Okay, okay, so I know traditional British food may not have the best reputation worldwide. Especially when you compare British food to that of our European neighbors. But it’s not all bad, I promise. In fact, there are some super tasty traditional English dishes. In this guide, I’ve pulled together a list of London famous food you must try on your next trip to the UK. I’ve also included some fun places to eat in London that will be serving up these delights! Most of the foods to try on this list are savory meals, but that doesn’t mean we Brits don’t kill it on the dessert front, because we do. In fact, I have found some of the best ice cream shops in London, so be sure to save room for dessert!
Bangers and Mash
I’m putting bangers and mash right up here at the top, because I bloody love it. It’s simple, honest food an something you will be able to find in pretty much any pub you visit in the UK. So as far as food in London England goes, it won’t be hard to find.
But there are a few things to look out for when ordering this London typical food. Firstly what type of sausages are they serving? Look out for the different regional sausages you can find in the UK, trust me, not all sausages are created equal!
The next thing to look out for is the gravy. Because you can’t have sausage and mash without gravy. Is it just plane gravy? Or fancy onion gravy? If you have a choice, always go for the onion gravy! Quite often you will get lucky and find that sausage and mash is served in a giant Yorkshire pudding.
If you see this on the menu, order it. It will change your life. Ok maybe not. But Yorkshire puddings are one of the most British things you can eat and so you HAVE to try them. It’s essentially a batter mix (eggs, flour, and water) that we cook in an oven and serve with a roast beef dinner (more on this later). But some smart person decided to cook the Yorkshire puddings with sausages in it, and Toad in the Hole was born. You might not see it named as toad in the hole in a pub or restaurant, as it’s something normally made at home.
Anyway, I digress, my point is you need to eat sausage and mash, and or toad in the hole while in the UK.
Fish n’ Chips
You want popular food in London? Then you want fish and chips. It’s pretty much the staple food of England after all. Fish and chips can be eaten any day of the week but traditionally you would have a ‘chippy tea’ on a Friday.
Quick British English lesson… In the UK chips and fries and you buy them from a fish and chip shop which we shorten to chippy. For example, you would say ‘let’s go to the chippy for tea’ rather than let’s go to the fish and chip shop for tea’. It’s too much of a mouthful and us brits like to shorten EVERYTHING!
As far as London special food goes fish and chips is at the top of most people’s lists. You can get this in almost any pub in London (look out for beer-battered fish and chips. But if you want the best, then go to Poppie’s of London.
If you want to eat your chippy tea like a brit then you need to order it with mushy peas, salt, and vinegar.
Full English Breakfast
Second to fish and chips on most people’s lists of London must eat food is the full English breakfast. Which is normally referred to just at a ‘full English’. But what is in a full English? Well this can vary a lot, but the staples are as follows:
- 2 rations of back bacon
- 2 pork sausages
- 1 or 2 fried eggs
- Baken 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 a brunch which is all of the above but sub the toast for bread and butter and the hashbrowns for chips! There are so many bottomless brunches in London, you should really try and do this at least once while in the city.
It’s basically a heart attack on a plate. But totally worth the clogged arteries if you ask me! Although black pudding may be a food to try in London, it’s not something I would eat. Just the thought of eating dry blood makes me feel queasy… but that’s just me!
So if I’ve convinced you to try a full English you may be wondering where the best places for breakfast in London are? Well, you will find this served pretty much everywhere in London. But if you want the best breakfast in London then try The Shepherdess.
Of all of the meals in London I miss the most living abroad, a Sunday roast really is right up at the top. Along with a full English, you can’t get more traditional food in the UK than a roast dinner. It’s basically like a less fancy Christmas dinner that we eat each Sunday and rather than turkey we substitute it for a roasted Chicken or another cut of meat. Like a top side of beef, or a leg of lamb. You will find roast dinner served across the country every Sunday either where you can order which roasted meat you want from a choice of 2 or 3. Or you can go to what’s called a carvery.
A carvery is where you can get a roast dinner any day of the week, you pay your money and then get in line. You will be given a choice of normally 3 or 4 types of meat including turkey, chicken, pork, lamb, beef, or ham. You tell the chef your choice and he or she will carve off slices for you and put them on a plate with a Yorkshire pudding. They will then hand you your meat-filled plate and you continue down the line piling your plate high with roast potatoes, mash, vegetables, cauliflower cheese, and then you drown it in gravy!
*Warning when you get to the gravy you will likely have options vegetarian gravy, normal gravy, onion gravy, and lamb gravy. The lamb gravy will have mint sauce in it, so if you aren’t a fan avoid the lamb gravy. I learned this the hard way after rendering my dinner unable once, I hate mint sauce. It was a sad day…
Make sure you add a roast dinner to your London must eat food list and visit The Spaniards Inn.
British Indian Curry
I’m going to put my neck out here and say that the British Indian curry is the most popular food in London, actually the UK. In the UK we LOVE Indian food. So why do I say British Indian curry and not just Indian curry? Well because they are different. Even the term curry is a bastardized term from the Tamil word kari, which means seasoning.
Cury became popular in the UK after World War 2 when many people settled in the UK from India https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-British-Curry/. Struggling to find work in a post-WWII Britan they decided to open up restaurants, selling Indian food. But as your average brit doesn’t have the stomach for too much spice they adapted traditional recipes to cater to their clientele. And thus British Indian classics such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Lamb Rogen Josh were born.
If you want to sample some of the best curries in the UK then you need to head to Brick Lane. It is one of the most unique places to eat in London. The area has been pretty gentrified and is very hipster BUT on this street, you will find back to back curry houses so you can take your pick of where to eat.
As a bonus, if you are with a group you will likely be fought over by the guys outside the restaurants offering you free things to choose them!
Pie and Mash
Now we are getting on to some London local food. Pie and mash, or you could also get pie and chips. It doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that your pie is served with some kind of potatoes and of course, gravy! Are you seeing a pattern here? Pretty much all British food is served with potatoes and gravy haha. Your typical British mean will always consist of ‘meat and 2 veg’ plus potatoes and more often than not, gravy!
Pie and mash is a traditional London food and there is only one place I go for mine when I’m in London and that’s Godard’s Pie Shop.
Here instead of gravy, you will have your pie served up with liquor, which is a tradition in London and it’s delicious! They have the BEST pies and some other typical food in London that you might want to try like jellied eels. Yup, that’s right EELS IN JELLY. You’re a braver person than me if you try this particular typical London food!
Bubble and Squeak
This is a traditional food that many Brits enjoy, but it’s not something often found in a restaurant because of the nature of the dish. Bubble and squeak is a mean made up of leftovers from a roast dinner.
In the UK we have a deep-rooted tradition of what we called ‘make do and mend’ it comes from living through WWII and then in the post-war years when everything was still rationed. This mentality of reusing and repurposing fed into everything from darning socks to never wasting any food. So if after a Sunday dinner there were leftover potatoes and veg (which let’s face it there almost always is) then on Monday those leftovers would be transformed into Bubble and Squeak. Basically, you mash up all the leftovers and make patties with them which you then fry up and eat normally with a fried egg, leftover meat, or a couple of rations of bacon.
It’s kind of a shame it’s not eaten more widely as it is so good! But as a London special food, you can find it in a few places. And most of those are also fun places to eat in London. My favorite please to eat Bubble is in Borough Market as a small cafe. Go here and order it for breakfast on a bap with an egg ( a bap is a bread roll), you won’t regret it!
Did you know that in the UK even food is subject to the class system? Seriously. I only actually realized this while traveling. But there are certain foods that we Brits think of as being ‘common’ food, ie food that only poor people eat. Pretty much everything on this list up to now would be in that class of ‘poor/ working-class food’ apart from curry of course!
But we are now going to jump up a few classes and move on to some ‘posh people food’. Don’t be fooled by the name tea. This means a few different things in the UK
Tea – a drink made from black tea leaves served with milk (yup that’s right milk)
Tea – depending on if you are from the north or not tea is also what you eat at 5 or 6 pm for your evening meal.
So High Tea is a bit of a mix of both. Traditionally it’s something that rich people had in between lunch and their evening meal (referred to as dinner or tea depending on which side of the North-South divide you fall on). A high tea is not just a British food to eat in London, it’s a whole experience to have! Plus the best places to take high tea (that’s right one takes high tea darrrrling) are also pretty cool places to eat in London. Like the Ritz or Claranges, or even at the British Museum. This traditional English food in London is only served between 2 and 4 pm normally so do check timing before turning up.
Jam Roly Poly and Custard
Now it’s time for dessert, or as we like to call it ‘afters’. If you want to sample some typical English food that we eat for afters then may I suggest jam rolly polly served with custard! Now, this is not the weird frozen stuff eaten in the USA, this is hot and sweet!
You know how Brits like to drown their dinner in gravy? Well, we like to do the same with our desert, only rather than gravy, we drown it in piping hot, bright yellow, thick (but not lumpy) custard! Now you can eat custard cold, but that’s disgusting, so please don’t do that.
If you can’t find Jam roly-poly on the menu, then look out for one of these British classics instead:
- Bread and Butter Pudding
- Sticky toffy pudding
- Treacle sponge
- Spotted dick
- Jam sponge
Pretty much anything with the word sponge or pudding on! They are all mostly the same, it’s like a hot sponge cake with some kind of fruit and it tastes like a warm hug…
And that brings me to the end of my list of traditional British foods to eat in London. After reading back through this list it’s honestly ist no wonder I’ve lost so much weight since leaving the UK! I hope you have a lot of fun eating your way around London! Don’t forget to come back here and tell me about all the food you tried!
Tuesday 23rd of November 2021
I loved it thank you, I plan to visit London soon and I'm curious to try these dishes there
Friday 30th of July 2021
I want to visit London for a trip