There’s no-one on this planet who could argue that 2012 was not a smashing year for the British capital. Playing host to the Olympic Games, a Royal wedding and a myriad of celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee was confidently tipped to lift London’s popularity to infinity and beyond. It most certainly did.
Yet when it comes to the city’s gastronomic prowess, there are a few members of culinary royalty who have done more than their fair share of propelling London Food into the epicurean 21st century. Colourful characters like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey have well and truly demolished any per-conceived notions the world may still hold about British cuisine. Gone are the days of the stodgy, coronary-inducing yet heavenly tasting meals.
Fat chance! Pardon the pun…
Yes it’s true; London is now one of the world’s leading culinary capitals and London food is a head-spinning choice of delicious dining options, from out-of-this-world curries, delectable stir-fries, unbelievable kebabs, perfect fajitas and tasty tapas. Yet, while a round-the-world foodie treat can be had in just a single day, your first option (as always!), should be to try the local specialties. In London’s case, that would be some good old fashioned pub grub!
Whether it’s a typical Sunday roast lunch, or pie with mash, mushy peas and tasty gravy, delectable English pub food is often considered food for the soul, and a definite must-try for anyone visiting London.
If you want to go all out, then we recommend you start your day with a typical, no holds-barred English breakfast. Managing it at 9am may be a bit of a struggle for the unaccustomed, but get this into you at first light, and you’ll need not eat another thing for the whole day: scrambled or fried eggs served with baked beans, an unhealthy mountain of bacon, fried toast, tomatoes, hash browns, sausages and…oh yes, not finished yet…black pudding. No, you need not know what black pudding is, or if you do, best you Google it after you’ve eaten it. Ok we’ll give you a hint: Edward would LOVE this dish (only Twilight fans will get this). Num num…what good pub grub.
Where to go will largely depend on which area of London you’ll choose to base yourself in and, while most visitors will spend two hours to travel to the opposite end of town in order to chase some well-meaning yet futile recommendation from a friend of a friend, you really need not bother. Instead, do what locals do and refer to the Good Pub Guide, an invaluable and frequently updated reference site which allows you to check out the best joints within a few miles of your hotel. Moreover, this site also mentions all the latest offers around, which is rather handy in a city where even the pub can be prohibitively expensive. Insider’s rule of thumb: feel free to pick a pub you like the review of, but by and large try and avoid any with ‘steakhouse’ or ‘angus’ in the name. They’re what most Londoners refer to as ‘pretend’ pubs; keep away at all costs.
The best afternoon-tea in London
At the opposite end of the culinary spectrum, you’ll find another English tradition worth trying: the typical English afternoon-high-tea. The custom is said to have originated in the early 19th century, when a certain Duchess of Bedford, fed up with her mid-afternoon sugar slumps, decided to break with day-long fasting traditions and to enjoy a cup of tea…and just a little snack. Nowadays, the delicate and dainty offerings of the afternoon-tea are as ingrained in English tradition as bangers and mash or, your very favourite, the black pudding (c’mon, we know you looked it up).
Traditionally, afternoon-high-tea consists of multi-tiered trays brimming with an array of delectable finger foods, with freshly-made fluffy scones (served with clotted cream and home-made jam) taking centre tray. All of London’s very best hotels and restaurants offer amazing afternoon-tea experiences, but we particularly love the setting at Claridge’s Hotel in Mayfair. While most other places seem to be going a little too-modern, Claridge’s has maintained a quaint and traditional atmosphere, ideal for the uninitiated tea-taker. For a truly memorable afternoon-tea experience, we highly recommend you splurge just a wee bit more on a glass of champagne or two. After all, it’s not like you’re in London every day!
Pies Vinni via Flickr
Full break Kate Hopkins via Flickr