Eating and diet
Eating habits in the UK have been steadily changing over the last
few years, with the introduction of fast food restaurants and other diets. Vegetarian food, pizzas,
burgers, Chinese, Indian and other international foods are all now
part of the everyday British diet. This means that it is quite difficult
to define what ‘British food’ is like!
Traditional British dishes normally contain a
meat dish with potatoes and other vegetables such as carrots, peas,
broccoli and cabbage. The meat dish is often a type of stew which
is meat cooked in a sauce, with vegetables, in the oven. Meat may
also be fried, grilled, or roasted in the oven. A variety of sweet
dishes will normally be served after the main course: dishes such
as apple pie (two pastry layers filled with apple), ice-cream or
cake. Sometimes an extra course called the ‘starter’
or ‘appetiser’ is served before the main course: you
might be served something like soup, pâté or melon.
Sunday lunch is a great British tradition, and
normally a roast meat dish with vegetables will be served as the
A traditional ‘English breakfast’
consists of cereal followed by fried egg, bacon, sausage and
tomato. There will then be served toast and an orange jam known
as marmalade. Tea, coffee and orange juice will also be served.
However, most British people will usually have a much simpler breakfast
of cereal and/or toast with marmalade or jam, with tea, coffee or
orange juice to drink.
The British mealtimes have various names. This
is often very confusing, even for British people – so do ask
if you’re not sure! The first meal of the day is normally
‘breakfast’, but sometimes a late breakfast
is called ‘brunch’ (combination of
breakfast and lunch). A meal is often eaten in the middle of the
day, and is usually called ‘lunch’
– this is often light food, such as sandwiches. The evening
meal is often the main meal of the day, and it has various names:
and ‘tea’ (‘tea’ or ‘high
tea’ is more common in northern England and Scotland).
tea’ is different to the main meal called ‘tea’.
Afternoon tea is a light snack type meal eaten in the late afternoon.
Traditionally toasted teacakes (a sweet bread bun with currants
and sultanas) or scones (a form of bread dough) are eaten with jam
and cream. Often a variety of cakes is served. However many people
understand ‘afternoon tea’ as a cup of tea or coffee
together with a cake or biscuit.
The British traditional takeaway meal is ‘fish and
chips’. A variety of fish is available (normally
cod, haddock or plaice) which is coated with batter and fried in
vegetable oil. Batter is made from flour, eggs and milk. Chips are
chopped, fried potatoes. Many international takeaways are also available,
eg Chinese, Indian, Italian, Thai.
Although not every item of your own national food is available
in the UK, it is surprising what can be found. First of all try
a large supermarket near you. It may well stock some of the more
common items. Many large UK cities have specialist food shops.You
can find details of the specialist food shops in your area by looking
at the ‘Yellow Pages’ telephone directory or the
version. You could also ask in your local library, International
Student office at your college or an appropriate student society
If you go to a restaurant, you will usually be taken to a table
by a waiter/waitress. If the restaurant is a popular one, it is
best to telephone and book in advance to ensure that you get a place.
Most restaurants serve vegetarian dishes as well as meat dishes.
If you go to a restaurant with a British friend each person usually
pays for their own food, unless your friend has specifically said
they will pay. It is usual to leave a tip of approx 10% at the end
of the meal except where service charge is explicitly mentioned
on the bill. For more information on etiquette, click here.
Cafes, tea shops and coffee shops
These are good places to go for a drink (usually non-alcoholic,
hot and cold drinks). They always have a range of snack foods. In
some cafes etc, a waiter/waitress will serve you; in others, you
need to go to a counter to order and collect your drink/food.
This guide is copyrighted © Friends International 2005. No
part of this work may be reproduced without
the written permission of Friends International.
Additional local information provided by Friends International in Guildford, 2007.