Whether you agree with the sentiment, many would say that traditional British cuisine simply can’t compare with the fare that’s commonly eaten in other countries in Europe or, indeed, further afield. In fact, many Brits may begrudgingly agree. And yet, surely you can’t say unless you’ve tried it; the proof is in the pudding and all that. So, why not, on a visit to the UK capital (maybe while staying at one the high-quality but affordable hotels in Paddington London) try out some British food, as opposed to other cuisine on offer at so many of the city’s magnificent restaurants – and find out for yourself…?
Fish and Chips
Traditionally speaking, fish and chips is the most popular dish across the British Isles and can be ordered in practically any establishment – a Michelin-starred restaurant, a hotel restaurant London, a pub, a café or, indeed, a fish and chip shop/ ‘chippy’. Usually, the fish tends to be cod but haddock or plaice or common substitutes; it’s deep fried in a batter and served with potato-filled chips (which are fatter and contain more potato than fries). Peas are often included; either boiled or mashed (‘mushy peas’).
Pie and Mash
Pies are a big deal in British cuisine when it comes a main course’s protein offering – delivering meat wrapped in pastry, of course. Intriguingly, going back, the pie’s contents were often made up of eel (a delicacy of sorts in South East England); nowadays, though, they’re most commonly the likes of beef or steak and kidney. Some outlets in London will still serve eel, however; not least of the stewed or jellied varieties.
Practically always a hit with anyone who tries it for the first time, an English breakfast might be said to be the definition of a hearty breakfast. Comprising bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, baked beans, fried bread and, on occasion, one or two more ‘exotic’ additions (such as black pudding), an English breakfast is typically served on Sunday mornings – and/ or lunchtimes; effectively morphing into a Sunday brunch – and because of this has cultivated itself a reputation as a ‘hangover cure’.
Moving on to later in the day, Sunday lunch is a staple of British cuisine – although the emergence of the English breakfast as a Sunday morning/ brunch favourite has emerged as a challenge to its ubiquity. Traditionally, Sunday lunch is served at home but nowadays is, like fish and chips, available everywhere (including at many Shaftesbury Collection London properties) and it’s built around a roast beef main – the latter meat-serving being looked on as innately English (hence the long-standing French nickname for the English: ‘Les Rosbifs’). It’s joined on the plate by roast (or boiled) potatoes, a mixture of other vegetables such as a Brussels sprouts, carrots, cabbage and so on, as well as gravy and – especially if you venture further north in the UK – Yorkshire pudding.
So, what is Yorkshire pudding? Well, don’t be deceived; it’s not what it sounds like because it’s not a dessert at all. Essentially, it’s a batter side to a main dish (most traditionally, as noted above, to a Sunday roast); a mixture of flour, milk and eggs that’s baked and then, when served, usually moistened with gravy. It may also be served as the starter to a meal; on those occasions, it tends to be large (taking up much of the plate) and, bowl-shaped, filled with vegetables and gravy.
Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie
Finally, two dishes that can be all too easily confused. To clarify, Shepherd’s pie contains minced lamb and vegetables and is then topped with mashed potatoes and baked until it’s golden on top. Cottage pie is similar to shepherd’s pie but the difference lies in the filling – it comprises beef as opposed to lamb.