After three weeks travelling in Europe, I’m calling it – British food is the...
@Harters – what say you?
Not Harters here but while the article uses its own stereotypes it’s not far off from what I have seen. During the time I spent in the UK, I saw far more variety of different foods than in other European countries. Had a friend who said that the English went off and created an empire in the search for better weather and food. There a great article by Tim Hayward of the FT where he gives his theory for why English cuisine was historically lacking. So they absorbed a lot from elsewhere.
I once spent two weeks in Rome on holiday. After a week, I wanted a little variety. What is the variety after a week of Roman food? Well I could pick northern or southern Italian.
The variety of food in Paris is pretty good though. Much better than Rome in my view.
To be fair, I’ve only visited the UK a few times - Scotland as a child, London a couple of times, Midlands some other time, which is why I can’t speak to the variety and quality of food available.
It certainly has improved, especially in the larger cities, but Germany has a LOT of cuisines done very well, and a significant number of Michelin restos in the south.
When I visit Berlin, I can choose between German, Austrian, Polish, Russian, Italian (regional cuisines - Puglian, Sicilian, Tuscan, Sardinian, etc.), Spanish, French, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish (!), Israeli, Thai, Chinese, Basque, Vietnamese, Peruvian, Brazilian, etc. etc.
I rarely eat at German restaurants while there.
Well, you have London and then you have the rest of the UK…
London is amazing - probably one of the cities in the world with the greatest variety of other cuisines done extremely well. For example London’s Barrafina is still better than a lot of tapas bars in Spain.
But the rest of the UK?
So obviously the big cities usually have much greater variety than small towns but from my limited experience outside of big cities in Europe, small towns everywhere have limited choices. But it seems like a lot of small English towns will have at least a curry shop. Might not be where you want to eat but it’s there. Small towns in X country in most places I’ve been will only have X food. Now someone will point out a small town in X that has great food from Y, but that doesn’t negate the general rule. Same here in the US. And by small I mean small town not in commutable distance to a large city. The town I have my second home is not a typical small town. It’s population is around 15k but I can go get seafood, sushi, Italian, BBQ, Greek, phenomenal pizza, Thai, Venezuelan etc. but it’s 1 1/2 hour to NYC. Go to the middle of Kansas and it’s very different.
That’s true from what I understand - at least you will have a good curry in most UK cities.
Likewise, I have also been in Italian cities without a lot of variety. So far in Italy I have been happy to keep on eating Italian, but for example I also often holiday in Phuket Thailand and while I absolutely love Thai food and it’s easy available there, once in a few days I will also choose the bbq/sushi/pasta buffet at the local beachclub (Catch).
Also not Harters, but I have grown up in Britain. I agree that there seems to be a lot more variety in The UK than say Italy.As always the reasons for it are complicated.
As I see it the UK was fertile ground as it Industrialised before anywhere else and this and rationing during WWII, weakened our own food culture. A lot has been done to address this in the last 30 years, though the stereotype still exists.
This coupled with mass immigration from Britain’s ex colonies just as rationing was ending and cheap package tourism started a few years later. Meant people where exposed to a large variety of new cuisines just when they were most receptive.
You’re right that the rest of the country shouldn’t be judged by London, certainly for volume of restaurants and variety. As a Londoner I can be a little London centric but I do realise how lucky I am. Especially when you try and find say, regional Chinese cuisine somewhere like East Anglia.
the mega-flaw is in the set-up.
tourists go to certain areas to see specific touristy things.
it’s like Venice - very few Italians operate any establishments in Venice. they’ve all been bought out, made millionaires by non-Italians seeking to cash in on 35Euro cups of coffee on St Mark’s Square.
when touristing, one needs to get outside of the tourist spots if you really want to see ‘the country.’
I did a lot of business travel in Europe - Stavanger to Bari. I made a point of not staying in ‘name’ hotels - just picking a B&B place with a sign. chatting up the locals for good dinner spots…
the non-tourist areas of countries provide a lot more, and better, food/hospitality - that train stations…
While the restaurants that any casual visitor might visit may have predictable menus in any country, get out of town, get out of country central, do some research about regional differences and everywhere has a degree of variety. Even in a city like Paris, I could eat variety of FRENCH food every night for weeks, months. But you have to open your mind and move your booty.
I’ve eaten very well in London, in mid-sized cities, in the country.
I’ve been spoiled with good food in the UK.
I’ve visited the UK and Germany more than other parts of Europe, and because I know those 2 countries a little better, I’m able to have a higher batting average for hits, relative to a country I’ve only visited once or twice.
I like seeking out traditional and regional British foods, as well as traditionally non-British foods , colonial foods and contemporary foods.
I usually explore a region in the UK that I’m less familiar with, in addition to a few days in London. My most recent trips (2018 and 2016) took me to the Peak District, Chester, York, Newcastle.
I don’t really have a favourite country for eating. I’m tired of ranking.
When I can travel again, Italy, the UK and Germany are the places I want to revisit first.
Not the same, but I was dragging my heels when my uncle wanted Chinese food in Killarney, Ireland. We only had 6 days in Ireland, and I wanted traditional or modern Irish food all 6 days. To get along, I went along. Turned out to be a surprisingly good Chinese meal in a tourist trap of a town. You never know!
I am, literally, just back from a week’s holiday in rural North Yorkshire, staying in a large village (or is it a small town) - population just under 7k. We’ve eaten fairly well. As ever when looking for good eats, research is the key. And I’m always looking for good eats when I go on holiday, whether in the UK, to another European destination or to America. And, generally speaking, I’m looking for local eats - a style of cooking, a type of restaurant, particular dishes.
As already mentioned, London is a different country to the rest of the UK. A visitor, even a Briton, will see differences and it will include the diversity of restaurants that are not matched elsewhere. Yes, of course, our major cities will have a greater ethnic diversity of places than the village where I’ve been for the last week. It’s because it’s to the cities where immigrants settle. My nearest city is Manchester. It’s long been a place of settlement for South Asians and,as seemingly with every immigrant community, they set up restaurants. When I was a much younger man, maybe 30 - 40 years back, the “Indian” restaurants (as elsewhere in the country, most are owned by Bangladeshis and serve identikit Anglicised Asian food) were mainly clustered in one small neighbourhood. The main road, then as now, was known as the Curry Mile. But, over the years, restaurants have opened in every suburb and you don’t have to visit the Curry Mile for, erm, a curry. So, when restaurants along that strip close, they are re-opening in the guise of a new wave of immigration - Afghan, Syrian, Palestinian, Malaysia, etc.
Paprikaboy makes the very valid observation that large scale immigration (Chinese and South Asian) took place at broadly the same time as Britons were travelling overseas on holiday in much larger numbers and becoming receptive to “foreign food”.
All that said, the food we eat in this house, whether food we’ve cooked or food we’ve eaten in a restaurant, would generally be described as “British”. Generally local ingredients cooked fairly similar to how Granny might have cooked them.
Now, I really must go and decide what to do with a couple of kilos of cooking apples. They may be Bramleys. There were bags of them outside a house, just on a table with an “honesty box” at £1 a kilo. Maybe chutney. Maybe apple sauce to go with pork or duck ( I freeze in ice cube trays). Maybe frozen with a crumble topping for desserts.