Surprise! British Food Is Actually Quite Good!

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In my final days in Asia, my friend Ste, from northern England, wrote out a list for me.

Here it is, just as he wrote it:

Foods to Eat Whilst in the UK:

–steak and kidney PUDDING peas chips and gravy

–Full English including BLACK PUDDING and brown sauce

–Shepherds/cottage pie

–Sunday roast

–Daves fajitas

–Bacon sandwich

–Chinese food

–English/Indian curry. I double dare the chicken find a loo!

–Jam rolly-polie with hot custard


I made it through almost everything on that list.  (I swear to you, Ste, when I get back to England this fall, we’re going out for steak and kidney puddings!)

British food has the unfortunate stereotype of being, well, not so good. Like many stereotypes, there is unfortunately a hint of truth to this reputation.

But once I spent a few weeks off the beaten path in northern England, accompanied by a Brit (who cooked for me on many occasions, including his aforementioned fajitas), I got to see that Britain has SO many delicious dishes!

The Brits particularly do comfort food well. Bangers and mash.  Pies.  Pork between two slices of bread in more iterations than you can imagine.

And there’s nothing like rolling out of a club at 3:00 AM and going to the nearest chippy for a big plate of fish and chips.

Yes, a lot of British food is heavy. I couldn’t eat like that all the time.  But even if there aren’t many ethnic restaurants around, you can always, always get Indian food.

On the other hand, if you have a craving for cholesterol, go for a Full English.  I first learned about the Full English in various backpacker cafes across Southeast Asia, but didn’t sample it until I got home.

Clockwise from sausage: grilled tomAHto, beans, black pudding, hash brown, fried egg, bacon.

I also learned about British desserts — from the omnipresent trifle to the glory that is chocolate tiffin, layered with chocolate, biscuits, raisins and MORE chocolate.

So if you’re booking holidays in 2011 in the UK, try some of the traditional dishes.  If nothing else, you’ll find that the bacon — perhaps the world’s best food — is thicker and more delicious than almost anywhere else.

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28 thoughts on “Surprise! British Food Is Actually Quite Good!”

  1. Northern European food is always heavier than its Southern equivalent, because back in the days, people had to work outside all day doing exhausting chores in the cold, and needed heavy meals to sustain them throughout the day.

    But yes, fish&chips, bangers & mash, curry and English breakfasts are actually pretty good 🙂

  2. Kate,

    You legend! It’s about time someone opened up their mind to this unfortunate stereotype.

    I’m not saying we’re up there with the French, Italian and Thai or anything – but come ooonnnnn give us a break, world 🙂

  3. Last time I went to London for business I had dinner at its oldest restaurant (“Rules”) which has lots of traditional plates. It was really delicious! Since that time, I can’t complain anymore 😉

    And have you seen all those funny names the dishes have? I mean, like “love in disguise” or “toad-in-the-hole”… hilarious! (and I bet they actually taste pretty good!)

  4. The chefs at the gastronomic pub I worked at in France were English and Australian–the French patrons were always so surprised because the food was so good! They got me hooked on Sunday roast–too heavy for California, but SO good when it’s cold out–and sticky toffee pudding. YUM! I also love the curries–great Indian influence in England!

  5. I definitely agree, British food isn’t nearly as bad as the reputation it gets. I really liked the English breakfast I got at my hotel in London… sometimes I even make it at home.

  6. This post is the equivalent of an Englishman going to America and getting keen on Kentucky and Oklahoma country food – New Yorkers and Californians wouldn’t be very impressed. English food, particularly in southern England, is more sophisticated nowadays than the sort of stuff described here. Slumming it and eating comfort food in northern England is all very well, but it’s hardly representative of more interesting food people in southern England eat.

    Steak and kidney pudding and jam roly-poly? Please! You’re welcome to it!

  7. Oh come on. British food is far better than what is described in this post, which just reinforces the stereotypes. Modern British food is far more varied and sophisticated than this. Yes, even in the north of England, Robert – we’re not all Andy Capps up there.

    Next time, if you want to be traditional at least try Yorkshire pudding with your roast, freshly made by someone from Yorkshire of course. And go to Birmingham or Bradford for some of the world’s best Indian food — *not* run-to-the-toilet chicken curry.

  8. Kare you are always killing me with the great photos of food. The British food looks good to me but I would have rather seen the ox kidney cooked. The chocolate triffen looks delicious and I know I would pile on the pounds eating over there. Really looks like its heavy!

  9. I love bangers and mash. On my first trip to London, I ordered a pizza at a pub. He took it out of the freezer, unwrapped it and tossed it into the deep frier. So, things have improved…

  10. “England, is more sophisticated nowadays than the sort of stuff described here. Slumming it and eating comfort food in northern England is all very well, but it’s hardly representative of more interesting food people in southern England eat.”

    mate, although there tends to be a north/south divide in England its not that bloody huge, kate was just following her list a friend gave her… theres “interesting” food all over the world… not just southern england…toff!

    but yeah kate, i didn’t see chips and gravy on that list!

  11. I was only in London a few days, but I recall having had the best Chinese food in my life there. The Full English looks tasty!

  12. Kate, I have to agree with Andy J. I’ve been living in London for the past 5 years and food in England is some of the best in the world. Some of the top restaurants can be found in and around the UK and they’re certainly not cooking bangers and mash and fish and chips! It sounds like you went to pubs and fish and chip shops – certainly not where everyone goes out for meals! I go back to Boston and feel nauseous from the portion sizes!

    With influences from around the world, you can find many great English restaurants that aren’t starch heavy. Plus with the introduction of the celebrity chef about 10-15 years ago, a good portion of people in the UK are more interested in eating nice cuisine that’s not going to pack on the pounds. It’s all about locally grown, locally sourced. Next time you’re in England you should make it a point to watch Saturday Kitchen on BBC1 at 10am. Everything looks amazing!

    1. Definitely, Jocelyn — since my days as a concierge for the super-rich, I’ve wanted to go to The Black Duck for some exploding green tea puffs and bacon and egg ice cream! I just wrote this post about the stereotypical dishes, based on my list from my friend…I don’t think I quite clarified that.

  13. It’s refreshing to see a post that says British food is not as bad as its reputation. I admit that a lot of British food is heavy and I certainly can’t eat pies and fried food all the time but I do miss British food when I’m away.

    At the moment I am living in Sweden, and for a country that everybody thinks is so health-conscious they eat a surprising amount of crap! Most meat is processed and it is virtually impossible to find vegetables in any restaurant. At least in the UK you generally get a healthy serving of vegetables with your meal.

    I am a bit surprised that nobody recommended lamb as you were so close to the Welsh border. Welsh lamb is delicious! With Banoffee pie for dessert 🙂

  14. Stephen Riding

    Hahaha, awesome Kate. You are beyond cool, words can not describe and don’t worry I will rustle you up a QUALITY steak and kidney pudding with the works!

  15. I freaking love chocolate Tiffins – I miss them sooo much!!! Did you have black the Black Pudding – I cant stand the idea of it, but Poi swears by it (sometimes just eating it by himself)!

      1. If you ever find yourself on the Isle of Lewis off the North West of Scotland – as far West as you can get – you should try the white pudding. It has a more mild taste than black pudding, mind you the best black pudding in the world comes from Lewis so don’t write it off just yet :o)

  16. The breakfast and the bangers and mash look especially delicious.
    I’ve had some great meals in Britain–some of the best. Probably the best Indian food I’ve ever had. Sadly, one restaurant in Windsor didn’t make the cut. Salmon covered in plastic cheese sauce. In a country full of such amazing cheese. Dreadful.

  17. Your friend missed off bakewell pudding from Bakewell in the Peak District, also gingerbread from Grasmere in the Lake District, Stilton from Colston Bassett in Nottinghamshire, and pork pies from Melton Mowbray. There’s also Parkin from Yorkshire, Yorshire Puddings (but they should have been with the roast dinner), liver and onions, bubble and squeak, mince and barley…. Making me homesick for real food now…

    Ps the ONLY place to get curry is the Curry Mile in Manchester.

    Enjoy your culinary adventures! :o)

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