It’s Not Butterbeer, But It’ll Do: My Take on British Food

Brits aren’t exactly known for high-end cuisine. When I told my friends I would be going to London for the semester, none of them jumped up and down and said, “Just wait until you try the amazing British food!”

It's true that there is no melt-in-your-mouth gelato here, or endless supplies of bratwurst. But British food can actually be quite delicious (although I am wary of some of the sausages)! In order to best take you all along on the culinary journey that is my British life, I’m going to break it down for you by meal.

The Brits love their breakfast, which is evident by the ridiculous amount of food they give you when you order it. The traditional “full” English breakfast consists of eggs, a rasher of bacon, sausages, beans, and fried tomatoes. Although I generally love breakfast, my flat has a kitchen, not a dining hall, and I have a limited budget. Because of that I haven’t had a full English breakfast since my arrival in the country. But my roommate Carly, also studying in London, has a dining hall, and she calls the full breakfast “the most exciting part of the day!” Certainly there’s nothing like a full English breakfast to give you stamina to carry you straight through the day!

Cream Tea
This is probably not considered a proper meal, but that should definitely be changed. Cream tea is without a doubt my favorite meal in England, and my friends and I try to have it whenever we can. A traditional cream tea will come with a pot of tea (the default is English Breakfast), a scone, clotted cream, and strawberry or raspberry jam. What is clotted cream, you ask, and why should I spread it on my scone? Because it is actually one of the most wonderful things you will ever taste. Ever. It tastes like a combination of whipped cream and butter, and how could you possibly go wrong there? 

The scone, too, is wonderful, a delightfully crisp pastry studded with raisins. I usually don’t like pastries, and many of my friends don’t care for raisins, but something in scones (I suspect it’s a copious amount of butter) just makes them magical. My favorite place so far is the café of the Tate Modern. The museum is free to enter, and you can get a full tea for under five pounds! As they would say here, brilliant. 

Dinner is where the true British dishes begin to shine. Shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and bangers and mash all play a part. In fact, I’ve enjoyed many prepackaged meals of this sort from the local grocery store- since my favorite brands aren’t carried here (I’m still mourning your loss, Hormel turkey chili) I’ve been eating a lot of “traditional British meals” in the form of microwave meals.

Of course I’ve also eaten some real food, and it has all been very tasty! Our favorite place to go out to eat is one of the local pubs, Witherspoons. (Pubs are huge here- it’s a really chill place to just hang out.) For five pounds you can get a burger and a drink of your choice (I usually choose cider- the beer and cider in Britain is a million times better than in the U.S.) I did have an excellent meal the other night, though, that was more ‘traditional’. Sausage, chips, and beans (baked beans, of course) made up a delicious and filling meal.

My late night snacking also has a decidedly British flair. Although I desperately miss Hot Truck and Insomnia cookies, the fish cake I had a week ago and the chicken and mushroom pie I ate more recently both did an excellent job filling the gaps in my heart (and the space in my stomach).

Once again, not a meal, but I couldn’t write about food without commenting on the candy here. I am going to have to take crates of British chocolate back to the U.S. with me, because it is so much better than anything I ever had stateside. One bite of a Cadbury chocolate bar and a Hershey bar seems like inedible wax. Between the Cadbury milk chocolate, the chocolate orange bars I discovered, and a wonderful creation called the Mint Aero (a chocolate bar with mint bubbles in it!) it’s a wonder my pants still fit. Luckily, I have two saving graces- the cheapness and availability of fresh fruits and veg from local markets, and the enormous amount of walking I’ve been doing.

So if you ever find yourself in London, don’t fear the food. Just grab a pint, an order of fish and chips, and a Cadbury bar and enjoy what is sure to be a wonderful evening. Cheers!