From the coziest pubs to the buzziest bistros, visitors to the United Kingdom can get a crash course on the history and general vibe of a place by what locals eat. It's best to give the major chains a wide berth and seek out the smaller, independent venues that specialize in locally sourced ingredients served with heaping mounds of atmosphere. Here are our favorite food experiences in the UK. 

Fish and chips 

No trip to the UK is complete without a stop to a long-standing favourite – the chip shop. Every local has their favorite spots. You may never get the smell of grease out of your clothes, but these hole-in-the-wall establishments are always worth a try (particularly the towns with salt in the air). 

Full English breakfast 

Many people in England make do with toast or a bowl of cereal before dashing to work, but visitors staying in hotels and B&Bs will undoubtedly come face-to-face with the “Full English Breakfast”. The dense dish typically consists of fried bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and fried bread. 

A plate of roast beef smothered in gravy with a side of Yorkshire Pudding and veggies
The Sunday roast is a quintessential English experience © PhotoEd / Shutterstock

Sunday roast 

The classic roast beef dinner (always “roast”, never “roasted”) accompanied by Yorkshire pudding (portions of crispy baked batter) and sometimes filled with stew, gravy or vegetables is a quintessential experience. Enjoy the iconic meal at any pub throughout the country.   

Cornish pasty

The Cornish pasty is a mix of beef, potato, onion and swede, baked in a pastry casing that's been crimped on the side. Invented long before Tupperware, the pasty was an all-in-one-lunch pack that tin miners carried underground and left on a ledge ready for mealtime. 

So pasties weren't mixed up, they were marked with their owners' initials – always at one end, so the miner could eat half and safely leave the rest to snack on later without it mistakenly disappearing into the mouth of a workmate. 

In 2011, the pasty was awarded “protected geographical indication” (PGI) status by the EU, meaning that by law, only pasties made in Cornwall can be called Cornish pasties – the same accolade enjoyed by Champagne and Parma ham.

Spending diary: a couple's five-day trip to Cornwall 

Welsh Cawl in a Casserole Pot
Nothing like a warm bowl of Welsh cawl © monkey business images / Getty Images


Cawl (pronounced cowl) is a traditional, hearty Welsh one-pot soupy stew of bacon, lamb, cabbage, swede and potato. It's one of those warm, cosy dishes that you long for when you're walking in the hills.


In Wales, you may be offered laverbread, which is not a bread at all but seaweed – a tasty speciality often served with oatmeal and bacon on toast.

The best vegetarian and vegan eateries in Wales 

A pair of short glasses layered with whipped cream, roasted oatmeal and raspberries. The dessert is topped with strawberries.
Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert © NoirChocolate / Shutterstock


Whipped cream flavored with whiskey, and mixed with toasted oatmeal and raspberries, Cranachan is the kind of Scottish sweet treat that offers a little something for everyone. 


Scotland's national dish is made from the chopped heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal and onion, and wrapped in the sheep's stomach (or often an artificial casing). Widely available in Scottish restaurants and a staple at celebrations like Hogmanay and Burns Night. It's traditionally eaten with “neeps and tatties” (turnips and potatoes).

Wooden interior of a London pub
The traditional neighbourhood or village pub is still the centre of social life in the UK © Bike World Travel / Shutterstock


Despite the growth of stylish clubs and designer bars, the traditional neighbourhood or village pub is still the centre of social life in the UK.

A visit can be one of the best ways to get under the skin of a destination, as is a pint of an area’s traditional beer. To outsiders it may be “warm and flat”, but try it and you'll soon learn to savour the complex flavours of the country's many regional varieties.

Many pubs serve a wide range of food and it’s often a good-value option, whether you want a toasted sandwich between museum visits in London or a three-course meal in the evening after touring the castles of Wales.

Ulster fry

This greasy plate of sausages, bacon, eggs, potato bread, soda bread and tomato is the ultimate hangover cure. Maggie May's in Belfast serves it the traditional way.

You might also like: 

Food wars: UK vs USA 
Take a tea tour around the world with these six traditional brews 
Eat your way around the world without leaving London 

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