(not on the high street)
Despite Britain’s lingering reputation across the channel for bland, stodgy and overcooked food (French ex-President Jacques Chirac famously stated, ‘one cannot trust people whose cuisine is so bad’) in recent years London has been busy establishing itself as one of the gastronomic capitals of the world.
Not only is London emerging as a city that offers some of the most delicious, diverse and vibrant cuisine all across the globe, but its produce is booming too: in 2010, Britain made approximately 700 different types of cheeses – that’s 100 more than France. That same year, a survey found that Britons spent more time cooking than the French: 50% of Britons said they spent more than half an hour every evening cooking, compared to only 27% of the French.
Fish and chips; not our only dish. Image courtesy of LearningLark
While this isn’t a competition between the UK and France, it’s interesting to note that Britain, a country ridiculed for its food for years, has surpassed France, a country celebrated more for its cuisine than any other in the world, in many aspects of both food produce and fine dining.
As any Londoner will tell you, the capital city is full of fantastic restaurants, trendy bars and quirky cafes, and is one of the best places in the world to find a range of foreign cuisine. Rarely has a country embraced ethnic food as significantly as Britain – to the point where we consider curry one of our national dishes.
However, despite our apparently insatiable appetites for international food, both traditional and modern British fare is significantly on the rise, and more and more restaurants are popping up over the capital celebrating the best of British.
If you have guests visiting from another country and want to show them that there is so much more to British food than fish and chips or bangers and mash – or you just fancy reviving your own love for our local delights – have a look at three of our favourite British eateries in London.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Now this is the place to take anyone who thinks British food consists of heavy, tasteless food – after an evening at Heston’s Dinner they will be forced to re-asses everything they thought they knew about UK cuisine. Inspired by historic British gastronomy, the menu is just as quirky as you’d expect from Heston Blumenthal. Especially famous here is the meat fruit starter, a chicken liver and foie gras parfait shaped to look like a perfect mandarin, which is based on a hugely popular English dish from the 1500s.
Meat fruit and grilled bread image courtesy of Irene
Main courses are just as exciting and feature a unique combination of historic dishes with a modernised, Heston-style twist: spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes is another firm favourite, as is roast halibut with admiral’s sauce, shrimps, chicory and capers. Vegetarian mains are just as exceptional, with the braised celery and parmesan, cider apple and smoked walnuts especially delicious. With two Michelin stars to its name among its many, many accolades, a dining experience at Dinner is guaranteed not to disappoint.
The Perkin Reveller is perfect for those who want a slice of London history with their meal and is another impressive restaurant to take visitors to. With Tower Bridge, the River Thames and the ancient Tower of London on its doorstep – and a restaurant name taken straight from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – you can’t really get more traditional British than this.
The menu is contemporary British with international touches and a strong focus on seasonality; the blackboard changes several times a year depending on which local produce is available. The pork belly, celeriac and apple is consistently popular, and the Cornish fish stew with saffron potatoes is an unusual spin on a wonderfully authentic coastal favourite.
The herb spelt, roasted roscoff onion, walnut crumb and goat’s cheese will delight both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and with its fabulously authentic British décor and sensational views over some of London’s most famous sights, you can be sure that the Perkin Reveller will provide you with a dining experience you won’t forget in hurry.
The view from Perkin Reveller
While there clearly is so much more to British cuisine than roast beef, the fact that our fair isles have the best beef in the world is not usually disputed – not even by the French! Hawksmoor restaurants (there are several in the city) certainly take advantage of this in their menus and offer undeniable proof that the Brits can do steak like the best of them. The doorstop-thick steaks are cooked over charcoal for a superb smoky taste and are considered some of the finest in the capital.
Hawksmoor breakfast image courtesy of Ewan-M
However, the Hawksmoor has a lot more to offer than just sublime steak – it’s also especially famous for its all-day breakfast, which features eggs, mushrooms, sausages, black pudding, bacon and the classic Hawksmoor twist… bone marrow. The British lobster with garlic butter is an indulgent feast for two and the grilled free-range chicken is proof that sometimes the simplest recipes can be the best.