Visiting London can be overwhelming; there’s so much to see and do, and eat, and drink, and… we could go on! Sometimes it can all be too much, and all you want is a cafe to tuck yourself away in; and some decent food to tuck in to! Fortunately, in London, even visiting a cafe can be an amazing way to pass the time. Here are our best suggestions on what to order for the perfect London cafe experience.
Full English Breakfast
The absolute classic tried and true London cafe meal is a full English breakfast. Sometimes known as a ‘fry-up’ the first and often greatest meal of the day is served at all the best cafes in London; from greasy spoons to the poshest of brasseries. A proper full English breakfast should include bacon, a choice of eggs – usually fried, poached, or scrambled, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast with butter, or even fried bread, and sausages. These delicacies are just a baseline; the breakfast can also include black pudding (a blood sausage), hash brown potatoes, baked beans, and even kidneys. Best washed down with strong English breakfast tea, it’s no wonder the Brits built an empire with this lining their stomachs.
Pie and Mash
Pie and mash is one of the best things to order at a London cafe for tourists who really want to understand the heart and soul of cockney London food. Pies are made from a cold water pastry and filled with a rich minced beef. When the pie is sliced open the beef will flow over the plate and flavour the ‘mash’; mashed potatoes which sometimes have onion or peas added. The dish is served piping hot and is popular as a lunch food to warm the winter London days. For a real London cafe experience, try some jellied eels or cockles on the side. The best cafes in London will offer these with chilli vinegar; a condiment that developed from the spice trade imports to London dockyards.
Fish and Chips
Fish and chips became popular in London in the 19th century and have been famous in the city ever since. Battered, deep fried fish, usually cod or haddock, and chunky chips are on offer at most London cafes, sometimes wrapped in paper; the traditional way they were served was to bundle the hot food in old newspapers for customers to takeaway. London cafes might offer bread and butter or mushy peas as an accompaniment, and often vinegar is sprinkled over the whole meal. Fish and chips is such an essential London comfort food that during World War Two it was one of the few foods not subject to rationing. With a reputation like that, fish and chips are surely a must try for any tourists at a London cafe.
Feeling peckish after lunch but too long to wait for dinner? What else is there to do in those lonely hours of three to five pm but indulge in the very English tradition of a good old fashioned afternoon tea? A custom originally started among the wealthy social classes in the 1800s, sitting down for a decent afternoon tea is the best of the best of a good London cafe experience. Strong black tea – sometimes Earl Gray – is served on elegant chinaware with the options of sugar and milk. A full afternoon tea will include light but delightful snacks, such as crustless cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream, and small cakes and pastries, including the immortal Victoria sponge cake. These will be presented on a layered cake tier. Some very fancy afternoon teas even finish with a glass of champagne. Not all cafes will offer afternoon tea, but the best serve it as a house specialty. You may even need to book ahead for very popular establishments.
Also known as a bacon butty, a bacon sandwich is a thing of love for the Brits, and is definitely one of the best things to order at a London cafe for tourists at any time of day. Feeling nauseous from the night before? Order a bacon sandwich. Need a little something between lunch and dinner? Bacon sandwich. Want something to line your stomach before or after a few pints? A few slices of pork between bread is a cure for all. The best bacon sandwiches are comprised of fresh, fluffy bread with a generous smear of butter, and stacked with enough back bacon to keep you full for a week. Tomato ketchup or brown sauce is a popular topping. The sandwich should be served hot, along with a cup of – you guessed it – tea.
That’s our roundup of London cafe experiences. The experience of eating in a London cafe is one not to be missed. During a visit to London you might try several on the list even several times – we’ve never met a bacon sandwich we haven’t liked, that’s for sure!