January 18, 2010 Leave a comment
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone complain about the blandness of English food, I’d actually be able to afford to live in London.
Tourists have come back from England unimpressed with the cuisine. If you are like me, a student living in London, you are working with a small budget.
That means that until you get a place to stay with a proper kitchen, you’re going to be spending nights going to the corner chicken and chips shop and paying three pounds for a nice, greasy meal.
Don’t knock this. Chicken and chips are almost as popular in London as fish and chips, and many places in London – though not all – cook a decent version of it.
I had only thought that I’d tasted proper chips until I moved to the UK. There are plenty of pubs and small businesses that somehow turn a lonely spud into a dish of deliciously, crisp golden wedges. Restaurants like The Sea Cow and chains like the Golden Hind are experts at fish and chips.
As delicious as this traditional staple food can be, man does not live on fast food alone. Once you get your flat situated, you’ll still want to venture out and enjoy the great cuisine that London has to offer, even if you do not find traditional English dishes enticing.
Authentic International Dishes
If you search around enough, and ask questions, you’ll find that one of the great aspects of British culture is their earnest desire to experience an authentic version of dishes from around the world.
That is not to say that there aren’t some dishes altered to fit the British palate. For example, though Indian curry is the staple dish of England, you’ll find that restaurants will serve dishes that are mild rather than spicy. (Weaklings beware of Vindaloo.)
And there is no doubt that the supermarket versions of Indian curry are nothing like the delicious bowls of spicy sauce one might get in India. Still, Indian restaurants in residential areas of London tend to have wonderfully delectable meals and soft, freshly baked naan bread.
Chinese food is also more authentic in London than one would usually find in cities like New York. And though there some Italian restaurants in the States that are absolute perfection, you can’t wrong by visiting some of the best ones in London.
If you wanted to treat your palate to an extraordinary indulgence, you could not go wrong with The Terrace. A restaurant set in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, famed Chef Patrick Williams creates mouth-watering blends of French and Caribbean cuisine.
But if you are keen on experiencing authentic English dishes, then you may find it useful to stick with foods that don’t reach too far up the weird-o-meter. Toad in the hole, for instance, a breaded dish with pork sausage is a tasty treat. Imagine pigs in a very big blanket.
Triffle, a dessert made up of layers of custard, jello (what the British call jelly) and whipped cream, is delicious when done right and can be found almost anywhere including supermarkets chains like Waitrose. Yorkshire pudding is an appetizing little breaded treat that goes well with dinner foods. And England is especially famous for its meat pies (known in America as pot pie.)
Wherever you eat in London, you’ll typically do better by dining in residential areas rather than tourist spots. It’s cheaper and neighborhood restaurants strive to keep residents coming back. If you’re looking to save money, you can get great traditional cuisine in Pubs for a reasonable price. Try a few places until you find one that suits you. Be assured that your palate will be eventually satisfied and that England’s reputation for food is only misunderstood until one’s had the chance to sample it for more than 10 days.
So if you’re venturing out this way and planning to stay awhile, don’t be afraid to try something different. And remember, you don’t have to be American to relate to these experiences, and you don’t have to live in England to understand that every place on earth has its own special nuances. And the world keeps going ‘round.