London’s Food Heritage 1

When many of us think of British food, all that comes to mind is fish and chips, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg! When we travel, it means a great deal to eat like the locals eat. That may be very simple fare, like the English fish and chips above, but it is also worthwhile to tap into the long, classic heritage of food, made at all economic levels, in the season it is traditionally eaten. There’s no closer way to connect with the people whose country you visit.

The British can be justifiably proud of their shellfish (like Whitstable oysters), Southdown lamb, Farmhouse Cheddar or Stilton cheese, port, ales or mead and walnuts, among many other heritage foods.

The bountiful harvest is also combined into many recipes cherished by generations of families, which you will find on local menus, so you need to understand what’s in them, as busy waiters and noisy pubs and cafes don’t lend themselves to educating you much on the spot. Over time, we’ll explain what’s in Bubble and Squeak, Bangers and Mash, Toad in the Hole, Lancashire Hot Pot and more!

One of the best meals that I have ever had in Britain was a pub lunch of haggis, in Scotland, and another was a broader-than-usual breakfast in Scotland which included delightful Scotch smoked salmon. Decades later, those meals are still memorable and I am glad to have had both.

Today, in multicultural Britain, I fear that the local traditions are being subsumed by cheap Oriental, American fast-food and Indian fare. So, I am encouraging you to seek out real English food in London, real Welsh food in Wales, real Scots food in Scotland and the Islands.

In top-notch urban hotels, and if you also stay at good country hotels, you may actually still find some excellent English breakfasts — with options of oatmeal porridge with toppings, choices of eggs, bacon, sausages, lamb’s fry, fried kidneys, smoked fishes (like Finnan Haddie and kippers), stewed fruits, fresh cream, warm buttered toast and marmalade and fine (Indian and Sri Lankan) teas. I had a great one in Scotland and another in Ireland, too, at expensive hotels in Edinburgh and Dublin. Seek these meals out for ‘the grand experience’! Check out Claridge’s and Simpsons in the Strand. I’ll add more to this list as time goes by.

For lunch, if you are in the ethnically-diverse part of London near Spitalfield’s Market, you’ll be surprised to find a great traditional place for a British lunch – everything from eel cakes to eccles cakes – in a rotating menu! St John Bread & Wine at 94-96 Commercial St, London E1 6LZ. Nearest tube is Liverpool Street.

At our link below, we’ll discuss afternoon tea and high tea on our next British Food Heritage page.

Richard Corrigan, formerly of Lindsay House in Soho, and owner of Bentleys, has his flagship, Corrigan’snew British cuisine restaurant in Mayfair, between Hyde Park and the American Embassy. It’s just been named the Best Restaurant of the Year, 2009-2010. Expect to pay upwards of £70 per person (without drinks or tip) or less, with a superb fixed price meal at lunch.

The oldest London restaurant (one that is not a pub) is thought to be Rules Restaurant at 35 Maiden Lane, London WC2 in the Covent Garden theater district. It’s been around since 1789, and is proud to carry-on its own traditional fare. You’ll enjoy roasted lamb, game and succulent Yorkshire Pudding and lots more. It also serves brunch some days. If you want to eat after the show, there’s a two-course post-theater supper Mon-Thu from 10pm; £18 per person. TUBE: Covent Garden or Embankment.

We’ll bring you more suggestions another time and more explanations about traditional English cooking, but for now, just make sure something from this list is on your list when you visit London!

Learn more here in Part 2:
London’s British Heritage English Afternoon Tea spots.

More at Part 3:
Simpsons Tavern and Rowley’s

Here’s Part 4:
Landseer British Kitchen near the British Museum

©2009 mystic at Travel Vacation Review