Full Scottish breakfast

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

How much do you know about London foods?

British cuisine isn’t as popular as other cuisines around the world, however, this doesn’t mean there aren’t great traditional dishes you must try when visiting London or other cities in the UK.

Have you heard of fish and chips? I believe so, but there are other less-known dishes that will surprise you, including delicious desserts.

If you’re a big foodie and would love to try some local delicacies during your trip, keep reading to discover the most popular foods in London and the UK.

popular foods in london

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Afternoon Tea

If you’re after a British unique experience, you must have a traditional afternoon tea. 

It consists of sandwiches (usually cut into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, and a good range of sweet pastries and cakes. The sandwiches offered in an afternoon tea are usually coronation chicken, cucumber, dill and soft cheese, and ham with cheese and chutney – although you’ll find other combinations too.

All this delicious food is accompanied by an English breakfast teapot, but if you aren’t a fan of tea with milk, you can order any other hot drinks such as hot chocolate or coffee.

There are plenty of places to have an afternoon tea in London, and some of the most famous afternoon teas in London are The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, The Savoy, Sketch and Fortnum & Mason.

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try 19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

However, if you want a different way to have afternoon tea, I highly recommend booking an afternoon tea bus tour. I booked Brigit’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tours, and it was a great experience. 

In this 90 minutes experience, you’re served a delicious afternoon tea with unlimited hot drinks in a cute mug that you can keep at the end of the tour.

As you enjoy the food, you learn and see some of London’s main attractions in the city centre (Natural History Museum, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Big Ben, etc.)

It’s an unforgettable experience, and it’s even more magical if you do it during November and December to see the Christmas Lights in London.

Bacon Sandwich

Bacon sandwich is a popular breakfast and lunch across the UK. However, don’t be surprised if you hear locals calling the bacon sandwich by different names. 

For example, if you visit Yorkshire, people call it “bacon sarnie or bacon butty”, and other name variations you can hear in other parts of England are bacon roll, rasher sandwich, bacon barm and bacon muffin.

Despite all the names British have for bacon sandwiches, the dish itself is quite simple: fried bacon with bread and seasoned with ketchup or brown sauce.

You’ll find the best bacon sandwiches in London in Le Swine.

Bangers and Mash

A classic British dish is Bangers and Mash which consists of sausages and mashed potatoes. 

The sausages used for this dish can vary, and they’re normally made of pork, lamb, or beef (but pork is the predominant one.) It’s often accompanied by gravy, fried onions and boiled peas.

If you wonder why sausages can be called bangers in England, the term bangers date back to 1914. During World War I (1914-1918), the UK experienced shortages in meat, and apparently, the sausages were made with different fillers, mainly water, that made them explode when cooked. 

You can easily find Bangers and Mash in pubs across London, and the best place in London to enjoy this typical dish is Mother Mash. They have endless options for mash, sausages, and gravy – from traditional to less common combinations.

British Pie

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try 19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

Pies didn´t originate in the UK, the Greeks come up with this dish that consists of a pastry shell filled with different meats, vegetables or fish.

In the UK, the pie became popular in the early 12th century, and sweet pies did not exist until the 16 century when Queen Elizabeth I was served a cherry pie.

Nowadays, there are so many variations of pies, and they aren’t only popular in the UK but in other countries too. But the British have taken an extra step to show their love for pies by celebrating British Pie Week which often takes place in March.

During this week, you’re encouraged to eat pies, make a pie and learn about all the different recipes and pie variations.

If you visit London, the most popular pies you’ll find are Cornish Pasty, Steak Pie, Scotch Pie, Vegan Pie, Apple Pie and Banoffee Pie.

A popular place to eat pies in London and other cities in the UK is Pieminister, as its name suggests, you can find all sorts of pies, including vegan and vegetarian options.

Bubble And Squeak

Another popular dish in London is Bubble And Squeak, also known as British Potato Cake, made from cooked potatoes and cabbage, mixed together and fried. It’s often eaten for breakfast, lunch or as an appetizer.

It’s a comfort food dish that many locals make with vegetable leftovers from a Sunday dinner, and it’s sometimes topped with a fried egg on top.

One of the best places to enjoy a delicious Bubble and Squeak in London is Maria’s Market Cafe in Borough Market.

Cheese toastie

A toastie is what the British call a toasted sandwich, so a cheese toastie is a sandwich filled with cheese. If you love cheese and bread, you’ll love to tuck in this grilled goey hot sandwich.

As basic as it sounds, it’s one of these comfort foods you want to have again and again (except if you’re lactose intolerant, in that case, make sure your sandwich is made with lactose-free cheese.)

Kappacasein in Borough Market is your go-to for a cheese toastie. They also have amazing raclettes that consist of new potatoes, baby gherkins and pickled onions topped with melted cheese.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Indian cuisine has had a big influence in the UK since the 15th century when the British started discovering and using some of the famous Indian spices. 

Many dishes were adapted to the British taste and this is how Chicken Tikka Masala was originated, and it’s now considered a traditional London food.

Chicken ruby curry at Dishoom

Chicken Tikka Masala is the favourite curry in the UK, and it’s a popular takeaway option – followed by Chinese food. The dish is made with chicken marinated in spices such as garam masala, cumin and red chilli powder, tomato puree and yoghurt among other ingredients. Like all the curries, it’s served with naan bread and rice.

If you’re looking for a good curry place in London, you won’t be disappointed with Dishoom where you can try a delicious Tikka Masala or go for other curries such as Chicken Ruby or Chaap Pineapple Tikka (a vegetarian option.)

Not only is the food amazing, but the atmosphere and staff too. I visited Dishoom in Edinburgh and I loved it. Although it may be more expensive than other Indian restaurants, it’s completely worth it.

Cockles

Cockles have been a popular and quick snack in seaside towns in England for many years. However, merchants started selling cockles to London and other cities.

If you’re crazy about seafood, you must try this British dish. Cockles are cooked in boiling water and then served with salt, pepper and vinegar. However, you can also find them in seafood pies, salads, risotto and pasta.

Fish and Chips

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try 19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

When you’re asked about what British dishes you know, it’s very likely that you’ll answer “fish and chips.” It’s the most popular food after all, but if you don’t know what fish and chips consist of, it’s battered fried cod served with a generous portion of chips.

Many locals add vinegar to their chips, and sometimes gravy (if you aren’t from the UK, just like me, you’ll find it an unusual combination.)

If you travel outside London, you’ll find that fish and chips are also served with mushy peas (marrowfat peas that are cooked and mashed.)

Jacket Potato

An easy and quick lunch is a jacket potato, also known as a baked potato in some parts of the UK.

As the dish name suggests, it consists of a potato baked until it has crispy skin and it’s fluffy inside. Then, it can be topped with numerous fillings, but the most common ingredients are butter, cheese, sour cream, gravy, baked beans, tuna, ham and even ground meat.

Sausage roll

If you’re looking for a quick bite at lunchtime, a sausage roll is a perfect choice. 

Sausage rolls are traditionally made with puff pastry that is filled with sausage and then it’s baked until golden, crispy and flaky. 

You can find sausage rolls everywhere across London. Greggs (a British bakery chain) is the most affordable and convenient place to get one, but if you’re looking for a top-notch sausage roll, go to The Ginger Pig

Scotch Eggs

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try 19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

Scotch Eggs is another traditional British dish that is made of a hard-boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage, covered in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried, or sometimes baked, until crispy.

Interestingly, the name makes you think these eggs were originated in Scotland (I thought exactly the same), however, they were first made in Whitby, a seaside town in Yorkshire, in the late 19th century.

You can find Scotch Eggs in many restaurants, pubs and even supermarkets, although if you’re after a good Scotch Egg, avoid Tesco or Sainsbury’s. 

A top choice place to have this dish is Scotchtails in Borough Market. Not only are the Scotch eggs amazing, but it’s budget-friendly too.

If you’re after a modern twist and eating it in a restaurant, Farzi Cafe won’t disappoint you.

Sunday Roast

If you’re looking for a generous and hearty lunch or dinner, Sunday Roast is perfect for you. It consists of roasted meat (turkey, beef and gammon are the common options), roast potatoes, vegetables such as broccoli and carrots and Yorkshire puddings, and sometimes stuffing.

The combination of vegetables can always be changed depending on where you eat your Sunday Roast, and condiments that can accompany it are gravy, apple sauce, mint sauce, or redcurrant jelly.

Although the traditional Sunday Roast has meat, you can also find vegetarian and vegan alternatives in many pubs and restaurants. The vegetarian alternative can include roast cauliflower, vegetarian wellington or nut roast.

Are you looking for the best Sunday Roast in London? Here are some of the top choices:

Traditional Full English Breakfast

Do you prefer savoury over sweet breakfast? The traditional English breakfast, informally called “fry-up”, is a must-try dish, but only if you love a big breakfast as it can be very filling.

Full Scottish breakfast

A traditional full English breakfast consists of fried eggs, sausages, bacon, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, baked beans, buttered toast, and often a slice of black pudding. This is also accompanied by a breakfast tea or coffee.

The dish isn’t considered very healthy as most of its ingredients are fried, so it may not be for you if you love eating healthy, but if you’d love to try it the best way to have a full English breakfast would be to prepare it yourself.

Also, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you can often find a meat-free option for a Full English Breakfast. 

Some of the popular places to have a full English breakfast in London are The Pavilion Cafe and Regency Café

Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a traditional bread pudding popular in British cuisine.

Despite the name, the dessert is much better than it sounds. It consists of slices of buttered bread spread with raisins and covered with a custard seasoned with nutmeg, vanilla and other spices until golden baked.

Although you can eat it cold or at room temperature, warm is the best way to have this delicious pudding.

Chelsea Bun

19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try 19 Popular Foods in London You Must Try

Similar to a cinnamon roll, but slightly different, a Chelsea Bun is a lovely type of currant bun that was originated in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea, London.

The bun is made of yeast dough that is flavoured with lemon peel, cinnamon and mixed spice. Then it’s rolled into a square spiral shape and spread with currants, brown sugar and butter.

These are sometimes glazed with syrup, which makes the buns sweeter and stickier.

Eton Mess

Eton Mess is the type of dessert you want to have after a heavy meal because of its delicate and light flavours. It’s mainly made with a mixture of strawberries, meringue, and whipped cream. 

Many people believe that Eton Mess and Pavlova are very similar, and although they are similar, Eton Mess is considered British and served as an individual dessert, Pavlova is a New Zealand dessert and it’s often seen as a cake that serves more than one.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

One of my favourite British desserts is Sticky Toffee Pudding, and if you have a sweet tooth, you must taste this delicious pudding.

Interestingly, many people argue that the origins of this dessert are unknown, however, it’s believed that it was invented during the 20th century in the North West of England, and then it rapidly became popular across the country.

It consists of a moist sponge cake that is mainly made with chopped dates and covered with a delicious toffee sauce. It’s served warm and accompanied by custard or vanilla ice cream to give it another dimension.

Are you looking for the best Sticky Toffee Pudding in London? Then you need to check Hawksmoor, Holborn Dining Room and Hotbox.

sticky toffee pudding

Trifle

There isn’t a most British traditional dessert than a trifle. This dessert consists of ladyfingers soaked in wine at the bottom of a glass or trifle bowl and layers of custard, jelly topped with whisked cream and fresh strawberries.

However, you can also find variations of the traditional trifle such as chocolate trifle, Christmas trifle, spiced mulled wine trifle and black forest trifle.


Another good way to discover London cuisine is by booking a food tour or experience with a local guide. They’ll take you to the best places to eat in the city, so you can experience authentic British cuisine.

If you have any questions about anything London related, reach me by email or on Instagram. I’m always happy to help.

Cristina x

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Top things to do before visiting London

Frequently asked questions about food in London

The most popular dish in London is fish and chips. Not only is it known by locals but tourists too. You can’t leave London without trying this traditional meal.

Other popular foods in London are:

  • Sunday Roast
  • Bangers and Mash
  • Pies
  • Tikka Masala
  • Bubble and Squeak

What is a typical London breakfast?

A full English breakfast consists of bacon, sausages, beans, fried egg, roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, black pudding and toast with butter. Although it’s a traditional breakfast, it doesn’t mean that everyone has this for breakfast every single day.

Other popular breakfast options are bacon or sausage sandwich, scrambled eggs on toast, porridge, cornflakes and crumpets. All of these breakfast meals are followed by coffee or tea.

Do the British still have tea time?

Although the British still have what it’s called afternoon tea, this only happens on special occasions or when they want to treat themselves.

Most people work during these hours and don’t have the time to have a tea break with delicious pastries, finger sandwiches, scones and jam. 

If you want to experience an afternoon tea in London, check out The Rubens, The Savoy, Sketch and Fortnum & Mason. Alternatively, an afternoon tea bus tour is also a unique experience in which you’ll have delicious food while sightseeing.

Other London-related articles you want to check:

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