some of the tastiest cheese there is from Red Leicester to Shropshire blue to sage Derby to Cheshire it is amazing!!! Seriously try it as soon as you can. I guarantee it will knock your socks off!
I have obviously omitted favourites such as fish and chips. I know I know but fish and chips are readily available and offered everywhere. The result is often mediocre fish and chips unless you know where to go. Chicken Tika Masala is also not on the list, . Although a part of British cuisine today, I still think of it as an Indian dish but you can get good chicken tika masala allover England. Steak, sticky toffee pudding, fish pie, pork pie, trifle and crisps should also be on the list. As should lamb with mint sauce. High tea will be its own post and seriously my favourite British tradition and food ever. So So so good. like amazing, out of this world good.
Be wary of ordering Italian food in pubs, stick to restaurants. Up in Norfolk, needing a change of pace, In a pub, I ordered lasagna. It was made with gravy and served over chips. I am still perplexed as to why this happened.
That said, fresh fish at a pub can be amazing. Look for independent pubs like St Stephens Tavern in London that serves the best cheese sandwich ever. Like so tasty that you can’t believe something as simple as a cheese sandwich can taste that good and you have to stop yourself from going there for every meal because you can’t actually eat a cheese sandwich for every meal good. http://ststephenstavern.co.uk/ Or any food at the Blacksmith Arms in the Isle of Wight.
England loves its Sparking wine, in particular Champagne though Proseco is also easy to find. I in particular love that as why shouldn’t a ploughmans lunch be accompanied by a glass and/or bottle of Champers? But to only drink wine would be to ignore England’s reemerging ale scene. In fact many of the pubs such as the Bree Louise are part of the real ale campaign, which is hankering back to providing local craft brews on tap and not mass market beers owned by conglomerates. The ales are often interesting, diverse, and can please any palate. The are unique and unlike other beers you will taste. http://www.breelouise.pub/
As well English Whisky as in the English Whisky Company in Norfolk is producing some complex and multifaceted whiskys, Well worth a try at a fraction of the cost. Norfolk is @benton8tor’s birthplace. Though he doesn’t make lasagna with gravy. https://www.englishwhisky.co.uk/
So to summarize English/British food often suffers from a bad reputation that is undeserved. An open mind and an empty stomach in England can ensure you have a fabulous culinary experience. Bangers and Mash? Give it a try and you won’t be sorry and possibly just possibly, a convert.