London is one of the most populous and ethnically diverse cities in Europe. As anyone who’s lived in a multicultural city will tell you, this has a huge influence in the local cuisine: tasty fusions emerge when international communities live, eat and cook in the same city!
England’s capital has a rich, long history of traditional cuisine; while it is also a thrilling hub of food innovations. Here are some types of foods to try if you’re ever in London, ranging from UK specialities to foods that London restaurateurs do especially well to cuisines unique to this incredible city…
No matter where you’ve tasted curry before, you should try it in London. Due to a combination of local and international tastes, British curries have evolved into something unique and incredibly popular.
Chicken Tikka Masala is a good example of a “melting pot” food; something created by combining cultures. Tikka Masala’s roots are up for debate, but some say it’s an invention of London’s Bangladeshi community.
A simple curry can be purchased in a takeaway or a Michelin-starred restaurant, and (just like everything in life), you get what you pay for.
This is a great example of food reflecting culture. There are numerous Japanese restaurants in London that combine western influences. And, as you might notice, there were crossover foods in Japanese and English culture dating back years: namely, deep fried fish dates back to European Christian influences in both England and Japan.
In other words, England’s fish & chips and Japan’s haddock tempura both had the same historical source.
You can get an English breakfast noodle dish in Nobu Shoreditch; eggs benedict with Japanese-style tuna and avocado in Soho’s Sexy Fish; or Japanese food with British ingredients in Untitled.
“Farm to Table”
This is a dining phenomenon not unique to Britain, but one that we do especially well. Diners are becoming more aware of ingredients, as organic supplies soar in popularity, freshness is paramount, and a low-carbon footprint is valued.
And, because Britain has more than its share of high-quality farms, this is a trend suited to London restaurants.
Grass-fed beef, free range eggs and poultry, game meats and poultry, and organic vegetables are often routed straight from the organic farm to the high-end restaurant.
These kinds of restaurants tend to have revolving menus that adapt to seasonality and availability of ingredients. That way, diners are only eating the freshest fare.
It’s a philosophy followed by Goat in Garden, a popular fresh-produce restaurant founded by Le Cordon Bleu alumna Margaux Stepczynski.
Pan Asian Food
While some of the cuisines mentioned in this article combine British with international disciplines, London has also fostered a wonderful crossover of foods from within Asia. A pan Asian restaurant might be a blend of two styles (Japanese and Chinese are common combinations), or a more elaborate tour across the East, taking in Japanese, Korean, Thai and other influences.
We’ve talked before about London's street food trends and described how popular street food is in the English capital.
Essentially, it combines the convenience and comfort of low-fi food with (in the best cases) high-end ingredients and cooking expertise. This might mean noodles, Indian food, or even Portuguese “prego” meat sandwiches (a speciality of Growlers, founded by Le Cordon Bleu graduates).
Street food can be enjoyed via food trucks, stalls, pop-up restaurants or – increasingly – in traditional bricks and mortar restaurants.
Pastries and Desserts
We like our sweet snacks in London.
Maybe we don’t stop for afternoon tea every day any more, but some aspects of that British tradition remain. Yes, we still have an affection for British treats, many of which date back hundreds of years.
Scones, best enjoyed with jam and cream, date back to the 16th Century, while carrot cake has been enjoyed by Londoners since the 8th Century (though we only started icing it in the 1960s). Arguably, the most modern and decadent classic London dessert is sticky toffee pudding, which hit the big time in the 1970s. Think of it as a softer, fresher, creamier version of a traditional chocolate muffin, best served with cream, custard or ice-cream. It’s exactly as good as it sounds.
British desserts have recently garnered international attention thanks to The Great British Bake Off (one of which was won by Le Cordon Bleu graduate John Waite). And you’ll find a mix of British and international (especially French) treats on most dessert menus.
Like other foods on this list, English sweet foods are often inspired by international fare. So, London is an excellent city for cupcakes, pastries and more.
That’s a lot to take in, but for an overview, we’d recommend a jaunt on the acclaimed Sweet Tooth Tours around London. Founded by Le Cordon Bleu alumna Lynne Staartjes , this tour gives you a delicious introduction to the city’s sweetest spots.
See you in London!
Le Cordon Bleu is proud to be part of London cuisine, training chefs, restaurateurs and more for generations.
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