London is renowned for its rich history and diverse culture, and it’s also a haven for food enthusiasts. From a hearty full English breakfast to the quintessential fish and chips, as well as some of the finest desserts, there’s something for everyone. This article covers it all, from snacks to desserts, we’ll guide you to the top spots for the tastiest British dishes to try in London.
Would you rather watch than read? Our 2-part YouTube video showcases the dishes mentioned below, giving you an inside look at each one.
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Top British dishes to try in London:
The Full English Breakfast
A full English breakfast (also called a Fry Up) is a must on the list of top British dishes to try in London. This hearty meal has been around since the Victorian era and typically consists of eggs, sausages, bacon, and more. It became a symbol of affluence as the wealthy would showcase their prosperity with a lavish spread on their breakfast tables.
Pie and Mash
Pie and mash has been a beloved comfort food in Britain for generations. Although the dish has evolved to include different flavours such as chicken and mushroom, traditional steak and ale still remains a favourite. The pies are usually served with a distinctive liquor sauce, which used to have a fish stock base for eel pies but has now switched to a vegetable base because of the decline in eel sales. And of course, you can’t miss the mashed potatoes!
We love to stop into Goddards of Greenwich, a family business run for generations, for extremely affordable and tasty pie and mash. Not sure how to work it into your London plans? It’s included in day 6 of our 6-Day London Itinerary, so we’ve done the planning for you.
When talking about the best dishes to try in London, we cannot leave out Indian cuisine, which made its way to the UK during colonisation times and when there was an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants in the 1960s and 70s. Popular restaurants like Dishoom have won over the hearts of both locals and tourists with their affordable and scrumptious Indian dishes, plus there are smaller mom-and-pop spots around the city that locals love too. The fact that Indian cuisine has become a part of London’s food culture speaks to the city’s diverse and multicultural community. We also love how vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly it can be.
Dishoom is included in multiple days of the London itinerary (because it has multiple locations), as are some other Indian restaurants we approve of. You could also book this amazing Indian Food Tour of London with Secret Food Tours to experience a range of dishes and learn more about the history of the cuisine and the community in London.
Fish and Chips (or Tofish and Chips)
Fish and chips have been a popular dish in the British fast-food industry since the 1860s. Poppie’s is highly recommended for anyone who wants to try this classic meal, which consists of battered fish and deep-fried chips. You can also get mushy peas on the side, which despite its appearance, is actually quite delicious.
If you’re a vegetarian or don’t eat fish, consider visiting Unity Diner, a non-profit restaurant founded in 2018 by a group of friends, including vegan educator Earthling Ed. They offer a full vegan menu, which includes an award-winning fish-free version of the famous fish and chips called Tofish and Chips. The restaurant promotes animal rights through their vegan menu, providing a guilt-free dining experience for those interested in ethical eating.
Poppie’s is included in our London itinerary, plus one of our favourite food tours of London’s East End stop here, so we recommend booking a spot so you can try this British dish in London as well as a bunch of tasty others.
Sunday roast is a beloved British tradition that extends beyond just the food. It’s a chance for loved ones to come together, often at a pub, and enjoy a relaxed meal as a group… on a Sunday, of course. This experience embodies the essence of British community life.
An English Sunday Roast typically includes roasted meat (such as beef, lamb, chicken or a veggie or vegan version), roasted potatoes and vegetables (such as carrots, parsnips, and onions), Yorkshire pudding (a fluffy pastry), and gravy. It’s often served with a side of horseradish sauce and you can add on a pint of ale or glass of red wine.
If you’re looking for a great place to enjoy a Sunday roast, here’s the deal. There are PLENTY of pubs around London with tasty Sunday Roast, so there’s no reason you need to head to ONE place and travel far and wide to get there. Typically, Londoners will go to their “local”, aka their local pub to have one, we don’t like to travel far for it. So if you want some fab local pub recommendations then grab one of our Casual Tourist Guides, choosing the one that covers the area that your hotel is in so you don’t have to go too far. But just as an FYI, usually the best pubs are the ones not in central London.
Image Courtesy of Sanderson London
If you’re looking for a unique experience in London, you should definitely try out afternoon tea. This tradition dates back to 1840 when the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, requested some light snacks between lunch and dinner to calm her rumbling stomach. The trend soon caught on, and today it remains a popular practice, but because it can be a bit pricey, Londoners tend to reserve it for special occasions like birthdays.
A traditional afternoon tea typically includes a selection of finger sandwiches (such as cucumber, egg salad, and smoked salmon), scones with clotted cream and jam, and a variety of pastries and cakes (such as macarons, lemon tarts, and Victoria sponge cake). It’s served with a pot of tea of your choice, or coffee, and you can usually choose to add a glass of champagne for an additional charge.
Watch this video below to see what you can expect from an afternoon tea depending on its price point.
Also, afternoon teas can often be themed, which can be fun and a bit different. Here’s a list of unique afternoon teas you might want to book over a traditional one.
Next up on the list of dishes to try in London it’s the Scotch Egg, a snack that has been a subject of debate regarding its origin. Fortnum and Mason, claims to have invented the Scotch Egg in 1738, however, this claim is contested, with influences cited from Indian, North African, and even East Yorkshire cuisines. Regardless of its origin, the Scotch Egg is a delicious ball of breadcrumb, sausage, and egg, originally consumed by the wealthy during travels from the city to their country homes.
You can still stop into Fortnum and Mason and order a Scotch egg (a traditional one or a veggie-friendly one) plus you can get them at most food markets and many traditional pubs. If you want to try one at one of the city’s most historic pubs, you can do so on Devour Tours’ Tastes, Tales & Traditional Ales pub food tour while sipping pints and soaking up the centuries worth of tales around you.
If you are in the mood for a light lunch, you might want to try a Cornish Pasty. This dish is so well-loved and is so keen on its origin story that it has its own association, the Cornish Pasty Association. Originally enjoyed by the wealthy, it eventually became a staple food for miners in Cornwall. The pasty is essentially a folded pie that is traditionally filled with ground beef, turnip, and potato. You can easily grab one on the go from shops such as the Pasty Shop, a chain commonly found in train stations, highlighting the dish’s versatility and convenience, and with gluten-free and vegan options available.
You can also find pasties at food markets and traditional pubs.
Image Courtesy of Mother Mash
Bangers and Mash
For a British food experience with a modern twist, visit Mother Mash and indulge in their classic dish, Bangers and Mash. Their menu simplifies the ordering process, featuring sausages (AKA bangers), mashed potatoes (mash), and gravy. There are gluten-free and vegan options too.
This hearty meal is a popular comfort food. Interestingly, the name “bangers” originated during WWI due to a meat shortage that led to sausages being filled with water, causing them to sometimes burst (or “bang!”) while cooking.
Bangers and Mash can also be found at many traditional pubs around London.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
If you’re craving a delicious dessert, check out popular steak restaurant Hawksmoor and try their signature sticky toffee pudding. This beloved British dessert is a cake with a fudge toffee flavour, made using brown sugar and dates. It’s served with a toffee-flavoured syrup around the cake, and topped with either ice cream or custard. The origin of this dessert is disputed, with some claiming it comes from Aberdeenshire in Scotland, while others believe it originated in Yorkshire or Cumbria in England.
You can also try Sticky Toffee Pudding on the East End Food Tour run by our food tour friends at Eating Europe.
This culinary adventure ends with Eton Mess, a traditional British dessert made of strawberries, broken meringue, and whipped cream. Visit Aviary, a high-end restaurant with views, to try this dish, which is said to have been accidentally created during a cricket match between Eton and Harrow, two prestigious British schools. Despite its creamy composition, Eton Mess is considered a light and refreshing summer dessert.
To sum up, London’s culinary scene is a treasure trove of flavours, histories, and experiences. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, refer to this guide of dishes to try in London for a delightful journey through the city’s varied culinary heritage.
Too many dishes to try, not enough time? We highly recommend booking onto a food tour to save you time and money while making sure you try so many of the dishes mentioned above. Read this article to find out which food tours in London we think are the best.