If you're anything like us, then you travel first and foremost for the food. We've partnered with VisitBritain to highlight all the different things you can do, see—and of course, eat—throughout Great Britain, one of our favorite destinations.
It’s easy to fall in love with classic British fare. From cream teas to apple crumble, shepherd pies to Cornish pasties, there is plenty of comfort food to indulge in when exploring the island. While I always encourage first-time visitors to sample our traditional dishes (ideally with a side of mushy peas and a pickled onion), I'm also passionate about encouraging visitors to seek out some of the less well-known local specialities, which are every bit as delicious—and just as British—as scones or fish and chips.
To give hungry travelers a taste, I've pulled together a selection of culinary experiences both classic and unexpected, which can be enjoyed across Britain's rugged coastlines, bustling cities, and picturesque countryside. Whether you love sampling sweets at their source, foraging for your dinner, or exploring markets and street food hubs, you can do it all in Great Britain.
If there is one cuisine that dominates Britain's restaurant culture, it's food from the Indian subcontinent. Most cities across Britain have a sizable Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi population and a fantastic selection of South Asian restaurants to match. Hungry Brits are known to travel for miles to visit Birmingham’s famous Balti Triangle or Manchester’s Curry Mile. In London, where I live, I always point visitors in the direction of the dosas at the South Indian restaurants of Drummond Street or juicy lamb chops at Punjabi meat grills of East London. But don't stop there—there are many, many cuisines to explore.
In recent years there has been a cheering resurgence in celebrating local, seasonal, British ingredients (and in supporting the farmers that produce them). Two places that bring these two elements together—along with delicious food and some hands-on experiences—are the River Cottage in Devon and Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall. The River Cottage runs cooking and foraging classes as well as three wonderful restaurants that emphasize cooking with local sustainable produce. Coombeshead Farm is a farm, bakery, and restaurant created by chefs Tom Adams and April Bloomfield, situated amongst beautiful meadows and woodland; it also lets guests get their hands dirty with offerings such as a bread workshop every Sunday.
Britain has a long history of hunting wild mammals and birds such as deer, goose, and partridge which we collectively refer to as “game.” Venison is one of the most popular and widely available game meats and is sold everywhere from supermarkets, to casual restaurants, to Michael-starred establishments. It has a rich, earthy taste reflecting a deer’s diet of wild plants and acorns and Scotland is the best place to sample it. In Edinburgh, venison is a mainstay on many restaurant menus; it's the perfect meal to enjoy after having worked up an appetite visiting the Castle and walking along the Royal Mile.
There are hundreds of different species of seaweed in British waters including well known edible species such as dulse, kelp and carragheen. While traditionally used in breakfast dishes such as laverbread, you can also increasingly find British seaweed on the menus of top restaurants such as Grain Store and Moro in London, two spots that both add local seaweeds to their menus seasonally. For those who want to try cooking with British seaweed at home, the Atlantic Kitchen sells a variety that are great souvenirs to pack into your suitcase.
Cliff House Farm in Yorkshire is something else. It serves up extraordinary locally inspired ice cream flavors such as Bakewell Tart, inspired by the region’s famous almond frangipane and raspberry tart, and Cora’s Chaos, a velvety rich chocolate ice cream swirled with marshmallows and chocolate sauce. Situated on the outskirts Sheffield, where I went to university, the farm is a great place to visit when touring South Yorkshire’s rolling hills of the Peak District. After all, there is nothing as rewarding after a big walk in the countryside then a decadent sweet treat.
Even if you stay in London, you can still catch a taste of the whole country with a visit to the world-famous Borough Market. It’s been in operation for over 1,000 years and is a vibrant showcase of the best food grown in Britain. With stalls selling fresh produce, cheeses, meats, pastries and baked goods it is a food lovers paradise and one of my favorite places to wander in search of culinary inspiration. On any given day you can find delights such as scallops from Dorset, oysters from Essex, vine-ripened tomatoes from Isle of Wight, globe artichokes from Lincolnshire, walnuts from Kent, and even ostrich from Nottinghamshire.
There's plenty more to explore. Check out additional recommendations below, from Diana Henry's favorite British restaurants to Food52's ultimate guide to London to an illustrated manual on breakfast in Britain. Got any tips of your own? Share them in the comments!
From foraging to feasting, there's so much to experience in Great Britain. We've partnered with VisitBritain to help you discover the more unexpected side of Great Britain's food scene, which you can sample all across the isles—from bustling London and Edinburgh to cool coastal towns and countryside retreats. Discover even more reasons to love Great Britain by following along on Instagram at @lovegreatbritain and @greatbritishfood.