The question-answer-insult that most Britons have been asked at least a dozen times with, some justification is: “Is there even such a thing as British food?” However, while British food cannot be defined as a mono-cuisine, specific characteristics unify the restaurants in London that could be labelled ‘British,’ even if those characteristics aren’t unique in isolation.
A focus on seasonal ingredients; a passion for utilising all of the animals; a strong sense of place yet openness to international techniques and flavours; and a moderately minimalist approach are all things that embody contemporary British restaurants. And it remains possible, to join the dots of ‘Modern British’, from the oft-derided but centuries’-old East London caffs, chippies and chop shops, pie and mash, via the mothership of ‘British’ cooking, and through the expansion of gastropubs. It’s food that’s unfussy and flavourful, it’s meat and two seasonal vegs, and it is not all bad.
BATTERSEA PIE STATION
It was awarded the prestigious title of London’s Best Pie in 2015 by TimeOut. Located in the heart of Covent Garden, and serving up free-range British meat and vegetables encased in traditional pie crust, it’s hard to believe that Battersea Pie Station was only founded in 2007. From meat pies to sweet pies, and to make these better is tasting one of the Station’s Weekly Guest Beers. Pies with ever-changing twists, Battersea Pie Station restaurant makes sure that their menu never feels dull and crusty.
Borough’s Roast is an ode to all things British, from farmers to ingredients. For a very reasonable £37.50, you can enjoy three courses on the Sunday Lunch Market menu, starring chorizo scotch eggs to start, before your roast of choice for main. Ending with a traditional British pud, such as an apple and plum crumble or a date sticky toffee pudding.
Stoney Street, SE1 1TL
Mac & Wild
Okay, it may not be English, but it’s still British – and yummy. Feast on Scottish specialities at Mac & Wild such as wild venison, beef, steak and seafood. Try the legendary Veni-moo burger – you won’t regret it. There’s also whisky, craft beer and gin on offer, for an authentic taste of Scotland.
65 Great Titchfield St, W1W 7PS
Fish and chips
One of the first pieces of (any) advice we’d give to those visiting London: avoid pub fish and chips in favour of the stuff from genuine chippies: we’re talking the crisp and chewy batter of Soho’s Golden Union Fish Bar, and the rich, flaky fillets of juicy cod from Sutton & Sons, Stoke Newington.
That’s not to say that going slightly upmarket doesn’t pay off: the kitsch-hip Poppie’s outlets serve up some genuinely spectacular battered cod and haddock, while we regularly dream of Kerbisher & Malt’s pleasantly chewy batter and proper mushy peas.
The Sunday roast is a British institution.
All reputable pubs enrichen their Sunday lunch menu with a selection of roast meat: beef, pork, chicken, lamb, with all the trimmings: vegetables, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, lots of gravy, possibly some cauliflower cheese. For the best Sunday roast experience, head to a proper British restaurant such as Hixter brought to you by British food champion and celebrity chef Mark Hix. Here you can share a whole roast chicken or a large cut of flawlessly cooked beef, all British-reared, and complete it with Bloody Marys or Buck’s Fizz (Mimosas).
For a more sophisticated occasion, the Simpson’s in the Strand.
Step into historical Simpson’s in the Strand, a London stalwart since 1828. The cuisine at this elegant outpost has become more contemporary in recent years, but some traditions continue – try the Scottish rib of beef, which is carved at your table from an antique silver-domed trolley