Can Traditional British Food Become Gourmet?

Britain has a reputation for bad food and miserable weather, but with this year giving us such a fantastic British summer, can our cuisine make a similar turnaround?

gourmet fish and chips
It’s true that some of our national dishes have pretty off-putting names – Spotted Dick, anyone? In addition to the unfortunate terminology, critics of British grub label it stodgy, bland and boring. Admittedly, most of our traditional meals revolve around meat, veg and potatoes. If the definition of gourmet is unusual and extra special, our fondness for the familiar certainly poses a challenge.

But gourmet also means the finest quality and Britain can certainly compete in this arena. We have exceptional meat and cheese. If you’re keen to sample the best British cuisine, it’s worth venturing into the countryside to find restaurants and pubs that use locally sourced produce and seasonal menus.

Increasingly, British chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have gained worldwide fame, and chefs that are not British, such as Raymond Blanc, have chosen to have their main restaurants in the British Isles. Furthermore, British cities are host to top cooking schools, such as L’Altelier des Chefs (check out our 20% discount on gourmet London cooking classes)

Another stereotype is that we overcook our vegetables. There even used to be a national joke that we always put the veg on to boil before we bother to put the roast in the oven. Thankfully, these days most Brits know to minimise cooking times to preserve freshness, flavour and nutritional value.

heston blumenthalThe quality of British food has suffered historically, due to wartime rationing, industrialisation and the modern dominance of cheap supermarkets. But in recent years, we have seen an uprising of celebrity chefs, who help educate the public about the importance of quality ingredients. People like Heston Blumenthal inspire culinary innovation and prove you can always put a new twist on an old British classic. Despite the haters, with high quality ingredients and a little originality, it is perfectly possible for British food to be gourmet.

Also, there are a few specialities the British really do excel at; Afternoon Tea, fish and chips and delightfully stinky cheese, to name a few. And we invented the sandwich. So there.