These are the top foodie picks from Lonely Planet's ultimate UK travel hitlist
Are you constantly searching the most amazing travel experiences in the UK? They'll now be easier to find as Lonely Planet releases the Ultimate United Kingdom Travelist, our first ranking of the top 500 travel destinations and experiences across the UK. To help travellers who let their tastebuds lead the way, we’ve rounded up the 10 highest ranking foodie experiences from the list to whet your appetite.
6. Make a British weekend of it with a Sunday pub roast
Fewer and fewer people in Britain start Sunday with a trip to church, but the roast lunch is still a lock. For visitors, it’s a must-do experience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a centuries-old, windowless pub in London or at a large country inn with tables sprawling over a lawn, you’ll be among friends and families laughing, drinking beer and tucking into plates of hot sliced roast beef or pork, Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes and assorted veggies, all slathered in gravy. Warming, filling and indulgent, it’s comfort food par excellence. But more than that, it’s a reassuring experience, a weekly ritual where the nation stops time, staves off the start of the working week and lives in the moment. Grab a plate and take your fill.
16. Take a foodie foray through London’s Borough Market
London – Once a humble wholesale fruit and veg mart, Borough Market has become London’s foodie epicentre, blowing holes in Britain’s reputation for stodgy, stolid cuisine. The atmospheric location under the railway arches was created in the 1850s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that the market made the leap to artisan epicureanism. Today, there’s nowhere better to browse for homegrown produce, exotic imports and rare breeds. Most visitors make a lunch of it, grazing on everything from Asian stir-fries and wild boar sausages to oysters and pungent cheeses, and sipping single-origin coffee or a cheeky Belgian Trappist ale. With the maze of stalls and phenomenal crowds, it pays to come early to get a head start on the lunching office workers from Wednesday to Friday, or the legions of tourists on Saturdays.
51. Mix champers and champions at Wimbledon
London – London’s sports calendar is fast-paced and frenetic, but Wimbledon drops things to a more genteel pace, the occasional racquet-throwing tantrum notwithstanding. Sure, there are grunts and the odd expletive, but how many other sporting events can be enjoyed over champagne and strawberries in the (fingers crossed) English sunshine? The British leg of the Grand Slam tournament shifted from June to July a few years back, ensuring the best chance of idyllic weather to accompany the season’s best summer fruit. The biggest challenge is getting tickets. Unless you are well connected, try the public ballot, held the August before the tournament. If that fails, tickets change hands for monster sums online, or you can camp through the night for a spot in ‘The Queue’ on the day.
68. Start the day with a full English breakfast
London – The local British caff, with its Formica tables and laminated menus, is a window into a previous version of England – pre-globalisation, pre-digital, pre-colour-coded healthy food labelling. The canonical full English is fried bacon, fried eggs, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, buttered toast (possibly fried – can you see a pattern?), baked beans and sausages, served with a squirt of brown sauce and a mug of tea. Restaurants do posh versions but if the experience means more to you than the food, go for the greasy spoon.
71. Sample Britain’s sweetest crab fresh off the boat in Cromer
East Anglia – The bustling Norfolk resort of Cromer is intrinsically bound up with the sea. A snub-nosed pier juts from broad beaches bearing fishing boats hauled high from the waves. The crustaceans landed here are so synonymous with the port that they borrow its name: Cromer Crab isn’t just a local boast, it’s a fishing area. And it’s famously sweet-tasting. Hunt it down in the narrow lanes leading from the shore. At Davies Fish Shop, the crab is caught by its own dayboat, then boiled, cracked and dressed on-site – straight from sea to slab. Or head to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Henry Blogg Museum for tales of daring rescues, then up to Rocket House, an airy cafe with a balcony almost overhanging the sea and a menu packed with Cromer crab.
81. Picnic with a view on genteel Primrose Hill
London – Waterloo has prime claim to the London sunset, but Primrose Hill is more refined. The graceful green space climbing behind Regent’s Park has front row seats onto central London, a vantage point enjoyed over the years by locals ranging from Sylvia Plath to Jude Law. It’s perfect picnic territory (though the surrounding pastel-coloured townhouse rows offer great cafes and restaurants if you prefer), and, if you time it right, you might bump into one of Primrose Hill’s resident druids, part of a cult founded here in 1792.
87. Spice up your life with a balti in Birmingham
Midlands & The Marches – Invented by a Pakistani chef in 1970s Birmingham, the balti launched as an east-meets-west dish where Pakistani culinary tradition fused with western tastes. It caught on like wildfire. In what is hands-down the country’s curry capital, the balti blossomed into Birmingham’s very own endemic spice sensation. What makes this an only-in-Birmingham thing? The dish it is prepared in, for starters: a steel receptacle in which the balti is cooked and served to retain essential flavours, originally manufactured by just one city firm. True baltis also require vegetable oil rather than ghee, dry spices besides fresh ginger and garlic and meat on the bone, not off. Fire up your taste buds by hitting the restaurant of the chef who created the dish: Adil’s, in Birmingham’s famous Balti Triangle. Much imitated outside the city; rarely replicated.
92. Come out of your shell at Whitstable’s famous oyster festival
Southeast England – Slurped since the Romans ruled these parts, Whitstable’s meaty molluscs are one of the main reasons moneyed Londoners head to this old-world town on the north Kent coast. Local lore dictates that oysters are only eaten in months containing the letter ‘r’, so it comes as a surprise to some that the town’s famous oyster festival, one of the southeast’s top gastro events, takes place in the last week in July (actually the end of the oyster season). The festivities traditionally marked the beginning of the oyster-catchers’ summer hols but have morphed into a parade and maritime-themed event. One of the (stomach-turning) highlights is the oyster-eating competition, and the whole caboodle is infused with white Downland wine and lots of Kentish ale, both Whitstable-brewed and from nearby Farnham.
107. Make the pilgrimage for a pint at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem
Midlands & The Marches – Our list’s highest-positioned tavern, this whitewashed edifice built into the bottom of the outcrop crowned by Nottingham Castle claims to be England’s oldest inn. Established as a stop-off for Holy Land–bound pilgrims, and with Richard the Lionheart supposedly among the former clientele, the building is steeped in legend (ask about the fate that befell those attempting to clean their model galleon, now caked under layers of grime, or the pregnancy chair sat in by generations of women wanting a child). But Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’s coolest feature is the network of caves opening directly off the rear, some used as drinking rooms or cellars. Characterful as the interior is, take a drink to the front garden courtyard if weather allows: this opens up great views of the pub and castle above.
111. Quaff quality craft-ale on Bermondsey Beer Mile
London – Along a corridor of unassuming railway arches and industrial estates, sandwiched among scrap metal collectors and taxi repair garages, is the heart of London’s brewery district. Now clocking in at slightly longer than its namesake distance, the Bermondsey Beer Mile is home to about 10 taprooms, some quite no-frills, plus an ever-expanding collection of craft-beer bars and bottle shops, making it an ideal afternoon ramble for hopheads. At one stop, you can even rent equipment to brew your own.