If you’re a traveler, a foodie, a combo of both, or none of the above, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about English food’s bad reputation. And if you haven’t, give it a quick Google search and a slew of articles and blogs will come up naming English food “the laughing stock of the entire world,” or explaining the stereotype that English food is bad. However, if you actually read one of those articles, you’ll likely find that it’s in defense of English food and that the stereotype comes from centuries ago when the food probably really wasn’t great. But today, most of those articles maintain that you can actually find excellent food in England, whether it be traditional English cuisine or a taco stand.
As many large cities do, London, England’s capital, has a hot food scene these days, and the only way to debunk those stereotypes is to try the food for yourself. So whether you’re there for business or pleasure, a week or just an afternoon, take advantage of the easy luggage storage in London and go grab yourself a bite to eat. Here are a few of the best places to give you a taste of what’s out there.
Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop
If there are a few stereotypes about English food that are correct, one of them is that they love meat. So this butcher-by-day, restaurant-by-night spot in Hackney is the perfect place to go on your English food journey. It’s small, and intimate, and will serve some of the best meats of the season accompanied by delightful side dishes, candlelight, and wine.
St. John Restaurant and Bar
With a more diverse menu of traditional British food, St. John Restaurant offers not only a full menu of British classics but also its history of British chefs who have helped shape the restaurant and bring it into the 21st century. Here, you can find all of the pigs’ ears and British pud you desire, all prepared to perfection by seasoned British chefs. If you’re arriving from King’s Cross or Euston station, it’s between a one and two-mile walk for each, so you would want to drop your luggage at one of London’s luggage storage spots before you venture out for your meal. If you are interested in working in similar settings to the most popular bars in London, it is important to have the correct qualifications, like an online RSA Course by CFT.
What better way to venture into some European cuisine than to have a taste of French and Italian food all at once? Brawn’s menu offers a hearty selection of pasta and comfort food that crosses borders and has influence from both European countries. The restaurant’s interior is one of the city’s most notable, and, like in both Italy and France, you can find yourself one fine glass of wine at Brawn.
If sushi wasn’t the first cuisine you had in mind while for a meal in London, don’t sweat it; you’re not alone. But if you’re looking to stray from the meats of English cuisine, this is your spot. It’s extremely hard to get a reservation due to the restaurant’s tiny size, but if you can get in, you’ll have some of the best sushi for the best value that you’ve ever experienced, and you get to watch chef Toru Takahashi create it right in front of your eyes.
Ever heard of British Mexican food? We neither, but we wish we had earlier. KOL is a modern restaurant serving up Mexican flavors, but recreating them using British ingredients. You can still find avocados on the menu, but lime isn’t as common, instead replaced by fermented gooseberry (modern English food is big on fermenting). While you might not recognize every ingredient or final product on the menu, you’ll probably be able to imagine the Mexican dish or flavors that inspired it. Give it a shot.
If you’re looking for more of a snack (though a hefty one) or just something more casual, you need to visit London’s most famous bagel spot: Beigel Bake. These aren’t the New York bagels we all know and love; they’re not even typically served with cream cheese. Instead, they’re served with large chunks of beef, some pickles, and dollops of mustard, all sandwiched between the two chewy, lovable bagel halves. It’s cheap, it’s quick, it’s historic, and it’s a British take on bagels. What more could you ask for?
It stands for “Formerly Known as Black Axe Mangal,” and it’s worth the two-mile trip from King’s Cross station to get there. Referred to as Black Axe Mangal, this spot is guaranteed to give you the most unique “barbecue” meal of your life. It’s a tiny, casual but bustling spot serving beer and shots and any meat you can imagine (think: lamb tongue kebab) in some form of European-inspired BBQ cuisine.
A few things before you head out for one of the best (or at least the most unique) meals of your life:
- Find luggage storage near your transit station. Seriously, there’s nothing worse than dragging a bag around all day. It will affect your adventures, and it could even ruin your meal. Trust us. Don’t take the risk.
- Get an Oyster Card. If you’re going to be in London for more than two hours, you’re going to want one. It’s their version of a Metro Card, one you can pre-load that will give you cheap access to London’s highly functional public transit system.
- Shop Local. Why go to a new country just to shop for the brands you already know? Head to Soho or somewhere of the likes, and support London’s smaller businesses and brands.
- To tip or not to tip? Like most countries, England doesn’t tip like America. It’s not mandatory, but it’s encouraged. Pay attention to your receipt, because often times the tip is already added as a service charge. You’re allowed to request for it to be removed if needed but look for that charge before you accidentally leave a tip on top of it.
Take London by bike. London has bike share programs similar to the CitiBikes found in the U.S., and they’re not only one of the cheapest ways to get around, but also the best for seeing the sights and taking in your surroundings.