Eton mess, one of the classic English food dishes. Talk to me about yum. I hadn’t been in London for more than a few hours before I found myself at the local Tesco collecting all of the essential requirements for what is, arguably, my favourite English sweet. Which let’s be honest, doesn’t say a lot about my palate. However, in my defence sometimes the simplest things can be the most enjoyable.
Let’s talk all things delicious; Eton mess – smashed meringue, berries and beaten cream all mixed together. Simple – yes. Calorie ridden – absolutely. Unbelievably addictive – affirmative. And if there was ever a time to research ‘pant extenders’ online now would be it, as I have no doubt this food journey across the UK and Trans Siberian is going to present many great eats.
Starting at my mate’s local pub in Wimbledon, the Hand in Hand, where we grab a paddle of English lagers and a platter of sausages. I know, weird right? Once it came to the table however – not so weird. A selection of homemade pork sausages wrapped in bacon and served with hot chips (a weakness of mine), coleslaw and breads. I love the relaxed nature of pubs here. The barmen were chilling with a coffee and chatting away to us, the food was simple and wholesome and the fireplace was roaring. I felt like I had walked into someone’s home.
In the days that follow I try Butterbeer (think creamy soda with added sugar) at Harry Potter World just outside of London. It was the ultimate cultural experience as you can imagine, and yes, as a 28 year old male I felt like a bit of creep BUT I did love the books and enjoy the films. Plus my mate really wanted to go, so I didn’t want to let her down…Aha, see what I did there?!
The undercover markets in Oxford serve up a delicious Irish Whisky & English beef pie with pea mash and gravy. While back in London, the trendsetters at Jackson + Rye of Soho were experimenting with textures and reinventing traditional ideas – such as burnt vanilla marshmallow with shaved praline and lemon sorbet.
But finally, all good things must come to an end and my week in London wrapped up on an absolute high note – well, high tea actually. Prior to walking through the doors at Fortnum & Mason all I knew was that Sarah Wilson (whose mantra ‘I Quit Sugar’ I had been following prior to departure) was likely going to disown me as a follower. Even more concerning is that the afternoon tea here is never ending – plates are replenished quicker than the naked eye can detect and calorie counters are left at the door. Coincidentally, overindulging on food is one of my favourite activities, so I had a mild suspicion I was going to get along quite well with this establishment. Premature assumption I know, but hey? It will be like going to grandma’s house, but on steroids.
Now let’s be frank. Aside from a very small breakfast, I did not eat a single thing prior to my 2pm seating, as I needed all the available stomach space I could get. But of course that somewhat misplaced approach quickly fell to the wayside upon arriving at the food emporium located at ground level within the Fortnum & Mason building.
Please answer me this – why were they trialling a new range of chocolates in store? Free samples are such a killer. Obviously I had to help myself and gracefully participated in the sweet degustation that followed, a somewhat silly move considering what awaited me upstairs. Let’s just say that self-control is not one of my strengths.
That aside, the afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason was unbelievable. Luxury imported teas, scones with lemon curd and clotted cream, crisp white linen, Riedel glass wear and handcrafted china. The experience was well worth the high price tag and if I can make any recommendations, order their personal tea blend of green & elderflower, it was divine.
London – cheers for the sunshine (I know it’s not normally within your nature), the laughs and most importantly – for introducing sugar back into my diet.
What classic English food dishes do you love?