The French say croque monsieur and petit pois. I say Welsh rarebit and mushy peas. Here is a short guide to eating London.
I usually avoid traveling to the same places or make the same food. But there is something about London that makes me coming back. The hustle and bustle, the diversity, the friendly people, the accent, the river, the canal, the food.
Many people go to London for the shopping and the sights, not the food. I do the opposite
Too often, when people think of English food, they conjure up at sad story of greasy fish and chips and a ”kitchen” lacking in taste and finesse. In contrast French food is considered the epitome of brilliant food. Sure, I have had awful food in England. Oatporridge that tasted like glue and fried fish dry as wool. But I have also had terrible food in France, cold plastic like pancakes, omelette with more flour than egg. Not to mention baby formula with caramel flavour (well not at restaurants but in the shop aisles, in case you wonder). I thought that was only to be found in the USA where sugar finds its way into most food from caramel popcorn to candied bacon and marshmallows in salads. But there you go, another misconception in the world of food. Bad cooks are everywhere. In London you can sample good food from all corners of the world – and superb British food, for instance the dessert Eton mess or the Bramble cocktail.
Start on London’s South Bank with the Anchor and Hope gastropub
Try faggots (meatballs of offal) or tuck into Queen of puddings before you take a stroll to the riverside. A brisk walk and you easily find yourself at Tate Modern. Devour art and a piece of pie here while your gaze is fixed at the magnificent view of the London skyline and the mighty St. Paul’s Cathedral. Cross the River Thames at the Millennium Bridge and wander towards the cathedral where you have a smoky barbecue at Jamie Oliver and Adam Lang’s grill restaurant Barbecoa. Although this is a meatlover’s paradise, you can live happily ever after just by eating the ashbaked sweet potatoes.
Continue North towards Smithfield and one of London’s best British restaurants, St. John, situated next to the Smithfield Market, an old meat market where executions were held and sometimes men sold their wives. At St. John, considered one of the best restaurants in the world, you will find down to earth ingredients and atmosphere as nose to tail cuisine is at the fore. The French say croque monsieur. I say Welsh rarebit. And here it is supposed to be in its own league. From here, hop on a bus towards Soho. After all the meat, try lighter food – or tea – at the Michelin dim sum at Yauatcha.
When I am in London I have a London stomach
London offers so many choices. It was not always so – I went to England as a student in the 90s and hardly ate English food. In fact, I think the thought never even occured to me. English food was considered horrendous, and to top it all, the sad and disastrous Foot and mouth disease ravaged the meat industry at that time.
London may not have as many Michelin stars as Tokyo, Paris or New York, but it has some of the most innovative and diverse food scenes in the world. And with the birth of the gastropubs and reinvention of the British cuisine, it also offers outstanding British food. You can spend all your life eating at restaurants in London and never get tired. How about visiting a hummus joint or a pho café? Every time I go to London, I find a new map.
Wake up and have a full English breakfast with black pudding
Explore the delights at Borough Market before heading to Great Queen Street and its eponymous gastropub, situated next to Covent Garden yet far from the hordes of tourists. Then Notting Hill and Books for Cooks where you can discover new cook books while indulging in the best meringue and lemon curd roll you have ever eaten. In the afternoon, settle down in the English Tea Room at Brown’s Hotel, where Oscar Wilde and Rudyard Kipling once were regular guests. The sandwiches and cakes come on a three tiered cake stand and the tea is from Cornwall. If that is not your cup of tea, try the Champagne Afternoon tea. Oh bliss, London bliss.
Tatties and neeps
Bubbles and squeak
Faggots ’n mushy peas
I am coming to eat