THE BEST ENGLISH FOOD: 20 DELICIOUS THINGS TO TRY
Food is a significant part of every countries identity and when travelling to new places, it’s become an imperative part of most people’s itinerary to try a local dish. After all, how can you visit Paris and not feel compelled to try a freshly baked croissant from a local boulangerie? And the same can be said for England – below you’ll find some of the best English food that has been tried and tested (many, many, times).
THE HISTORY OF THE BEST ENGLISH FOOD
The majority of English food is exactly the kind of dish you’d want on a cold and wet day, which luckily for England, means the menu fits perfectly for 75% of the year.
Many of the best English foods date back to the 1800s, where money and food were scarce and people were making the most of what they could get their hands on.
Unfortunately, this meant that England got a bad reputation for their culinary skills that were dubbed as bland and boring. However, fast forward to today and there is not one thing on this list that isn’t bursting with flavour.
This is largely due to the incorporation of spices that have been introduced from foreign invasions during medieval times and collaborations with Asian countries.
Over the years, many of these recipes have been developed and perfected to represent England as a country of great and tasty food.
THE BEST ENGLISH FOOD: BREAKFAST
Historically, porridge was little more than a plain and tasteless bowl of sludge. However, today it is one of the most versatile and filling English breakfasts you can serve to your body.
From festive flavours like apple and cinnamon to a complex mix of protein powder, nuts, fruits, and the all-important dollop of nut butter. Either way, it’s guaranteed to fuel your morning and provide the balanced breakfast that we should all be striving for.
The latest trend in England is baked oats (like these blueberry baked oats). All you need to do is mix your desired concoction in an oven-proof dish and then bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees, and voila, it’s essentially cake for breakfast!
A FULL ENGLISH – ALSO KNOWN AS A FRY UP
A full English is everything you want it to be and more; it’s the weekend breakfast of dreams. What it contains is a very personal choice, however, the staple foods are typically sausages, eggs, beans, bacon, and hash browns. Some popular additions include mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding, and toast.
It’s unlikely that you’ll walk into a café serving breakfast in England and not find this on the menu.
A BACON AND EGG BUTTY/ROLL/BAP
A bacon and egg butty, roll or bap is a simplified, yet no less inferior, version of the full English breakfast.
You’ll find the name changes depending on where you are in the country, however, they all turn out as equally delicious. If you’re in the north then it will be called a bap, and in the south, it will be called a roll. If you’re anywhere in between then it will be called a butty.
Regardless of the name, make sure it’s soaked in tomato ketchup and/or brown source for the ultimate addition to one of the best English foods on the menu.
A crumpet is like an English muffin, but better; it’s a warm and rubbery bread that has small and sunken holes on the top. And when it’s slathered in a raspberry jam that soaks into those holes, it’s mouth-wateringly fantastic.
It’s a light breakfast and although it’s popular among England’s residents, is unlikely to be found on a café menu. Instead, pop into a supermarket such as Sainsburys.
DIPPY EGGS AND SOLDIERS
Dippy eggs and soldiers have been a firm favourite in our household since the age of 3 and I’d put money on it being near the top of many other families ‘best English food’ list.
Sliced toast smothered in butter and dunked into a semi-boiled egg with just the right amount of gooey yolk is a combination hard to beat. Top it off with a glass of orange juice and you’re onto a winner.
THE BEST ENGLISH FOOD: MAIN MEALS
BANGERS AND MASH
Bangers and mash (also know as sausage and mash) is a dish that never fails to disappoint; it’s delicious yet simple and very difficult to get wrong.
As the name suggests, the core ingredients are sausages and mashed potato, and additions such as beans or vegetables supplement it well. However, the game-changing addition to any bangers and mash dish is gravy. Once you’ve stacked everything on top of the mashed potato, it’s vital to drench it in gravy for a meal that quite literally is a banger.
FISH AND CHIPS
‘Fish and chip Friday’ is a notorious tradition in England that leads to long queues outside most ‘chippies’ across the country every week.
Although fish and chips are popular, it’s the chips that are the key player in this meal. So if fish isn’t to your taste buds, then a battered sausage or pie are always popular choices.
If you’re having fish and chips at a restaurant then you’ll usually be offered tartar sauce and a slice of lemon, however, a local chippie won’t be that fancy. Instead, you’ll find curry sauce, which I highly recommend drowning your chips in!
Afternoon tea nothing short of a genius idea; instead of picking just one thing off of the menu, you get to have a little bit of everything.
Stacked on a trio of tiered plates is usually a selection of sandwiches, cakes, and scones with clotted cream and jam. It’s almost impossible to finish the lot, but you’ll undoubtedly be offered a ‘doggy bag’ to take your treats home in.
Some of the best places to have afternoon tea in London are The Ritz, which is renowned for its fancy afternoon tea, and Oblix; a restaurant in The Shard that offers panoramic views of the city.
If you’re visiting the Cotswolds or Stratford-upon-Avon, then we also highly recommend Huffkins.
A shepherds pie is the perfect food when winter swings around; it’s the comfort food that every grandparent has a secret recipe for.
Shepherds pie isn’t the kind of pie that probably springs to mind – there is no pastry involved. Instead, it’s a compilation of layers that’s cooked in a large ovenproof dish and usually served with a side of vegetables.
The bottom layer is minced lamb and mixed with vegetables such as onions and peppers. Then a thick layer of fluffy mashed potato is smoothed over the top, followed by a generous helping of cheese.
Once the ‘pie’ enters the oven, the cheese is crisped to perfection.
Pasties are filled with all sorts of creative and delicious ingredients these days such as curried vegetables and chilli con carne. However, the Cornish Pasty is by far the most popular, with roughly 120 million made each year according to the Cornish Pasty Association.
The ingredients consist of beef, potato, swede, and onion that’s sprinkled with seasoning and encapsulated by an oven-baked pastry.
This simple recipe has been notorious across the country since the 1300s and certainly holds a well deserved place on the list of the best English food that every tourist should get their teeth into!
Fun fact: the crust was used for mining workers to hold the pasty with their grubby hands before throwing it away!
TOAD IN THE HOLE
Historically, toad in the hole was a dish created from leftover meat and Yorkshire pudding batter to avoid waste.
Today, the recipe is typically a tray bake of sausages and Yorkshire pudding batter cooked in the oven and served with gravy and vegetables.
Although it was not intended to become a popular dish and it’s not much to look at, it’s managed to stick around since its creation in the 17th century and still finds it’s way onto many menus across England.
BUBBLE AND SQUEAK
For many years, bubble and squeak was simply potato and cabbage mixed with herbs and fried in a frying pan.
Like many traditional English meals, it dates back to 1800s and was a way of making food go that little bit further.
Today, bubble and squeak has advanced slightly, while still keeping the same principle of avoiding waste.
Mix any leftover vegetables and meat with a some roughly mashed potato before frying, and you’ve got yourself a tasty meal!
There are a few countries such as France and Ireland trying to claim Beef Wellington as their own. However, England isn’t giving up this incredible dish without a fight.
Beef Wellington is a fillet of beef that’s wrapped in pastry and baked to perfection. It’s often served with roasted potatoes and vegetables, as well as red wine.
By wrapping the beef in pasty before it’s cooked means that it holds all of it’s flavour and juices to provide a succulent meal.
Although this dish is typically served around Christmas, it’s a great food that’s enjoyed throughout the year by the English population.
Although fish pie may sound slightly off-putting, it’s absolutely heavenly – and I say that as someone who isn’t a big fish eater.
It’s made up of white fish, a creamy sauce that’s mixed with herbs, and topped with mashed potato and cheese. Some recipes also include sliced hard boiled eggs, which sounds strange now that I am typing it, but they’re a great addition.
The dish is a traybake that is layered; the fish and egg is mixed with the sauce before topping it off with the mashed potato and a coating it with cheese.
It’s placed in the oven to heat before moving to the grill to crisp the mashed potato and cheese for the ultimate crunch.
Although it’s not a common dish that’s found on the menu, it’s one I would highly recommend you try if you do stumble across it.
And last but by no means least is the roast dinner, also known as ‘the Sunday roast’.
The Sunday roast is a tradition among many English families whereby everyone comes together to enjoy a home-cooked meal or afternoon at a restaurant/pub (most of which will have a specific Sunday menu of variations of a roast dinner).
A roast is a bit like a full English breakfast in terms of what people define it as, however it’s typically a joint of meat or whole chicken, roasted vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and a lot of gravy.
If there is only one meal that you try when visiting England then I highly recommend making it a roast dinner. However, bear in mind that this is typically only served on a Sunday in restaurants and pubs!
THE BEST ENGLISH FOOD: DESERT
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING
Sticky toffee pudding is a desert you’ll find on almost every menu across England; it’s a crowd pleaser and utterly delicious.
It’s made up of a sponge cake, chopped dates and a toffee sauce that melts in your mouth.
It’s served hot and usually paired with vanilla ice cream or custard to provide extra sweetness.
The Cotswolds has it’s very own pudding club that we highly recommend visiting if you’re in the area.
Apple crumble is another completely faultless pudding that makes it onto the list of best English food.
The creator of this desert found the perfect combination of sweet and sour with crunch and softness.
It’s contents consists of sliced apple covered in sugar and cinnamon, with a flour and butter based topping. When it’s placed in the oven to cook, the apple softens and the crumble turns to crunch.
Much like sticky toffee pudding, it’s typically paired with a vanilla ice-cream or custard and can be found on most menus across England – particularly in winter.
Another common desert that features on most menus across England is Eton Mess.
It’s believed to have originated from the college of Eton in the 1890s, and it has become a tradition over the years for the school to serve up a bowl of this delicious and fruity desert following their annual cricket match against Harrow School.
It’s a combination of strawberries, meringue and whipped cream and tastes like summer in a bowl if you ask me!
On the contrary, rice pudding is a desert that will warm your soul during the winter months.
While it’s little more than pudding rice and milk, it’s often sweetened up with sugar and served with a big dollop of jam that melts in the middle of the desert.
Rice pudding can be found in traditional pubs and restaurants, however it is also served in cans in local supermarkets.
Finally on our list of the best English food is a trifle!
A trifle is a desert that goes all out; it’s layered bowl of cake, custard, fruit, jelly and cream that’s best served straight from the fridge.
The cake is often soaked in alcohol such as sherry to add that extra kick, too.
If you spot this on the menu, then you’ve hit the jackpot!
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK
If we had to pick one from each section, it would look like this:
- A full English
- A roast dinner
- Sticky toffee pudding
What are you most looking forward to trying when you visit England? Or perhaps you’ve tried some of these yourself! Either way, let us know in the comments below!
- THE COTSWOLDS IN WINTER: 9 MAGICAL THINGS TO DO
- 11 ROMANTIC THINGS TO DO IN STRATFORD-UPON-AVON: A LOCALS GUIDE
Disclosure: any links within this blog are affiliated. This means we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you; if you use any of these links it really helps support our blog, so thank you!