When people think of London, what usually comes to mind? The Tower of London, Big Ben, the British Museum, and Buckingham Palace – generally these are the big landmarks that people would list. But for anyone that thinks more with their stomach – as only the best of us do – their list might take on a very different form: Baklava, masala, traditional tea, and sausage. Now that’s what I’m talking about! If you’ve got a trip to London in your future, make sure to plan for your taste buds as well as your mind! Here are just a couple feasting suggestions.
Brick Lane is quite literally a lane, but it’s also so much more. It’s a visual treat to walk through, filled with brightly covered brickwork, art, and various shops opening up into the street. Flea markets are set up and smaller shops out their own interesting wares, but the real treat for hungry visitors are the curry houses and dessert shops that can be found here. The entire area is a hub of Bangladeshi culture and culinary expertise, making it the perfect place to enjoy the melting pot that is modern British culture. Stopping in for lunch is a great idea as most shops do tend to open later in the day. Don’t forget to buy a plate of very affordable Baklava to take home, or sit at a table outside in nice weather and enjoy dessert.
If you’re noticing a trend away from classic British fare, it’s only because the multicultural nature of the region’s population provides an amazing opportunity to branch out and try authentic Indian food. Behind Ireland, and predictably given its history of colonialism, England’s largest immigrant population comes from India. It should come as no surprise that along with other values and traditions many arriving immigrants have made their livelihood by producing some of the most delicious Indian food you’re likely to find outside of India itself.
Thai food is another excellent option in certain neighborhoods because as you see in any country with large communities of immigrants, newly arrived families and individuals often chose to live amongst those of similar origins who speak their first language. As a result, you find large Thai communities in certain parts of London where spectacular eating options abound. Periodically both London and Bristol have Thai food festivals that are absolute musts if you happen to be in town for any events. Make sure to check ahead of time so you can plan to attend! Try Pad Thai, noodle soup, or one of many delicious curries, but most importantly leave room for coconut rice if you have a sweet tooth.
Even with so many different flavors to sample, one would be gravely in error to miss out on an enormous British breakfast feast. If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then the British certainly know how to start their days out right. If you’re inclined, start off with some tea, an important part of British culture – this is not just a stereotype, but a legitimate truth about British daily routine for many. A professor once told me that you knew how serious a protest was in London based on whether or not participants stopped their chanting midday for tea. Secondly, you can expect a selection of sausage, ham, or bacon, plus eggs and beans. Tomatoes and a selection of other vegetables are usually included, although of course there are many different versions depending on the restaurant.
Ultimately, you can’t go wrong sampling the different foods around London – there are a lot of options; countless diners, restaurants, food trucks, and street vendors. Just don’t forget to veer away from the same familiar foods and baked goods. A bus ride to Brick Lane is well worth your time and ticket – there’s even a park nearby where you can feed the pigeons while you digest.
If you are intrigued by the idea of visiting London please visit our Modern Europe Program.