While traditional British food may not have the best reputation worldwide, there are some delicious London food options you must try on your next trip. There’s a lot of tasty food in London. In this London food guide, I’ve compiled a list of famous London foods you must try on your next trip to the UK.
I’ve also included some fun places to enjoy food in London that serve these yummy options. Most popular foods in England are savory, but that doesn’t mean we Brits don’t kill it on the dessert front, too. I also have a UK national food guide to London’s best ice cream shops, so save room for dessert.
Traditional London Food: Beloved England National Food
Bangers and Mash
I’m putting bangers and mash at the top because I bloody love it. It’s simple, honest food and something you’ll find in most UK pubs. If you’re searching for the best food in London, you can’t go wrong with bangers and mah.
There are a few things to consider when ordering this UK national food. Firstly, what type of sausages is the restaurant serving? Check out the different regional sausages you can find in the UK—trust me, not all are created equal! The next thing to look out for is the gravy because you can’t have bangers and mash without it. If you have a choice between plain and original gravy, always go for the onion gravy.
You’ll often find that the sausage and mash is served in a giant Yorkshire pudding. Order this if you see it on the menu—it will change your life! Maybe not, but Yorkshire pudding is one of the most classic must-try London foods. It’s a batter mix of eggs, flour, and water cooked in an oven and served with a roast beef dinner. Some smart person long ago decided to cook a Yorkshire pudding with sausage, and Toad In the Hole was born.
I digress—my point is you need to eat sausage and mash or Toad In the Hole on your traditional British food tour.
Fish n’ Chips
Fish and chips are a staple London food item you can enjoy any day of the week, though it’s traditionally served on Friday. In the UK, we call fish and chip shops “chippies” since Brits like to shorten everything. So, for example, you would say, “Let’s go to the chippy for tea.”
Regarding incredible food in the UK, fish and chips are at the top of most people’s lists. You can get the dish in almost any pub in London—look out for beer-battered fish and chips. The best of the best is served at Poppie’s of London.
Don’t forget to order your chippy tea with mushy peas, salt, and vinegar.
Full English Breakfast
Another must-eat food in the UK is a full English breakfast, generally called a “full English.” What’s in a full English breakfast, you ask? This can vary a lot, but the staples are:
- Two rations of back bacon
- Two pork sausages
- One or two fried eggs
- Baked beans (must be Heinz)
- Tomatoes (fried or plum)
- Black pudding
- Fried bread or toast
Sometimes, you might get hashbrowns, but not always. If you eat later in the day, you may be offered brunch, which is all the above, but sub the toast for bread and butter and the hashbrowns for chips. There are so many bottomless brunches in London that you should try this traditional English food experience at least once in the city.
Essentially a heart attack on a plate, it’s worth the clogged arteries. Black pudding is a traditional London food, but it’s not my cup of tea, so I typically pass.
You can find the best breakfast in London at The Shepherdess.
Of all the popular foods in England that I miss the most living abroad, Sunday roast is at the top. Along with a full English breakfast, you can’t get more traditional British food in the UK than a classic roast dinner. It’s basically like a less fancy Christmas dinner eaten every Sunday—rather than turkey, Brits substitute a roasted chicken, beef, or a leg of lamb. You’ll find roast dinner served across the country every Sunday.
A carvery is one of the best London food places to try a Sunday roast. A carvery is a shop where you can get a roast dinner any day of the week—pay and get in line, where you’ll choose between three or four types of meat, ranging from turkey, chicken, and pork to lamb, beef, and ham. Tell the chef your choice, and they will carve off slices and plate them with Yorkshire pudding. Once handed your meat-filled plate, continue down the line, piling your plate high with roast potatoes, mash, vegetables, cauliflower, and cheese, then drown everything in gravy!
Note that when you get to the gravy, there will likely be options for vegetarian, normal, onion, or lamb gravy. The lamb gravy has a minty flavor—I learned this the hard way after rendering my dinner unedible since I hate mint sauce!
Visit The Spaniards Inn for an unforgettable Sunday roast experience.
British Indian Curry
I’m putting my neck on the line by saying British Indian curry is the most popular and perhaps the most beloved UK national food in London. In the UK, we LOVE Indian food. So, why do I say British Indian curry and not just Indian curry? Well, because they’re different—even the term “curry” is a bastardized term from the Tamil word “kari,” which means seasoning.
Curry became popular in the UK after World War II when many settled in the UK from India. Struggling to find work in post-war Britain, they opened restaurants to sell Indian food. Since your average Brit won’t have the stomach for much spice, they adapted traditional recipes to cater to their clientele. Thus, British Indian classics such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Rogen Josh were born.
To sample some of the best curries in the UK, head to Brick Lane, one of the most unique places to eat in London. The area has been pretty gentrified and is very hipster, BUT it’s full of delicious curry houses, so you can pick where to eat.
Pie and Mash
Now we’re getting into some English traditional food! The pie and mash (or pie and chips) dish consists of potatoes and gravy! Are you seeing a pattern here? Pretty much all British food is served with potatoes and gravy, haha. Your typical British meal will always consist of “meat and two veg” plus potatoes and, more often than not, gravy!
Pie and mash is a traditional London food, and there’s only one place to get it in London: Godard’s Pie Shop. Here, they serve pie with liquor, a tasty London food tradition. Godard’s has the BEST pies and other classics, like jellied eels—yup, that’s right. Eels in jelly!
Bubble and Squeak
Bubble and squeak is a traditional English food many Brits enjoy, but it’s not commonly found in restaurants. Bubble and squeak is made of leftovers from a roast dinner, so it’s a bit challenging if circumstances don’t align.
In the UK, we have a deep-rooted tradition of “make do and mend,” which comes from living through rations during and after WWII. This mentality of reusing and repurposing covered everything from socks to never wasting food. So if there were leftover potatoes and veg after a Sunday dinner, they’d be used for bubble and squeak on Monday. Mash everything together, form patties, and fry them up—you usually eat bubble and squeak with a fried egg, leftover meat, or a couple of bacon rations.
It’s a shame bubble and squeak isn’t enjoyed more widely throughout the UK as it’s so good! My favorite place to eat bubble and squeak is Borough Market, a small cafe. Order it for breakfast on a bap (bread roll) with an egg—you won’t regret it!
Did you know even UK national food is subject to the class system? I realized this while traveling, as some London foods are considered common and others high-class.
Don’t be confused by the use of the word “tea,” as this can mean several things:
Tea: A drink made from black tea leaves served with milk.
Also tea: Something to eat at five or six p.m. for your evening meal.
High Tea is a mix of both—it’s traditionally something that rich people eat between their lunch and evening meals and referred to as dinner or tea, depending on where you’re from. High tea isn’t just a classic London food, it’s a whole experience! Places like the Ritz, Claranges, and the British Museum host exceptional High Teas. This traditional British food is only served between two and four p.m., so check on timing beforehand.
Jam Rolly Polly and Custard
Now it’s time for dessert, or, as we like to call it, “afters.” One of the best England national food dishes served for dessert is jam rolly polly served with custard.
You know how Brits like to drown their dinner in gravy? Well, we do the same with our dessert, only rather than gravy, we soak it in piping hot, creamy custard! While you can eat custard cold, I don’t recommend it as the topping is best served warm.
If you can’t find jam rolly polly on the menu, look for one of these classic London foods instead:
- Bread and butter pudding
- Sticky toffee pudding
- Treacle sponge
- Spotted dick
- Jam sponge
Anything with the word sponge or pudding will involve a hot cake with some fruit that tastes like a warm hug!
London Food Guide Final Thoughts
That brings me to the end of this London food guide to the most popular foods in England. I hope you enjoy embarking on a self-guided tour of food in the UK with this compilation of can’t-miss traditional British food spots.