England’s food has earned itself a reputation for blandness over the years, but with historic recipes dating back to the Victorian times, inventive use of staple ingredients and some notoriously wacky names (think ‘bubble & squeak’ or ‘spotted dick pudding’), traditional English cuisine has plenty of surprises up its sleeve. Here are six of the most beloved foods to try in England.
1. Bangers and Mash
Hearty pork sausages (bangers) and creamy mashed potato (mash) make up this classic pub dish, typically served up with meat gravy and a side of greens. Add a twist to the sausages by opting for ‘Toad in the Hole’—sausages baked inside a giant Yorkshire pudding (a savory cake made from oven-baked batter).
2. English Breakfast
Served up everywhere from ‘greasy spoons’ (small, worker’s cafés) to posh restaurants all over England, the country’s traditional breakfast—known as a ‘fry-up’ thanks to its largely fried ingredients—is a huge and hearty plateful that should see you through to dinnertime. Fried eggs, bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, sausage and baked beans, all find themselves on the menu, typically served up with fried bread. Look out for additions like hash browns (shredded potato patties) or bubble & squeak (patties of fried cabbage and mashed potato).
3. Fish and Chips
Head to the local ‘chippie’ (chip shop) for the most authentic fish and chips experience, where you’ll get a huge slab of battered fish and thick-cut chips (French fries), typically slathered in salt and vinegar, or served up with a side of hot mushy peas. Non-fish eaters can opt for a ‘Chip Butty’ instead—a buttered bread bun crammed with hot chips and ketchup.
4. Pies & Pasties
The British love affair with pies dates back to medieval times, characterized by the thick, soft pastry and hearty meat-based fillings. Most famous are the Steak & Kidney pie, Cottage pie (minced meat topped with mashed potato) and Shepherd’s Pie (lamb topped with mashed potato), but make sure you try a Cornish Pasty, too—a meat and vegetable pie shaped in a half circle, and hailing from Cornwall.
5. Suet Puddings
If there’s one thing English cuisine excels in, it’s the dessert course—known as ‘pudding’ in England. Bread and butter pudding, Bramley apple crumble and Bakewell tart are all classic British deserts, but most popular are the rich suet puddings, steam-cooked in boiling water and traditionally served with thick, creamy custard. Try Spotted Dick pudding (soft sponge and raisons), Sticky Toffee or Treacle Pudding (oozing with toffee or treacle), Jam Roly-Poly (sponge dripping with hot strawberry jelly) or the festive Christmas pudding (soaked in brandy and dried fruits).
6. Afternoon Tea
No British tradition is as world famous as Afternoon Tea and while the cucumber sandwiches and period-drama pomp might be reserved for special occasions, you won’t have to look far in England for a good cup of tea. Make sure it’s served in a traditional teapot and couple it with freshly baked scones, strawberry jam and rich clotted cream.
Do it up right with London Afternoon Tea at Grosvenor House