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What Food Is London Known for & Famous For
Multicultural London is home to some of the trendiest restaurants in the world today. Its thriving food scene includes many traditional favorites that both locals and visitors enjoy equally. These are some of the most iconic foods that the city of London is known and famous for.
Foods London is known for include:
- Fish and chips
- Bangers and mash
- Yorkshire pudding
- Shepherd’s pie
- Cottage pie
- Sunday roast
- Black pudding
- Toad in the hole
- Full English breakfast
- British Indian curry
- Beans on toast
- Afternoon tea
- Pimm’s cup
- Scotch egg
- Cheddar cheese
- Victoria sponge
- Chicken tikka masala
- Eton mess
- Sticky toffee pudding
This article will give you the low-down on some of the popular traditional foods that you can try on your next visit to London.
1. Fish and Chips
Pair batter-fried fish and french fries, and you get one of the most iconic of all English dishes, fish and chips. The style of fish preparation may have been introduced by Iberian Jews and the fries by French-speaking Belgians, but it was the working-class patrons of London who made the dish popular in the wake of the industrial revolution.
Today, you can find fish and chips in seaside towns around the country as well as in pubs and restaurants across London. I recommend you visit a dedicated “chippies” for the best introduction to this popular English classic.
Tea originated in China, not England, but the English loved it so much that they grew it in India and Sri Lanka, where much English tea still comes from.
Today, the English consume more than 100 million cups of tea a day, mostly with milk, and at all hours of the day. They are the third-largest per-capita tea-consuming nation in the world and have strict protocols for how to make a proper “cuppa.”
So, make sure you find out what all the fuss is about.
Like many items on this list, gin originated outside England before being remade on these shores.
The drink was the original “Dutch Courage” that English soldiers drank on their way to battle during the Thirty Years’ War. When they returned home, they brought their favorite Dutch beverage home with them.
Cheap corn and deregulation made the drink popular in early Victorian England, where, due to its notoriety, it was known as “Mother’s Ruin.”
Later, soldiers serving in India were prescribed Gin and Tonics to stave off malarial infection.
After going into decline for many years, gin has recently seen a resurgence, owing to the growth of the craft spirits industry. Today, you can still savor the famed London Dry Gins that the city lent its name to in bars and restaurants across the city.
4. Bangers and Mash
First off, that’s sausages and mashed potatoes to you. Bangers get their name from the way they would pop in the pan while cooking. This was because they used to be stuffed with inferior quality meat, owing to rationing during World War One. They are served with creamy mashed potatoes, hence bangers and mash.
Bangers and mash are usually served with thick onion gravy. This hearty meal is commonly found in pubs and restaurants across London.
5. Yorkshire Pudding
A genuine home-grown favorite–with regional roots foregrounded in its name–Yorkshire pudding is a type of savory pastry. It serves as a versatile side with many meat and gravy dishes, including Sunday roast and toad in the hole.
Traditionally, Yorkshire pudding was served as an appetizer before a main course of meat. This was because meat was expensive at the time. The pastry served to bulk up the menu and fill bellies.
Yorkshire pudding would be baked right below the meat, where the fats and juices from the roasting meat would drip onto it. This way, none of the delicious meat drippings would go to waste.
Today, Yorkshire pudding has its own days of celebration in the UK as well as in the US. National Yorkshire pudding day is celebrated on the first Sunday in February in the UK and October 13 in the US.
6. Shepherd’s Pie
When it comes to classic English comfort food, nothing beats the humble shepherd’s pie, although the pie itself likely originated among Irish Catholic peasants.
Like many famous food innovations down the years, the first shepherd’s pies arose as a way for poorer families to use leftover food economically.
The result? A savory pastry stuffed with mashed potatoes and minced lamb cooked in vegetables and gravy– just perfect for a winter night at the pub.
7. Cottage Pie
Lamb was the meat of choice in shepherd’s pies because beef was unaffordably expensive for Irish peasants, but that didn’t stop the English from making an equally tasty beef variant known as cottage pies. As with shepherd’s pies, the meat in a cottage pie is always minced or diced.
The ‘cottage’ in the title references the tiny houses of the poor Irish peasants who made the first shepherd’s pies. These were originally called cottage pies. Later, perhaps in reference to their lamb filling, they came to be known as shepherd’s pies, and the beef variant as cottage pies.
8. Sunday Roast
The Sunday roast is a traditional afternoon meal in England, although it is as likely to be enjoyed in the evenings nowadays. It’s the grandest meal of the week, an occasion that demands the entire family sit down and enjoy a meal together. No wonder it’s such a beloved fixture of English kitchens.
Consisting of roasted meat, potatoes, and vegetables served with Yorkshire pudding and gravy, the Sunday roast can sometimes feel like all the greatest English foods piled onto one plate.
So, bring a healthy appetite when tackling this one.
9. Black Pudding
A black pudding is a variety of sausage made from animal blood, usually that of a pig, and not a dessert, as its name might suggest. It’s traditionally enjoyed as part of a hearty breakfast meal.
The stuffing for the sausage is made by mixing animal fat and oatmeal with blood. The blood is what gives the black pudding its characteristic rich dark color. It’s also what makes it one of the more divisive items on this list.
Still, the intense flavors of black pudding have their staunch advocates, and the more adventurous foodies will undoubtedly want to give it a go.
10. Toad in the Hole
Before you leap out of your chair in alarm, let me assure you that you’re not getting what it says on the tin here. This is another one of those cases of the kind of cheeky prose the English are famous for.
When you ask for a toad in the hole in London, you’ll be served sausage cooked in Yorkshire pudding batter, with a side of vegetables and gravy. Toad in the hole is another classic example of English comfort food.
11. Full English Breakfast
Whether you’re recovering from a night out or getting set for a big day of sightseeing, nothing beats a full English breakfast at a traditional cafe. If anything will get you properly refueled for a day on the town, then it has to be the full English breakfast.
Expect a large plate of fried eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, and toast. You’ll need a healthy appetite for this one!
English-style scones are delectable savory snacks baked in tiny little portions. Although they are made using wheat or oatmeal and leavening agents, they tend to be drier and crumblier than biscuits as they use less butter.
Classic English scones are usually less sweet than American scones and are served at mid-morning or afternoon tea, not breakfast, along with cream and jam.
A crumpet is a slightly fluffy take on the muffin that is more pancake-like and less biscuity than a scone. Like scones, they are usually served at afternoon tea. Enjoy your crumpets with a lavish topping of butter and jam or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, Marmite.
14. British Indian Curry
The British use the term curry to denote a generic Indian dish, although it might just as easily be Pakistani or Bangladeshi. When in doubt, go for the chicken tikka masala. Some say it’s Britain’s national dish.
There are as many Indian restaurants in London today as there are in Delhi or Mumbai, and you can find a range of excellent curry houses at all price points here, ranging from budget to sophisticated. Their presence is a residue of England’s long relationship with the Indian subcontinent.
15. Beans on Toast
In this case, you get what you ask for: baked beans served on toasted white bread, occasionally topped off with cheese. They’re a classic of everyday British life and as simple as they come. They’re usually eaten as a breakfast meal before rushing off to the day’s next adventure.
16. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is more of an institution rather than a type of food. It involves enjoying your evening tea with a delectable array of snacks in a laid-back atmosphere surrounded by friends and family.
It’s a languorous meal between meals that was until recently largely the preserve of the elite.
Snacks served along with English tea include sandwiches, scones, crumpets, cakes, pastries, and other baked foods.
17. Pimm’s Cup
Pimm’s is an iconic British brand of gin-based alcohol. Inflected with spices, botanicals, and citrus flavors, Pimm’s is tied up with the long history of English colonial expansion and continues to be enjoyed on grand stages such as Wimbledon today.
A Pimm’s cup is a refreshing cocktail made with Pimm’s, ginger ale or lime soda, fruit, and mint. It enhances the summertime associations of Pimm’s.
18. Scotch Egg
A Scotch is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, breaded and fried. What’s not to like, you say? I agree, and so do the people of London.
Oh, and disregard the misleading nomenclature; Scotch eggs are very much a London innovation and have nothing to do with Scotland.
Pasties are savory pies stuffed with a range of fillings. They emerged as a staple of working-class kitchens at the dawn of the industrial revolution, and you can still try them in a range of varieties today.
Cornish pasties are made of meat, potatoes, onions, and turnips, for instance. You can also get them as pies and mash, accompanied by–you guessed it–mashed potatoes.
And the daring can even pair them with jellied eels.
20. Cheddar Cheese
This hard cheese made with pasteurized cow milk is Britain’s favorite, and they do make some excellent cheddar cheese in this part of the world.
But what’s so special about eating cheddar in London, you ask? Well, it’s pretty close to the village of Cheddar in Somerset, for one.
21. Victoria Sponge
A Victoria Sponge is a fluffy cake stuffed with jam and cream filling and dusted with powdered sugar. It’s a classic British cake, usually enjoyed with an assortment of other pastries and English tea as part of that institution known as afternoon tea.
22. Chicken Tikka Masala
Consisting of succulent chunks of boneless chicken marinated in Indian spices and cooked in a thick yogurt-based gravy, chicken tikka masala is an authentically English take on the classic Indian curry.
A perennial favorite at the many curry houses, the dish evolved out of the interaction of English culinary and restaurant culture with that of the many immigrant communities from South Asia that made their home here over the centuries.
23. Eton Mess
A recipe developed at the mess, i.e., the cafeteria of the elite Eton school, which has a long history of educating the country’s most privileged and powerful young citizens, an Eton mess is a type of dessert. It’s made up of meringues, whipped cream, and berries.
24. Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is a popular English dessert consisting of moist muffin-like cake topped off with cream and sticky toffee sauce. It was introduced to the country by Canadian pilots temporarily stationed here during World War Two.
While German and Belgian beers generate a lot more buzz these days, the English have history when it comes to beer. Moreover, English beer culture is as much about pub culture as it is about specific beers.
Some people even argue that the only real pubs are those found in the UK. So, when in London, head over to a regular neighborhood pub to enjoy some traditional English beers in a truly unique environment.
The sheer variety of ales on offer in London is mind-boggling. There’s everything from different styles of beer like India pale ales, bitters, and stouts to regional specialties like Scotch and Irish ales and old English barleywine that you may not get to try anywhere else.
- Devour Tours: The 10 Traditional Foods You Have to Try in London & Where to Get Them
- The Kittchen: 24 British Foods to Try in London
- BBC: Chipping away at the history of fish and chips
- BBC: How tea conquered Britain
- Finest English Tea: How to Make English Tea
- Sipsmith: Gin and London: The Origin
- Sing Gin: Why Is Gin So Popular In England?
- Historic UK: Yorkshire Pudding
- National Today: National Yorkshire Pudding Day – October 13, 2022
- Seasoned Pioneers: A Brief History of Shepherd’s Pies
- BBC Good Food: All you need to know about black pudding
- Curious Cuisinière: Authentic British Scones
- Historic UK: The British Curry
- BBC Good Food: The Perfect Beans on Toast
- Diageo: A Guide to Pimm’s
- British Heritage Travel: A staple pub fare, tearooms, and kitchens everywhere – English Cheddar cheese
- Serious Eats: A Beginner’s Guide to British Beer Styles