British cuisine is oft maligned – regularly dismissed as lacking sophistication and flavour. Many British people talk about it like they are ashamed of their own food culture – the same way the whole country bemoans the weather as if the British Isles is the only place on earth where it rains (it’s not). And where would our lush green countryside be without some water anyway?
Back to the food. Whatever you think of staples such as fish and chips (one of my favourite pub meals), shepherd’s pie, full Englishes and Sunday roasts (another culinary treat if you ask me), as a Londoner it frankly matters for nought because you can eat any cuisine you want at almost any time of day.
In Brixton, where I live, alone you can eat with your hands at the Asmara Eritrean restaurant, where you’ll enjoy a frankincense-scented coffee ceremony, chill with a Mexican beer and a burrito at Jalisco or tuck into some spicy Thai food at Kaosarn. And that’s ignoring the Italian, Caribbean, Pakistani, Japanese, Scandinavian eateries and more – the list goes on and on, and this is just one south-of-the-river district out of many hundreds of locations in the capital.
According to Study London, in all there are 7,000 bars and pubs and 5,000 restaurants spread out across the city – almost 14 years of eating if you visited a new one each day. And that’s not counting the street food trucks, markets and other pop-up options that appear on a weekly basis.
And it’s not just the range of cuisines, styles and flavours on offer that make London a truly great place to live if you are a bit of a foodie. There’s really something to suit every budget or occasion – whether you want to treat yourself to some blow-out haute cuisine at one of the capital’s 64 one, two and three-starred Michelin restaurants for a wedding anniversary meal or chow down some authentic street food with a can of Red Stripe in a BYOB diner with your mates on a Friday night.
Setting and atmosphere can also be selected on a whim. From the refined grandeur of the Wolseley in Piccadilly – oysters anyone? – where you can rub shoulders with celebs to the hubbub and communal eating of a Busaba Eathai and the lofty views of the Sky Garden atop the Walkie Talkie building, you can always find something to suit the people you’re dining with. And then there are the more whacky eating experiences one can enjoy. Eating blind at Dans Le Noir? in Clerkenwell or sitting in a converted urinal at Attendant in Fitzrovia (yes, really) are just some of the ways to mix-up your gastronomic goings on.
If I’d visited all the places that I’ve got stamps for in my London food passport I’d have practically travelled the world already. And that’s the real magic of a city as diverse and internationally minded as London – and I sincerely hope Brexit doesn’t change that, because even I’d tire of fish and chips if I had to eat it every time I went out!