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Lovely Grub, jellied eels, 1927.jpg
© Getty Images Gallery Lovely grub, jellied eels, 1927

London's most historic dishes

London has launched its fair share of signature dishes over the years. Here are ten still worth unearthing

By Anna Kibbey
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Did you know that 14th century nobility in London thought it healthier to consume meat disguised as fruit? You can still find ‘meat fruit’ on the menu at Heston Blumenthal’s concept restaurant Dinner. We’ve picked out ten of the best historic dishes as well as the best restaurants to sample them. Don’t worry, you won’t need to carbon date these meals, they’re all pickled, prepared and cooked to order in this century. History just got a whole lot tastier.

London's most historic dishes

1. Jugged Hare, The Jugged Hare

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Barbican

£26

What’s the story? Despite penning a bestselling cookbook, ‘The Art of Cookery’, bunny stew inventor and eighteenth-century domestic goddess Hannah Glasse did time at Marshalsea Prison in Southwark.

What’s it like? A warm, meaty embrace. Cooked with love over several days and served in a jug with buttery mash on the side, this is just what you’d dream of if you were shivering in a cold cell.

2. Jellied eels, F. Cooke, Broadway Market

Restaurants British Hackney

£3.50

What’s the story? One of the few living things that could survive the toxic soup of the Thames, eels were ubiquitous from the eighteenth century – Londoners couldn’t eat them fast enough, in pies, stews or boiled in a mix of water, parsley and vinegar that sets to a jelly.

What’s it like? The cold jelly will sort the bona fide Cockneys from the mockneys but the nuggets of eel themselves are sweet and subtly flavoured. Ask for a lug of the chilli vinegar.
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Meat fruit from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Meat fruit from Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
© Rob Greig

3. Meat Fruit, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Restaurants Haute cuisine Knightsbridge

£17.50

What’s the story? Pome Dorres (Apples of Gold) can be traced back to banquets held by London nobility in the fourteenth century, when it was deemed healthier and more fun to eat minced pork disguised as fruit than the real deal.

What’s it like? Heston’s mandarin-a-like, polished to glistening perfection for the inevitable pics, is a little bomb of rich chicken liver parfait, dipped in a mandarin jelly.
London's most historic dishes - the flour station chelsea bun
London's most historic dishes - the flour station chelsea bun
Mowie Kay

4. Chelsea bun, The Flour Station, Borough Market

Things to do Event spaces Borough Market

£2.50

What’s the story? The opening of the eighteenth-century Old Chelsea Bun House in Pimlico sent peg-toothed townies into such a frenzy that its daily 3am opening needed heavy policing. The shop may be long gone, but its legacy lives on.

What’s it like? Flour Station’s modern buns are a heartier breed: fluffy-textured, butter-slicked, currant-speckled and coiled.
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London's most historic dishes - M. Manze pie and mash
London's most historic dishes - M. Manze pie and mash
Rob Greig

5. Pie, mash and liquor, M. Manze, Tower Bridge Road

Restaurants Pie and mash shop Bermondsey

£4 (eat in)

What’s the story? M. Manze on Tower Bridge Road, set up by Italian immigrants in 1902, is the oldest surviving eel and pie house in London, and the place to swap your nicker for pie, mash and liquor.

What’s it like? Crisp hand-made pastry and minced prime beef filling, made to the same recipe as the original, doused in a layer of gravy, baked in a stone oven and served with a stiff mash and parsley-flecked eel liquor.

New_GoldenHind_w.jpg
New_GoldenHind_w.jpg
Jael Marschner

6. Haddock and chips, Golden Hind

Restaurants British Marylebone

£8.80

What’s the story? Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Whitechapel, first married floured, fried fish (a Spanish delicacy) with deep-fried English spuds in 1860, to create London’s first fusion dish.

What’s it like? The oldest surviving chippy in town is Rock & Sole Plaice but fellow OAP Golden Hind keeps the grease-o-meter turned down with chunky (not chewy) chips and a crisp case of batter on the pearly white haddock fillet.
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London's most historic dishes - Omelette Arnold Bennett, Savoy Grill
London's most historic dishes - Omelette Arnold Bennett, Savoy Grill
Photograph by Chris Tubbs

7. Omelette Arnold Bennett, Savoy Grill

Restaurants British Strand

£12

What’s the story? Invented for the writer Arnold Bennett during a stay at The Savoy in 1929 by the hotel’s head chef. Ironically, AB became far better known for his omelette than his writing.

What’s it like? Like belly-flopping into a sticky swamp of cheese, smoky fish and hollandaise. Breakfast for the truly committed.

8. Peach Melba sundae, Hawksmoor

Restaurants British City of London

£6.75

What’s the story? The Savoy goes that extra mile again, naming this dish of peaches, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce, invented by chef Auguste Escoffier, after the visiting Australian soprano Nellie Melba in 1892. Hope she wrote a decent TripAdvisor review.

What’s it like? Melba fans will have to search high and low for an unadulterated version – there’s a crumble, an éclair and a millefeuille at The Savoy – but Hawksmoor’s Peach Melba sundae replicates the glorious tooth-melting sweetness of the original.

 
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9. Scotch egg, Harwood Arms

Bars and pubs Gastropubs West Brompton

£4.50

What’s the story? High falutin’ department store Fortnum & Mason was the genius behind the encasement of egg within meat and breadcrumbs back in 1738. And it’s still waiting for a Nobel prize.

What’s it like? At its best (and we’ve yet to find one that matches up to the Harwood Arms’) it’s the yolky, coarsely meat-clad, craggy-crusted nugget of nirvana that has launched a thousand Instagram posts.

10. Roast trolley, Simpsons in the Strand

Restaurants British Strand

£31.50

What’s the story? In its first 1828 incarnation as a chess and coffee house, Simpson’s invented the roast trolley to wheel joints of meat to London’s chess-playing glitterati, minimising disruption to games.

What’s it like? The 28-day-aged roast rib of Scottish beef, served in suitably old-fashioned surrounds (not much has changed since the nineteenth century), is a showstopper. Just don’t order anything else.

 

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