What to eat and drink in England

Sarnies, toad in the hole, bangers and mash – traditional English cuisine is often as hearty as it is bewildering to visitors. What exactly is a brekkie? Once you’ve mastered the food slang, you’ll find that the food and drink offering in England is extensive, with plenty of regional specialties and individual quirks. 

London is the gastronomic capital of England, with upscale dining, world cuisine and indie venues mixed with chain restaurants and generic coffee shops. Beyond the capital city, distinctive dishes, local produce and microbreweries are also found in towns and villages across the country. 

Wherever you travel, you’ll find pubs, cafes and restaurants serving homemade meals, locally brewed ales and plenty of cuppas (tea). Here’s what to eat and drink in England.

Get the inside scoop on the latest cultural happenings all over the world delivered weekly to your inbox with our email newsletter. A young girl sitting on a stone wall in the fishing village of Polperro, Cornwall. She is eating a Cornish pasty while smiling.Cornish pasties are enjoyed in cafes across England in their traditional, vegetarian and vegan forms © SolStock / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Feast on Cornish Pasties at England’s most southerly point

Cornish pasties are a well-documented part of Cornwall’s culinary heritage and can be traced back to the 1200s. These D-shaped pastry parcels have a wide crimped edge and are packed with a tasty mix of beef, potato, onion and swede. 

A cheap way to feed a family, they were the preferred portable lunch of Cornish tin miners in the 18th century. Miners would leave the uneaten crusts for the ‘knockers’ – mythical mine-dwelling spirits known for their mischievous nature. 

Today, you can enjoy traditional Cornish pasties in cafes and bakeries across England, with plant-based pasties also becoming more widely available for vegetarians and vegans. 

Where to try it: Pick up a hot handmade pasty from Ann’s Pasties in the Lizard – England’s most southerly point – and wander down the rocky coast path for lunch with an ocean view. 

Group of teenage boys enjoying some fish and chips after their fun, active day out sea kayaking.For centuries, many have regarded fish and chips as England’s national dish © SolStock / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Enjoy Fish and chips at the seaside

Piping hot fish and chips at the seaside is a staple of British and English cuisine, best enjoyed after a bracing dip in the ocean. Even on blustery days, few can resist the lure of fryer-fresh chips on the promenade, devoured with a small wooden fork or grease-smeared fingers. 

England’s national dish typically consists of crispy battered cod or haddock, served with deep-fried chips smothered in salt and malt vinegar. You’ll find this classic dish across England in chippies (fish and chips shops), cafes and pubs. Even posh gastro bars will pop it on the menu. 

The concept of fish fried in batter is thought to have come from immigrants from Spain and Portugal, who brought over this simple method of cooking fish before the English adopted it in the 19th century. 

Where to try it: Palm Court Restaurant has a prime spot on Brighton Pier with superb sea views from its glass-fronted restaurant and bar. Order fish and chips and a glass of bubbly and enjoy the seaside ambiance in stylish surroundings.

Have a sizable Sunday roast in a proper pub

Feasting on a sizable Sunday roast is a sacrosanct English experience and requires an ambitious appetite – especially if plated up by a doting grandmother. Expect large portions of roasted meat and gravy served with assorted vegetables, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding – a savory side made from a simple batter. 

Traditionally a beef-heavy meal, roasts were eaten after a Sunday church service, when meat was considered more of a luxury. They’ve evolved over the years to encompass other meats and some creative vegetarian and vegan options, and they are an essential part of pub fare. 

Where to try it: The New Inn in St Owen’s Cross, Herefordshire, is a cozy 16th-century coaching inn with a solid reputation for quality roasts packed with local produce. Enjoy a filling three-course Sunday lunch next to their warming fireplace. 

Homemade bangers and mash with herbs and gravyBangers and mash are the ultimate English comfort food © bhofack2 / Getty Images

Try Bangers and mash in a dedicated mash shop

Bangers and mash are feel-good food and a consistently popular pub dish in England. It’s a fairly simple recipe: pork or beef sausages are paired with creamy mashed potatoes and garden peas and covered in gravy. The “bangers” half of the meal is a colloquial nod to cheap sausages in WWI that would burst open while cooking due to cheap fillers. 

This humble dish has come a long way since, with gourmet sausages and plant-based options becoming a fixture on menus in pubs, cafes and dedicated banger and mash shops.

Where to try it: Mother Mash in London specializes in freshly cooked mash served with your choice of posh sausage or plant-based sausage. 

Sample craft beers at a microbrewery

With more than 2000 independent breweries in the UK, it’s safe to say that the Brits like an IPA tipple or three. England’s craft beer scene has exploded in recent years, with indie brewers pumping out high-quality ales, IPAs and bitters for a thirsty public. 

Pub culture is fast catching up to consumer demand for locally produced pints, and you’ll now find many small-scale brews available on tap alongside mainstream lagers. A variety of tasting rooms, brewery tours and masterclasses across England also cater to beer aficionados who want to improve their craft ale knowledge. 

Where to try it: Cloudwater Brew Company was crowned the UK’s best independent brewery in 2021 and has a contemporary taproom in Manchester. Located next to their brewery, visitors can sample new brews and best sellers in the taproom.

Scones with strawberries, jam, cream and a side of teaCream tea is more than just tea – it’s an entire spread © Kirsty Begg / Stocksy United

Treat yourself to a fancy Cream tea

Devon and Cornwall in Southwest England both claim to be the spiritual home of cream tea, with an ongoing friendly rivalry over its historical origin. Cream tea (not to be confused with afternoon tea) is a simple spread of English breakfast tea and freshly baked scones slathered with clotted cream and fruity jam. Many southwestern cafes have made cream tea their specialty, offering upmarket versions that include the finest ornate china, artisan teas and even a cheeky glass of fizz. 

Where to try it: Sustainability-focused Cafe Ode in Ness Cove, Devon, serves a homemade cream tea by the coast, with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Opt for a Vegan Full English   

Synonymous with British culture, the traditional full English dates right back to the 13th century, when it was the breakfast of choice for the landed gentry. This morning dish typically encompasses a feast of bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, toast and tea and is generally served with a steaming cuppa (tea). 

Vegan versions are becoming increasingly popular in England, with scrambled tofu, faux- bacon and spicy potato hash among the inventive plant-based options. 

Where to try it: Check out Wayland’s Yard in Birmingham for a mug of freshly brewed coffee and a sizable vegan fry-up right in the city’s heart.

Vegetarians and vegans

The rapid rise of veganism in the UK has resulted in an explosion of plant-based dining options across England. Restaurants and cafes are quickly evolving to keep pace with an increasing demand for meat-free eats and are incorporating more creative plant-based dishes on their menus too. So it’s out with boring bean burgers and in with jerk-spiced vegan tacos, packed with jackfruit, cayenne pepper, and avocado.

Major English cities like Brighton, Oxford, and York now have a huge range of vegan-friendly and eco-minded establishments to choose from, serving herbivore plates and sustainably-sourced produce where possible. In more rural areas of England, it can be a bit more challenging to find decent vegan options, so you’ll need to do your research ahead of your visit. Use handy apps such as Happy Cow to find out what the vegan food scene is like where you’re visiting and what your plant-based dining options are. 


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