Food and drink

British food and drink is often unfairly criticised, and despite a recent renaissance, it still doesn’t always get the attention or appreciation it deserves.

The British love of food goes back a long way, and even hundreds of years ago famed foreign chefs were earning extortionate amounts in the service of the wealthy and the royal. Naturally, serving foreign cuisine to your guests was a sign of affluence, and French food was historically favoured over the simpler British dishes. Until very recently anyone looking for a special meal would turn their noses up in restaurants at the food they enjoyed at home. Consequently Britain has a superb range of restaurants serving every kind of international cuisine, while local specialities were long overlooked.

Few people outside Britain, and few tourists that visit the country, have any idea of the richness of home cooking. Trifle, fruit crumble, treacle pudding, syrup pudding, apple sponge, treacle tarts, summer pudding, gingerbread are just a few examples of the great British pudding, in addition to the delights you can enjoy with a nice cup of tea: Victoria sponge, fairy cakes, countless other cake varieties, fruit scones, jam and clotted cream.

However, recently there has been a revival of interest in British cuisine, and along with a local take on international dishes, you can now enjoy English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish food in even the smartest of restaurants. So as well as enjoying Britain’s excellent international restaurants (Italian, French, Indian, Chinese, Thai…) try searching out an English, (or Scottish, or Welsh…) restaurant, or enjoy a pub meal with the sort of desserts that few countries can surpass. Alternatively, vegetarian restaurants frequently feature innovative takes on traditional dishes as well as offering high-quality organic ingredients.

Traditional favourites to sample while travelling around the UK include fish and chips (with mushy peas in Yorkshire), jellied eels (in London’s East End) and Cornish pasties. England and Wales also produce many delicious cheeses, such as Cheshire, Cheddar, Stilton and Leicester. And when it comes to drinking, as well as wine from one of nearly 400 small vineyards producing wine in the UK, there is plenty of locally-produced ale, beer and cider as well as the famous Scottish whisky.