London is the commercial capital, financial centre and a global city when it comes to fashion, healthcare, education and arts. It is also a must for every aspiring foodie where the combination of cultures and fearless innovation contribute to fresh ideas and interesting fusions. As cities go, it has a lot to offer everyone from the discerning tourist to experienced palate, but what makes it the UK’s culinary capital, where are the up and coming pockets of the UK and what can London fail to offer?
Why is London culinary king?
As a capital city, it is no surprise that London is a melting pot of creativity and as so many cultures and traditions have a history entrenched in food, it is not unusual that some of it is expressed through culinary creations. However, London is not only the leader of the UK, but also stands on the world stage as a trend setter, so what makes it such an exciting city for a foodie?
London caters to every budget, from enterprising food trucks to three star ‘experience’ restaurants, however it does not compromise on quality or ingenuity. London also has neighbourhoods each with a distinct personality and approach to food. Soho may be a classier version of its former self, but with the likes of Bocca di Lupo and 10 Greek Street it is chock full of destination restaurants. Meanwhile Shoreditch has quite a different reputation, favoured with the young hipster community, it has seen a fair share of crazy restaurant premises. Clove Club has been a Shoreditch success despite its no choice menu and Popolo manages to be effortlessly chic while still serving quality ingredients and inspiring dishes.
The true driving force behind the success of London as culinary capital is the fearless attitude of both restaurants and guests. While a cereal café may not be the most well rounded eatery, Londoners are happy to embrace it and support it. This breeds an atmosphere that thrives off interesting concepts allowing the ambitious to trial their wacky ideas in an accepting environment.
What does London lack?
While I am quick to crown the capital city, as a Londoner I am not unaware of its flaws. Sometimes you feel spoilt for choice, the sheer number of eateries, restaurants, concept pop ups and food-based festivals in the city can leave you wishing life was simpler and staying home for a take away. Occasionally a restaurant comes along that leaves us feeling a little jaded, The Shed was a fake restaurant that thrived off Londoners’ need for unique exclusivity and expressed the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ element of hospitality. London’s third drawback is the lack of Farm-to-fork principles. While in some rural restaurants you can see rows of produce through the window, or you know as many ingredients as possible have been sourced within a certain mile radius. Due to London’s population that is impossible, which compromises some of its green credentials.
Up and Comers
London may be the undisputed king, but that is not to say that other areas of the UK are not perfect pockets for the aspiring foodie, the rest of Britain is not a culinary desert. These pockets can be found in all corners of the British Isles, and if you are north of the border, Edinburgh is not to be missed. The Kitchin combines French techniques with Scottish produce and is one of Edinburgh’s most renowned Michelin starred restaurants.
In the North West of England, the village of Cartmel is picturesque and set in the heart of the Lake District. As the home of sticky toffee pudding, it has a long history associated with food but in recent years it has also seen three establishments attached to the Michelin starred chef, Simon Rogan, including L’Enclume which is a regular contender for Britain’s best restaurant.
Padstow is a hub of edible industry in the South West. Once a fishing village, it has been an upmarket coastal escape since the railway connected it to London. Its access to high-quality seafood as well as the other local products Cornwall is known for means that is it the perfect location for those looking to marry rural excellence with high-end techniques. It is also the home to several Rick Stein establishments which has helped to elevate it.
So while London offers so much to guests and restaurants alike, you cannot discount the rest of the UK for often it offers an honest and passionate approach to food. While travelling the UK, I love discovering hidden gems and if you know of other towns that should be counted as up and comers please comment on my social media.