4 Traditional English Meals and Where to Experience Them

English cuisine hasn't always had the best reputation among foodies, whether it's the ubiquitous take-away curries, the stuffy old Sunday roasts, or the greasy full English breakfast. Recently, however, a number of hotels and restaurants in hip neighborhoods, along with a few classic standbys, have been elevating the traditional British fare for the modern era. We've compiled a list of some of our favorite spots in London to have the classics with a current twist.

1. Afternoon Tea at The Goring

The Dining Room at The Goring/Oyster


If you’ve never experienced it before, taking afternoon tea is a wonderfully indulgent event, and no place in London does it quite like The Goring, located in London’s historic Belgravia district. The Goring, which made headlines for accommodating Kate Middleton the night before her wedding to Prince William, serves perhaps the finest and most decadent afternoon tea in London. Hosted from 3 to 4 p.m. on weekdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, tea starts with a plate of fresh strawberries and cream and, if you choose to be especially decadent, a glass of Bollinger Champagne. After the bubbly, a three-tiered tray is brought out containing a stack of finger sandwiches, homemade scones, clotted cream and jam, and a seemingly endless supply of pastries including fruit tarts, macarons and wafer sandwiches. After you’ve eaten all the finger sandwiches you can stomach, you can sit outside in the hotel's back garden and play a game of croquet, or maybe just have another drink while you finish your afternoon of feeling like a royal. 

2. Full English Breakfast at E. Pellici

Example of a Full English Breakfast, Christian Kadluba/Flickr

Shoreditch is one of London’s best neighborhoods for nightlife, and nothing is a better cure for a night out in London than a proper full English breakfast. If you’re staying in the trendy Ace Hotel in Shoreditch then you’ll be close to the best full English in the city. Since 1900, E. Pellici has been home to perhaps the friendliest service in the East End—you’re greeted the moment you enter and offered a seat and a cup of coffee. Pellicci’s full English,  which is available all day long, comes with sausage, egg, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread or toast—a bargain at £5.50 and will definitely get you sorted from the previous night, or perhaps even as a starter on the next one.

3. Steak and Kidney Pie at Rules

Herry Lawford/Flickr

When looking for the best of classic British fare, like a steak and kidney pie, sometimes it helps to go to the oldest source. Rules, London’s oldest restaurant, opened in 1798 in Covent Garden, actually predates the steak and kidney pie by quite a few years. In a restaurant so heavily influenced by game meats, the steak and kidney pie is one of the standouts of the menu -- which also includes a pudding (made with suet) featuring steak, kidney, and oysters. The restaurant’s mix of dark wood, taxidermy, gilded paintings, and historic photographs make it an ideal spot to have this quintessentially British cuisine. For the full English effect, stay at the nearby and equally historic Savoy Hotel and soak up a bit more of the classic British tradition before tucking into another of Rules’ famous pies (or puddings!).

5. Sunday Roast at Harwood Arms

Ungry Young Man /Flickr

Is there a better way to close out a week in London than sitting down with friends or family over a Sunday roast? Only if you're doing so in the city’s only Michelin-starred pub. The Harwood Arms is a gastropub tucked into a charmingly quiet section of Fulham, despite being literally next door to Chelsea F.C.’s Stamford Bridge. If it isn’t match day, you may not even realize it’s there. The Harwood Arms’ Sunday roast features more than just the everyday English classics, offering a variation from the norm with a heavy focus on wild game -- think Yorkshire grouse and Berkshire fallow deer with all the trimmings. Along with the meats, the roast comes with sides such as cauliflower cheese croquettes, roast potatoes, and a classic Yorkshire pudding. A few things to consider: the kitchen often changes the menu to match what’s in season, so you may want to contact them before booking, and be sure to make your reservation online, as The Harwood Arms fills up quickly, match day or not. Think you might be too full to make it back to Central London? Consider a stay at the nearby Ibis London Earls Court.

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