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Classic Dishes to Try in Britain

Classic Dishes to Try in Britain

11 September 2017 | Nicola Freedman

Often described as bland, stodgy and overcooked, the UK has a longstanding reputation for its less than appetizing cuisine. However, the country has experienced somewhat of a gastronomic renaissance in recent years, with a wealth of excellent food now available. For a proper introduction though, make sure to try some of the country’s classic dishes. So put on your loosest clothing, and eat your way around the country, with our guide to the top UK dishes.

Full English Breakfast


Image credit: Imgur
 
Not for the faint-hearted, the full English is easily one of the country’s most recognisable meals. While you can get different versions depending on where you are, a traditional plate includes eggs, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and of course tea. However, if you can, add on an order of bubble and squeak as well. Another quintessential British concoction, it consists of shallow-fried veg typically leftover from a Sunday roast (potato, Brussel sprouts and cabbage are commonly used). The full English is best eaten on an empty stomach, or to cure a horrific hangover.
 
Where to try it: For a truly authentic experience head to a greasy spoon such as London’s East End landmark 'E Pellicci', which has been serving the classic meal since it opened in 1900. Other great spots include 'The Jericho Café' in Oxford, 'Joe's Café' in Brighton and 'The Bristolian Café' in Bristol.

Cornish Pasties
 

Image credit: Aspects Holidays

Thought to have been around since the 14th Century, pasties were eaten by Cornish tin miners and farm labourers as a tasty and easily portable meal. Traditionally filled with beef, potato, swede and onion (and seasoning to taste), these piping hot parcels of thick baked pastry are the perfect meal to keep you full and satisfied. For the vegetarians, or for those of you who just don’t fancy beef, you can now tuck into a Cornish pasty with a variety of fillings from cheese and onion to chicken and mushroom.
 
Where to try it: Cornwall, the birthplace of the pasty. Our pick of the lot is 'Philips', where locals and visitors queue out the door for their traditional handmade pasties.

Fish and Chips


Image credit: Cooking Channel
 
You simply cannot visit the English seaside without eating fish and chips. A traditional meal since 1865, fish and chips have remained a firm favourite across the country. While you may have had fish and chips in other parts of the world, we guarantee you’ve never had anything like the British version. A generous portion of fried Cod or Haddock is typically served with thick cut chips and doused in salt and vinegar. For first timers, a side of mushy peas is also a must. Don’t be alarmed - they taste far nicer than they look!

Where to try it: While you can get a proper fish and chips all over the country, its best eaten by the seaside. Our picks are Bournemouth or Brighton – the two original British seaside towns.
 
 
Pork Pie


Image credit: Scott Chasserot

A shining example of a British meat pie, the humble pork pie is a simple, yet incredibly tasty, meal. Easily identifiable by its unique round shape, the pie consists of roughly chopped pork and pork jelly encased in a hot water pastry crust. Unlike many other British meat pies this meal is typically served cold, making it a popular summer snack and a great addition to any party spread. Best served with a dollop of English mustard, or a little pickle.
 
Where to try it: Pork pies can be purchased in supermarkets, butcher shops, pubs and restaurants across the country. However, if you want a truly excellent pie, ‘Bakers Arms’ in Blaby, Leicestershire, and ‘The Southampton Arms’ in Highgate, both serve excellent pork pies.
 
 
Scotch Eggs
 

Image credit: Asda Good Living

A signature snack in most British pubs, scotch eggs are the perfect accompaniment to a cold pint. So what exactly is a scotch egg? The conveniently hand-sized snack is essentially a hardboiled egg (some prefer theirs slightly softer in the middle) encased in sausage meat, covered with breadcrumbs, and either baked or deep-fried. It might sound unusual, and to be honest a little unappetizing, but like a lot of British delicacies it is delicious. Trust us.
 
Where to try it: You can find scotch eggs on the menu of any good pub across the country. For a fancier version, visit luxury food emporium 'Fortnum & Mason' in London, who are said to have created the dish in 1738.
 
 
Haggis


Image credit: Grants of Speyside
 
Ah haggis. Much like marmite, it is a divisive dish. A traditional sausage made from the stomach, liver, lungs, and heart of a sheep, and then cooked with oatmeal, onion, and seasoning, haggis is considered somewhat of an acquired taste. However, if you find yourself in Scotland you must at least try their national delicacy. Commonly served with neeps and tatties (swedes and mashed potatoes), haggis basically tastes like a spicy meat sausage, which, if cooked properly, is wonderful.
 
Where to try it: Haggis can be found all over Scotland. Seriously, the stuff is everywhere. If you’re after a more interesting take though, we recommend 'Los Cardos' in Edinburgh for a haggis burrito of epic proportions.   


Bakewell Tart


Image credit: Baking Mad

While excellent tarts abound in the UK, a standout is the Bakewell. Despite the debate as to whether it is a pudding or a tart, there is no question that this a one of Britain’s finest, and tastiest, deserts. Closely associated with the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, the tart consists of a shortcrust pastry layered with jam, frangipane, and a topping of flaked almonds. Pair with a cup of tea for a perfect morning or afternoon treat.
 
Where to try it: Bakewell in Derbyshire. As the birthplace of the tart, it is unsurprising that the picturesque town serves some of the country’s best slices.
 
 
Welsh Cakes


Image credit: Great British Chefs

Wales is home to many signature dishes, but if you’re to eat only one thing make it a Welsh cake. Popular since the late 19th Century, these buttery cakes (flavoured with spice and dried fruit) are incredibly moreish. Best eaten warm, they are small in size, so don’t worry about helping yourself to more than one. Top tip: Buy in bulk.
 
Where to try it: Wales of course! For a fresh batch, 'Fabulous Welshcakes' in Cardiff is the place to go.
 
 
Afternoon Tea


Image credit: The Telegraph

It may have become somewhat of a cliché, but the British really do love their tea. Generally associated with the South West of England, especially Devon and Cornwall, afternoon tea is the ultimate British tradition. While each menu tends to feature seasonal items, no afternoon tea is complete without delicate finger sandwiches, scones (to be eaten with jam and clotted cream) and small desserts such as financiers or madeleines. Of course, one cannot forget the tea itself. Most menus will offer an extensive range of teas to choose from, but if you’re stuck for choice the traditional English breakfast is always a safe bet. Sipping tea and scoffing down scones? We can’t think of a more perfect way to spend an afternoon.
 
Where to try it: There are excellent offerings in Devon and Cornwall, but if you find yourself in the country’s capital we recommend 'Claridge's Hotel' for a traditional, and luxurious, high tea.
 
 
Sunday Roast


Image credit: Manchester Evening News

No list would be complete without the quintessential Sunday Roast. A staple of any British diet, this hearty meal has become an integral part of the national identity. While variations abound, a traditional Sunday roast features a choice of a roast meat (beef/chicken/pork/lamb), roast potatoes, seasonal veggies and, of course, a crisp Yorkshire pudding. Oh, and don’t forget to smother it all in a rich gravy. Heaven.
 
Where to try it: While many swear by a home-cooked Sunday roast, they are also commonly eaten in pubs all over the country. For a seriously good roast our pick is the 'Marksman Public House' in East London.

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