Chefs in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are producing delicious new versions of traditional British food.
It's not so long ago that visitors to Britain in search of traditional British food got no further than the pub where all that was on offer was the ubiquitous ‘ploughman’s lunch’ - a cosy name for bread and cheese with a pickled onion on the side. Or they might have ended up at the ‘Olde Fish and Chip Shoppe’, working their way through a pile of greasy chips and a piece of soggy fish. Then there were all those restaurants serving up pretentious and inferior imitations of French or Italian cooking. No wonder British food had such a bad reputation.
The above scenario is almost unrecognizable today. There are still bad meals to be found, as there are anywhere, but there has been a revival of interest in British food and some of the country’s best chefs are creating delicious new versions of traditional dishes - and they are not giving them fancy French names either.
Okay, so cullen skink (a delicious creamy, buttery, potatoey fish soup) doesn’t sound nearly as elegant as soupe de poisson but, properly made, it tastes wonderful, as do homey dishes like bangers and mash (sausages and potatoes) and bubble and squeak(chopped or sliced beef sauteed and covered with fried cabbage and potato) - both of which are served at the very smart Langan’s restaurant in the heart of London’s Mayfair district.
Britain has always been a place stuffed with the finest of local gastronomic resources and the traditional mode of cooking has been to mess as little as possible with these first-class ingredients. Unlike France, Britain never acquired a haute cuisine or custom of elaborate, highly contrived dining. Everyone, from commoner to king, ate basically the same kind of food. But it’s what is done with these ingredients that makes fine cooking and the lord in his manor probably ate better than did the peasant in the field.
Today’s chefs are concentrating on a modern British cuisine where traditional dishes are enhanced by innovative, interesting ingredients. “Modern British” is now a recognisable category in restaurant guidebooks.