United Kingdom

Regional specialities

regional specialities

A puree made from seaweed, rolled in oatmeal, lightly fried and generally served with bacon rashers, though can be prepared as a vegetarian dish. available in swansea and west wales.

regional specialities
Black Pudding

A sausage made of congealed pig's blood or, in the western isles of scotland, sheep's blood, rusks and sage or spices, cooked in an intestine. available all over the uk but a speciality of the north of england, in particular from bury, the black country, scotland and northern ireland. in actual fact, it tastes much better than it sounds.

regional specialities
Cornish Pasty

Beef and vegetables baked in a folded pastry case. originally a speciality of cornwall, but now available throughout the uk. usually very good in devon and cornwall, but can be of variable quality elsewhere. the variety sold in a plastic wrapper in places like petrol gas stations and motorway service stations are well worth avoiding. as of 2011, cornish pasties can only be labelled as cornish if they are made in cornwall.

regional specialities
Deep Fried Mars Bar

Originally from stonehaven, kincardineshire, but now available in other parts of scotland and sometimes by request in fish & chip shops elsewhere in the uk. not usually available in south-east england, where it is sometimes believed to be an urban myth.

regional specialities

A mixture of sheep innards, minced meat and oatmeal boiled in a sheep's stomach. available widely, but a speciality of scotland. also available in many supermarkets, where it appears that many sheep have plastic stomachs - although the contents are often quite reasonable - sometimes mildly spicey.

regional specialities
Lancashire Hotpot

A hearty vegetable and meat stew. a speciality of lancashire, but available throughout the uk. in lancashire, it is often accompanied by pickled red cabbage or pickled beetroot.

regional specialities

Although the british are not as famous for, or as proud of, their cheeses as their neighbours in france, a multitude of cheeses is produced, and are generally named after a particular region. well-known examples include stilton named after stilton but produced elsewhere - a blue cheese to rival roquefort or gorgonzola, cheddar named after the village of cheddar in somerset, lancashire which may be "creamy" or "crumbly", wensleydale a valley in north yorkshire, caerphilly and cheshire. the quality varies tremendously, depending on where they are bought; the best place is probably a local market – e.g. buy your lancashire cheese in lancashire. supermarkets will offer a wide range of cheeses but are often of inferior quality.

regional specialities

This speciality of stoke-on-trent, north staffordshire and derbyshire is a large, floppy, oat-based pancake, eaten hot, in place of bread at breakfast time, or with a savoury filling. not to be confused with the scottish oatcake, a sort of biscuit.

regional specialities

Recipes vary, but generally a pasty is minced pork with onions, potato and spices, shaped into a thick disc, covered with batter and deep fried. pasties are unique to northern ireland and well worth trying from a fish & chip shop.

regional specialities
Pork pie

A pie made of pork, with an outer of a particularly crispy sort of pastry. melton mowbray in leicestershire is their spiritual home but they are available across the country. they are served cold or room temperature as part of a cold meal.

regional specialities
Potato Bread

A mixture of potatoes, salt, butter and flour. a speciality of northern ireland which, alongside sodabread forms one of the main ingredients of an 'ulster fry'. similar to, but not quite the same as potato bread, are potato cakes as sold in england and tattie scones in scotland.

regional specialities
Welsh Cakes

Scone-like cakes studded with raisins and dusted with sugar. available in bakeries throughout wales and served hot off the griddle at swansea market.

regional specialities
Yorkshire Pudding

A savoury side dish made from unsweetened batter. traditionally a plate-sized pudding would be served with gravy before the main course, to encourage more economical consumption of expensive meat. squat and round in shape - often served with a roast dinner consisting of roast potatoes, roast beef and yorkshire puddings. originally a speciality of the former industrial cities of yorkshire, but now an integral part of a beef dinner throughout the uk.

Despite jokes and stereotypes, British food is actually very good and internationally oriented British cuisine has improved greatly over the past few decades, and the British remain extremely proud of their native dishes. Restaurants and supermarkets in the middle and upper range have consistently high standards, and the choice of international dishes is among the best in Europe. However, British eating culture is still in the middle of a transition phase. Unlike their continental neighbours, many Britons still eat to live rather than living to eat, and as a result, food quality is variable at the budget end of the market.

The United Kingdom can be an expensive place to eat out compared to, say, the more southern European countries, but relatively cheap in comparison with countries such as Switzerland and Norway.

Many restaurants in city centres tend to be a little more expensive than ones in the suburbs, and pubs do tend to be slightly more expensive in the countryside, but generally, a three-course meal without drinks will cost the traveller anywhere between £10 and £25. Chicken tikka masala with rice is sometimes claimed as the UK's most popular dish, though roast beef is a more traditional national dish.

If all else fails decent picnic foods such as sandwiches, cakes, crisps, fresh fruit, cheeses and drinks are readily available at supermarkets. Street markets are a good place to pick up fresh fruit and local cheeses at bargain prices. Bakeries eg Greggs and supermarkets eg Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Morrisons and Asda usually sell a good selection of pre-packed sandwiches, pasties and cakes along with a range of soft drinks, juices and mineral waters. In addition, most chemists and newsagents will have a basic supply of pre-packaged sandwiches and bottled drinks.

Many large shops, especially department stores, will have a coffee shop or restaurant.

Smoking is now banned in all restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs - there are no exceptions. However some establishments have provided 'smoking areas' and smoking is allowed in the gardens/terraces outside pubs and restaurants unless otherwise stated.

Hotel breakfasts may reinforce the stereotype about British cooking-one London's establishment's idea of a morning meal was a fried egg served with asparagus!


Larger towns have a range of restaurants to suit most tastes and you will find a very broad range of cuisines, including Indian, Chinese, Thai, French and Italian. Waiters generally expect a 10% tip but all too often do not get it from the native population and in some places this is automatically listed on your bill. However, if you are dissatisfied with the service in any way, you are under no obligation to pay the service charge. Generally British people are not great tippers. As a visitor the 10% rule is more than generous and worth sticking to. Visitors from The US and Canada are seen as very generous tippers and even a bit of a soft touch by some.

The usual fast-food restaurants McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, KFC, Subway and local chain Wimpy are widespread in larger towns and cities but uncommon in smaller towns. They are typically located in major shopping areas, in or around major train stations, in out-of-town retail parks and in motorway service stations and airports the latter 2 are usually more expensive. Prices are average - a burger, chips and drink meal will cost about £4-5. Most are open from around 7:00-22:00 although some in large cities are 24-hours. Fast-food restaurants in out-of-town locations offer drive-through service. Delivery service is widely offered.

food in pubs

See below for general points about pubs. Pubs are typically places where you can sample British cuisine. There are no such things as a British restaurant per se, so these will be your next best bet; even if you are against drinking alcohol, you will find a more traditional and full menu then a cafe or chippy.

Almost all pubs see below serve food, although not all will do so during the whole of their opening hours. Prices of all these types vary enormously, and you should seek local advice if you have particular requirements or standards. Do not sit at a table in a pub expecting a waiter to take your order for food or drinks: pubs nearly always work on a "queue at the bar for drinks: order at the bar for food" basis. You go to the bar to request and pay for drinks and food. To avoid annoying customers behind them, groups usually order as one, and "settle up" between themselves later see elsewhere for "buying rounds". You normally order your "starters" and "mains" together food-oriented places have numbers screwed to the tables for you to quote, or will give you a number to take to your table. There is an etiquette that if you see another patron at the bar, you should invite them to order first. You then wait for your drinks to be poured and carry them to the table. When your meal is ready, it is either brought to you or, less commonly now, announced when it is ready for you to collect. The person who tidies away your main course may ask you what dessert you would like, or you may have to order at the bar again.


Vegetarianism has become more widespread in the UK over the last few decades. If you are staying as a guest in a British home it would be considered courteous to inform your host beforehand as to any dietary requirements, but this will not be considered rude or even particularly unusual. If you are staying in a B&B, let the owner know when you arrive, and you'll often find that they will cook up a special vegetarian breakfast for you.

Bear in mind that even if you call yourself vegetarian some people will assume you eat fish, so if you don't, then tell them so. Nowadays, it is rare to find a pub or restaurant with no vegetarian options.

If you are a vegan, be prepared to explain precisely what you do and don't eat on a fairly frequent basis. Outside of specialist eateries, most places probably won't have a vegan-friendly main meal, so be prepared to hunt around, order bits and bobs, or in a pub make do with the ubiquitous bowl of chips and tomato ketchup and even then it would be wise to check whether the chips have been cooked in animal fat, a practice quickly falling out of fashion.

In general, the best places for vegetarian and vegan food are specialist veggie pubs and restaurants and Indian, Chinese and South-East Asian restaurants. Most major cities and towns will have at least one. Expensive upscale restaurants may have more limited vegetarian options, and sometimes none at all. If you're fortunate enough to be dining in such a place, it may be worth ringing ahead.

motorway service areas

Motorway service areas are notoriously expensive places to eat, though the vast majority are open 24 hours by law. Most contain fast-food outlets and all have free toilets. Some services may be limited overnight such as the range of hot and cold food, although most will keep a selection available. Service areas are often best avoided as it is often possible to find cheaper and much better places to eat within a mile or two of a motorway junction. They have a poor reputation for hygiene and service; subsequently places like Little Chef have taken such a hit that many have closed. Try 5 minutes away (http://www.5minutesaway.co.uk/), a website listing facilities no more than 5 minutes' drive from motorway junctions.

fish and chips

Deep-fried, battered fish usually cod or haddock, though with a wider selection in some areas with rather thick chips, always made from real chunks of potato rather than thin tubes of extruded mashed potato. Fish and chips are often served with mushy peas in England, and dressed with salt and malt vinegar or 'Sauce' in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland. "Proper" authentic, for-the-masses fish and chips can be bought only from either a backstreet "chippy" or a specialist fish and chip restaurant the latter are mostly at the seaside, although there is a national chain, Harry Ramsden's, which does quite good fish and chips, but at "tourist prices"; Mr Ramsden's original shop, near Leeds, was a legend. However, a "proper chippy" a backstreet "fish and chip shop", or just "chip shop" is the quintessential place to buy fish and chips. In the north you can also add mushy peas to your order. These are rarer in the south of the country. In Scotland, especially Glasgow, some fish and chip shops deep-fry almost everything they sell, including meat pies, pizzas, and even battered Mars or Snickers bars. In Northern Ireland, you can also order a Pastie not to be confused with a Cornish Pasty. This is meat minced with onions, potato and spices, which is then battered and deep fried. It can be served in a bap a soft bread bun, on its own, or with chips. Anything served with chips in Northern Ireland and in parts of Scotland is referred to as a "supper", eg, "a fish supper" or "a pastie supper".

The best ones are specialists, serving perhaps a few alternatives such as a selection of pies or sausages. They are usually located near where people live, though some good ones, especially "sit down" chippies, can be found in town centres. They can be spotted by the illuminated sign which usually has a picture of a fish and a name: either punning and piscine, such as "Codroephenia" and "The Codfather" or proud and proprietorial, "Fred's Chippy", or even both as in "Jack's Golden Plaice". Typically a lot of people eating or waiting is an indication of good food.

A "sit down chippy" is a chip shop with a separate dining room. Whilst no real one will be exactly like this, although most elements will be present, a stereotypical sit down chippie will be brightly lit and decorated in a nautical theme with yellow or blue formica-topped tables. Typically a waitress will take your order for a Cod Meal, alternatively Haddock, Plaice or another dish, and within five minutes your meal will be served: a huge fish, a mountain of chips and mushy peas. Accompanying it, in more up-market places, will be a sachet of tartar sauce, a slice of lemon, a big plate of bread-and-butter, and a pot of tea. Some will have a separate pot of hot water, either to dilute the tea if it is too strong for your taste, or to "top-up" the tea in the pot when you have poured out your first cup. On the table will be a large shaker of salt and a bottle or plastic squeezy bottle of brown malt vinegar, which is what most British will put on their fish and chips. There may even be a tomato-shaped plastic container of ketchup or a container of brown sauce. Fish and chips bought from a pub, hotel or non-specialist restaurant bear little resemblance to those from a chippy.


A 'take-away' is either a shop supplying prepared meals for people to eat elsewhere, or the meal itself. A very British take-away is the Fish and Chip shop; the sandwich shop is a popular choice at lunchtimes; they often also sell pies and cakes. Alternatively, most towns and many main routes have a selection of fast-food chains. Various types of take-aways are present in nearly all towns, ranging from fish and chips to "Indian", which can often be operated by non-Indians like Bangladeshi, and Chinese shops. Thai and Indonesian takeaways are becoming quite common, and lots of others in bigger towns. Generally the standard of take-aways is good, but the best guide is, as always, to observe what the locals are doing.In towns and cities these places tend to open late sometimes till about 1AM to cater for the so called after-the-pub crowd. At this time they tend to be busy and rowdy so to avoid the queues the best time for a takeaway is between 7PM and 11PM after the teatime rush but before the supper crowds.


Children are not necessarily allowed in all pubs and restaurants unless a lounge area is provided, and high chairs are not always available. Most pubs that serve food will accept children, and it is usually easy to distinguish those that do. The general rule is that children cannot sit or stand about in the area where drinks are being served; so if the pub has only one small room, they are not allowed. Children are permitted in most drinks-only pubs, especially those with gardens, but again, they are not supposed to come near the bar. To be safe, ask an employee or telephone the place in advance.