It’s well and truly time for the antiquated idea that British food equals bland, boring stodge, to be banished. Sure, in a city like London there are a lot of humdrum restaurants dishing out very ordinary plates of food but if you make a bit of an effort it’s not hard to find food that celebrates the best of Britain’s bountiful produce.
Like most visitors to the capital, we want a taste of the the most traditional English dishes- from the Sunday Roast to the iconic pork pie here are our Top 3 spots when you’re after those classics…
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But first, watch our London food series…
1. Pies at The Pie Room
We’re preaching to the converted when we say a pie has got to be one of the best gastronomic creations of all time. Pies first appeared in England in the 12thcentury where they were seen as a means of preserving meat- encasing it in a thick pastry crust that was not intended to be eaten. By the 16thcentury pies became centrepieces of elaborate banquets hosted by the upper class- where live animals would burst from the pastry when cut open- think along the lines of “four and twenty blackbirds”. Pies are a British icon and for the best in London look no further than The Pie Room.
The Pie Room is a shrine to pastry- a thoughtfully curated and visually spectacular space where Executive Head Chef Calum Franklin and his team toss flour and roll pastry on a marble topped island which dominates the room. Franklin’s pastry creations are inspired by his city- the geometry of the British Museum’s ceiling, the intricate detail of a church’s door handle – they’re works of art. And the taste? Let’s just say you won’t be disappointed.
We scoffed down the hand raised pork pie in record time- the flaky, burnished pastry (it’s not burnt by the way- unbleached flour from a heritage grain is used for the pastry which results in a darker finish and more flavour) encases a chunky, robust Berkshire pork filling punctuated with bursts of mustard and fennel seeds and the sweet flavour of sage. Don’t miss this!
Eat at: The Pie Room, 252 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 7EN, UK. Open Monday to Friday 11:00am to 4:00pm (takeaway from The Pie Room or eat in at Holborn Dining Room).
2. Full English at The Regency Café
There are those who bemoan the fact that the full English breakfast is nothing more than a hodge podge of greasy, salty ingredients slung together on a plate whilst the opposite camp (the one we’re in) consider it the righter of all wrongs. If you’re with us, head straight to the Regency caff for a fry-up you won’t forget in a hurry.
The place has been around since 1946- its Formica tables, red and white gingham curtains and cream tiled walls ooze Art Deco charm. The food is great and it’s cheap- a fried egg, bacon, sausage, beans or tomato and bread or toast plus tea or coffee will set you back a mere £6 but it’s the atmosphere that clinches it. The booming voice of owner Marco Schiavetta as he yells out the orders to be picked up at the counter (no table service here) caps off a memorable dining experience.
Eat at: The Regency Cafe, 17-19 Regency St, Westminster, London SW1P 4BY, UK. Open Monday to Friday 7:00am to 2:30pm and 4:00pm to 7:15pm, Saturday 7:00am to midday.
3. Sunday Roast at Blacklock
If your visit to London includes a Sunday then you must partake in one of Britain’s most hallowed dining traditions: the Sunday roast. It’s a pretty big deal, with tables for the best Sunday lunches in London booked up months in advance. It’s worth making the effort and planning ahead a little as the price gap between a mediocre Sunday roast and a brilliant one is surprisingly little, given the extremes in quality.
Head to Blacklock- famous for their roasted meat cooked over coals and English oak and look no further than the ‘All In’. For twenty quid you get smoky, juicy Cornish lamb leg, 55 day aged beef rump and melt in your mouth pork loin plus all the trimmings.
The roast arrives on a giant platter to be shared by the table- thick slices of meat are draped over seasonal vegetables- on our visit, hunks of cabbage charred from the grill, crispy duck fat potatoes and sweet heritage carrots. Fill the deep centres of your fluffy Yorkshire pud with glugs of gravy and toast your long, lazy Sunday lunch with a £5 cocktail from the trolley- the negroni is particularly good.
Eat at: Blacklock Shoreditch, 28-30 Rivington St, Hackney, London EC2A 3DZ, UK. Sunday Roast available on Sundays 12:00pm to 9:00pm. Make sure you book well ahead- Blacklock also serves Sunday Roast at its restaurant in Soho.
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