Aside from afternoon tea, which is often associated with delicate porcelain cups and tiny sandwiches, the British cuisine does not have the best reputation. Most of the horror stories, often told by self-proclaimed gourmets, contain an account of jellied eels and bland food. However, with chefs such as Jamie Oliver or Yotam Ottolenghi, England’s food culture has also experienced a revival and London is its epicenter. When you are settling in London, you should take the chance and explore the city’s eateries, from fancy high-class restaurants to small food stalls, London has it all. And, of course, there are some traditional dishes you still should not miss.
If you are looking for a typical snack, you should not miss out on fish and chips. These fried fish fingers (or other unidentified fried objects, if you visit a particularly dodgy shop) are often also served with gravy or mushy peas. Poppies at Spitalfields or Camden is a good place to get this meal. Other British foods are making a comeback as well. Shepherd’s pie, vegetables and minced meat, topped with mashed potatoes, can be found in almost every pub. By the way, shepherd’s pie is traditionally made with lamb. The beef version is called cottage pie.
Another dish you may have heard of a lot and which you will come across regularly during your stay in London is the English breakfast. Often quoted as the perfect cure for a hangover, the English breakfast includes toast, baked beans, sausages, bacon, and eggs. In some cases grilled tomatoes or mushrooms may be included as well. And finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning tea. The British love their tea and usually drink it with milk or lemon. A scone with jam and clotted cream will go very well with it.
As you may have already noticed, living in London can be pretty expensive. Luckily, the food stalls all around the city offer a quick lunch at a reasonable price to those living on a shoestring. If you like the occasional “exotic” lunch, you will not have to hold back either as the food vendors sell everything from Indian, to Caribbean, to American food. Barbecues and burgers are particularly popular at the time. But pizza, pulled pork, and Korean and Mexican style foods are available as well. Food stalls can usually be found at the various markets throughout the city.
When you begin to leave the well-trodden tourist trails to discover your new home town, you will find more and more hidden eateries and secret spots which serve surprisingly delicious food. Once you turn away from the celebrity chef restaurants, you will come across low-profile places like the Sporting Club deLondres in Notting Hill, a Portuguese restaurant where regulars gather to watch football and enjoy seafood paella. Or how about a nice café/ delicatessen instead!? Paul Rothe and Sons in Marylebone, a family business in the fourth generation, is still giving off the old-fashioned charm of days past. The nostalgia of the café also shows in their menu. Aside from mustard and dill pickles, marmite and cucumber sandwiches, and caramel slices, the shop sells lemon curd, Highland fudge, and much more.
If you are working in Vauxhall and are looking for an authentic, albeit quirky, place to have lunch, you should not miss out on Sirena’s. Although the slightly cheesy interior is reminiscent of the 1970s, the food is delicious and not to mention cheap. Don’t be tempted to take a sandwich back to your office to eat at your desk. Stick around, make friends with other Londoners on their lunch break, and enjoy your pizza while the waiters are wielding hilariously phallic pepper grinders.
InterNations is the largest expatriate network worldwide, created to help members meet other high-profile expatriates from around the world living in their city and connect with them, both online and in real life through events and activities. InterNations also offers its members the know-how and support to make moving abroad more manageable. The network was founded in 2007 and now has over 1 million members in more than 390 Local Communities around the world.