Laura Mannering is a journalist and founder of online travel magazine World Out There. She has spent most of her life in London, much of it eating and drinking… In this very special guest post, she reveals five of her favourite places to enjoy the best of British food in the capital – particularly timely since we recently noted how London hotels are becoming more British.
For classic fish and chips…
Fish and chips are best eaten outside, preferably on a blustery sea wall.
But as sea walls are hard to come by in London, head to North Sea Fish Restaurant in Bloomsbury instead. Outside may be gentrified central London, but inside is pure 1970s Eastbourne – the bar is adorned with plastic trinkets, chips are served in baskets, and there’s trifle for dessert. The fresh fish is outstanding and can be ordered grilled or battered. There’s a great choice, from dover sole and skate to haddock, cod, salmon and trout and you can choose between regular and jumbo size. If you’re pushed for time, take away. London Hotels Insight has previously published an article on the best London fish and chips with some other suggestions.
7/8 Leigh Street, London WC1H 9EW. Tel: 0207 387 5892
Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm, 5.30pm-11pm. Take away opens half an hour earlier in the evening, from 5pm. Closed Sundays.
For traditional British pub grub…
Anchor & Hope
This Waterloo favourite combines cosy British boozer and trad food heaven. You can’t reserve a table Monday to Saturday, which means drinking in the bar for an hour or so unless you arrive before 6pm (and even then there’s often a waiting list). But this is no hardship. There are ales and wine and some very fine sherry to be had. The dining room is busy and noisy and you might have to share a table, but it’s all about sociable eating here so get stuck in. A fair few of the dishes are for two, from leg of lamb to whole fish and there’s plenty of offal for daring carnivores – devilled duck hearts or calf’s brains on toast, anybody? There is always some vitamin-packed seasonal veg to temper the protein overload… Comfort eating at its best.
36 The Cut, SE1 8LP. Tel: 0207 928 9898
Open: Mon 5pm-11pm; Tue-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 12.30pm-5pm. Lunch served Tue-Sat noon-2.30pm; 2pm sitting Sun. Dinner served Mon-Sat 6pm-10.30pm.
For East End pie and mash…
The East End is the home of pie and mash and there’s nowhere better to sample it than this locals’ favourite in Bow, which has been going since 1937. The pies use good British beef and chicken and there’s a veggie alternative with soya mince and onions – all are served up with a dollop of mashed potato and topped with classic parsley liquor (or brown gravy of you prefer). If you’d rather have something sweet, go for the fruit pies and crumbles. Everything is baked on the premises, so piping hot and golden. Classic East End snack jellied eels are also on the menu, bought in straight from famous eel stall Barney’s at Billingsgate Fish Market.
526 Roman Road, E3 5ES. Tel. 020 8980 3165
Open: Mon 11am–3pm; Tue and Wed 10am-3pm; Thur 10am-3:30pm; Fri 10am- 7pm; Sat 10am-5:30pm.
For an English Breakfast…
A traditional greasy spoon English breakfast is one of my favourite things, in theory… sausage, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, beans, fried bread. I want to love it. But after ploughing through one, I’m often left with heart palpitations and a sense of regret.
Step forward Caravan – a friendly, full-to-the-rafters brunch hang out in Exmouth Market which serves up a good brekkie with a little less artery clogging. There are eggs any which way, so you can go healthy and have poached. The bacon is lean and crispy, the bubble and squeak a neat potato cake, the toast is sourdough or grain and everything tastes fresh as a daisy. And you can still get HP Sauce and tomato ketchup on the side… There’s also great coffee here as the café roasts its own beans.
11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R4QD.Tel: 0207 833 8115
Brunch: Sat and Sun, 10am-4pm.
For homemade cakes and traditional breads…
I have lived in London for most of my life and never been to a bakery in the capital as good as this one. Partly it’s special because it serves up some old childhood favourites: Battenburg cake, ginger cake, Dundee cake, jam tarts, gingerbread men and Chelsea buns. But it’s also because everything here is top quality – cakes, scones, biscuits and breads are brought out fresh from the bakery kitchen every morning and disappear like, well, hot cakes.
The Freeman family (who run Dunn’s) first set up a bakery in North London in 1827, so they really do know what they’re doing. My most recent discovery is the Dunn’s fruit scone – large, fluffy and perfect for a DIY cream tea if you add a dollop of clotted cream and strawberry jam. The traditional breads like Scottish soda and wheatgerm Dunnary are fantastic and the more modern takes – low-GI cranberry, spelt and honey and pumpkin-seed – are also delicious. You can only take away from Dunn’s but it is worth a trip to stock up on breads and sweet treats, before a leisurely wander around the shops and delis of Crouch End. One of London’s ‘villages’, it still has a butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, florist and plenty of independent shops. The 20-minute walk to Alexandra Park, home to North London icon Alexandra Palace and with panoramic views over the city, is also a must.
6 The Broadway, Crouch End, N8 9SN
Tel: 0208 340 1614
Open: Mon-Sat 6am-6pm; Sun 9am-5pm
Laura writes for national newspapers and magazines and is the founder of online travel magazine World Out There.
Photo credits: Laura Mannering, spin_spin.