Before I headed off on my semester-long adventure in the United Kingdom, I was warned by friends and strangers alike of the terribly bland food I’d encounter across the pond. “British food just isn’t good,” I was told on multiple occasions. “It doesn’t have a lot of flavor.”
From first-hand experience, my full, happy tummy and I would like to disagree. British food, especially traditional meals, are anything but bland! My British friends have been taking me to some of the best spots around London to try the foods they grew up with—pies (not the dessert kind), fish and chips, bangers and mash, English breakfast, and Sunday roast, to name a few favorites. There’s a common theme in almost all traditional British meals: they combine meat, carbs, and hearty vegetables to make filling and balanced dishes. British food is comfort food!
1. Steak Ale Pie
One of my very first proper British meals was at a pub in Westminster. The little dive was advertising their special on pies for lunch, so we seized the opportunity to try a classic. The single-sized pie was baked to a flaky, golden brown on the outside, and the inside was full of hot steak, gravy, and onions. The dish was served with mash, mixed vegetables, chips, and lots and lots of gravy to top it off. Pie for dinner was absolutely acceptable, and such a deliciously warm welcome to England.
2. Fish and Chips
Everyone knows about this classic, and it really does live up to its fame. Fish and chips can be pretty heavy because of the thick batter, so it’ll keep you full for the rest of the day. Traditionally served with peas, the fish-and-chip duo goes perfectly with tartar sauce and fresh lemon juice. You can grab this meal all over London—as a nice meal at a pub or as takeaway. Cod and haddock are the most common type of fish used for the dish, but other white fish are used, too.
3. Bangers and Mash
My only knowledge of this dish prior to being in England came straight from Harry Potter, so of course, I was dying to eat as the wizards do. In reality, it’s not just wizards that enjoy this meal. Sausage, mash, peas, and gravy are for the muggles, too! The ‘bangers’ are a bit sweet and savory, which partners perfectly with hot mash and gravy. Another pub classic!
4. Sunday Roast
Are you seeing a common theme here? The fanciest and most filling of them all, Sunday Roast can be enjoyed any day of the week but is traditionally a meal for family and Sunday celebration. This particular roast was served with carrots, kale, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower cheese, and Yorkshire pudding. I had no idea what exactly Yorkshire pudding was until this meal, and my British friends explained that it’s not pudding at all, but a kind of bread for dipping in gravy or eating separately. Trust me—it’s far from bland.