It started with casually sampling food off my father’s plate at while out at restaurants…..by the time I reached 7 years old, the children’s menu was no more than a glorified coloring book. If you weren’t talkin the chef’s house special, baby Shelbs didn’t wanna talk.
In short, I outgrew the chicken nuggets//picky eating phase a solid 10 years before my peers. I was doomed from the start……a foodie from the very beginning, in the all best and worst ways.
Fast forward to present-day, where “how about dinner?” is a pickup line that works [almost] every time.
The moral of the story? I really like to eat.
….and Brighton is the place to do it. The city could be considered the restaurant capital of England, as it’s home to more restaurants than anywhere else in the country. One restaurant to every 250 people, to be exact 😉 I’m not entirely sure who gathered this statistic, but I’d imagine we’d get along well.
So with that, I bring you a taste of some of the English cuisine I’ve experienced in my time thus far; both commercialized and local.
Tea & Scones//Cakes
Stereotypical Brit stuff, but deserves a nod. My attempt at a low-carb lifestyle lasted all of two days here courtesy of this traditional tasting.
The selling point? Clotted cream. A rich, velvety cross between whipped cream and butter. Not too thick, but not too airy, and absolutely delicious. Accompanied with fresh jam, the combination is to die for.
Cakes also serve as a sweet substitute. To be frank, I’ve yet to have a mediocre baked good in my time with the English. Betty Crocker best step aside, because these guys can bake.
Ahhh, tea’s friendly neighbor.
While the tea is a hit, the coffee is a miss.
I firmly believe the “red cup” debacle surrounding Starbucks could be solved simply by relocating the misguided critics to England. My theory is, in a desperate attempt to uncover something other than a watered down local brew, the crazies would inevitably cave to Starbs and their very-commercialized roast. With, or without, snowflakes drawn on the cup 😉
In my first week in England, I couldn’t help but observe a trend. Every other guy who leaned in to say a customary hello with a hug & kiss on the cheek had the faint aroma of curry on his breath. At first, admittedly, I found it repulsive.
All curry errrrrythang.
After sampling these dishes and more, I can entirely understand why the Brits run the risk of curry-breathe. I’m (not)so ashamed to admit that I, too, have joined the likes. At this point I think I’m immune to the smell.
Of the many curried cuisines available, the Indian fare in the UK reigns supreme. After the United States, Britain is home to the second largest Indian population in the Western World. My love for curry runs deep, and while in NYC over Summer Restaurant Week, I had the opportunity to sample some of the city’s featured Indian dining. And with that knowledge I can say confidently: the worst curry in the UK is still probably better than some of the best curries in the USA.
If you’re searching for authentic Indian cuisine outside of India, the UK is the mecca. While we certainly have our fair share of signature specialities in the United States, the Brits have curry down to a science.
“What size? Large? ” the cashier asked me
“Uhm yeah, I guess I mean whatever your normal meal size is, please.” I smiled.
Maybe I wasn’t clear with my order. Maybe it was the blatantly obvious American accent. Maybe the staff at “Maccy’s” was looking for a 4am chuckle after a long night of work.
Whatever to reason may be, my meal arrived…..double the size of everyone else’s. Somehow, someway, I mistakenly ordered a super-size meal.
I’ve had finer moments as an American abroad, to say the least. 😉
And while I did not finish the meal, I did come to find that the “you must try McDonalds while in Europe, just because….” advice many offered up prior to my departure was a bit overrated.
McDonald’s is still what it was to me in the States: appealing only after a few drinks.
Fish & Chips
Brighton is situated on the South-East Coast of England alongside the sea. So needless to say, this greasy English comfort food is particularly tasty from where I stand.
However, first you must understand:
Chips = French Fries
Crisps = Chips
It’s a tongue twister.
Do not be deceived, though. “Cheesy Chips” are nothing more than french fries topped with cold shredded cheese. Queso//cheese dip is virtually nonexistent in the United Kingdom. It’s substitute is curry sauce….(see above). Not quite the same, but satisfying none the less.
Desperately needs salt.
And pepper…..and hot sauce….and flavor in general.
That being said, everyone should try black pudding (a customary dish included in most traditional English breakfast assortments), if anything, for a unique culinary experience.
The special ingredient? Blood.
I’ll try anything once…..however, black pudding was a one-and-done kinda deal.
I’ve been told this is traditionally a German dish (s/o to the ancestors), however, it’s ever present in England during the holiday season.
You see, less than 24 hours after Halloween, Brighton began preparing for Christmas. Festive lights went up on the streets, restaurants began advertising for Christmas meals, and holiday tunes played softly in every retail store I entered. Thanksgiving isn’t a thing here, for obvious reasons, so they skip straight to the Christmas carols.
It’s a holiday-haters worst nightmare, and a holiday-lovers dream. As you can likely infer, I fall under the latter. Christmas time is the best time, and the food that accompanies the occasion is no exception.
Buttery, dense pastries filled with a sweet mixture of dates and other seasonal dried winter fruits make for a filling treat during the colder months. Topped with a sprinkle of sugar and baked to feature a star atop the pie, mince pies are like Christmas in your mouth.
A mixture of goat and sheep’s milk, halloumi cheese is frequently offered on the menu as a vegetarian option. While it’s surely available in specialty shops back home, it’s not nearly as popular in the United States.
Fried, raw, or melted…..halloumi is heaven.
Spiked apple juice….need I say more? A grown-up hybrid of my childhood drink of choice. Served warm and always made in-house, it’s my go-to on cold nights out at the pub.
Stay humble. Stay happy. Stay hungry.