Finding Northern Food In London

chipsandgravy

Former Northerner Emma Brooke seeks out some home comforts in the capital.

Like many Northerners who’ve dared to make the great exodus ‘down south’ (despite nan’s insistence that nobody talks to each other and you’re definitely going to get mugged as soon as you arrive), a lot has changed since the day I got my first Oyster card. Whereas once I thought everyone sounded like Hugh Grant and was astonished that people would consider paying more than £3 a pint, these days the family laugh at me for having a posh accent and calling it dinner instead of tea (God forbid I ever start referring to it as supper…).

Whether I like it or not, I have become a Londoner. And while most days I’m happy to drink craft beer and mooch around the latest pop-up boutique, occasionally the urge creeps in to sit in front of Corrie with a brew and something that consists predominantly of carbs and beef dripping. And so, my quest began to acquire the finest delicacies the North has to offer…in London.

ecclesEccles Cakes

“Eccles cakes. They’re from somewhere up North aren’t they?”. Yes, my friend, they are. A little town called Eccles in fact. Since the mid 18th century, the people of Eccles have been making these buttery, sweet currant cakes in order to make our elevenses extra special. If you’re willing to brave the gastronomic heaven/tourist hell that is Borough Market, you’ll find some freshly baked buns at The Flour Station from Thu-Sat. Or, for a more refined experience, head over to St John in Smithfield, where you can enjoy them at the bar or as a delectable dessert with a slice of good old Lancashire cheese.

Chips and Gravy

The quest for chips and gravy has been a long, arduous one for many a Northerner. How could something so simple be so difficult to find? Yes, there are rumours from time to time about this or that chippy that’s able to serve up some delicious brown sludge, but the chances of actually finding your favourite Friday night treat once you get there are slim, as requests are often met with utter bewilderment.

There are, however, a handful of establishments where you’re guaranteed to get something much more satisfying that that tub of Bisto you brought from home. A formica lover’s dream, The Fryer’s Delight on Theobold’s road has been around for 50 years and what they don’t know about frying chips isn’t worth knowing. Expect lashings of gravy and one of the capital’s best recreations of this Northern delight. Or just round the corner, we can also recommend one of Farringdon’s favourite cheap eats, Traditional Plaice on Leather Lane.

Kendal Mint Cake

Forget red bull or a double espresso, there’s only one treat that’s keeping up the energy levels in Cumbria – the well-loved Kendal Mint Cake. There are a few different brands knocking around, but one of the most popular has to be Romney’s, established in 1918. If you’re feeling flush, head down to Fortnum & Mason and pick up a couple of bars along with your luxury Christmas Hamper. Otherwise, you can get hold of the minty stuff at Toffee Nose, based in Covent Garden.

Pease Pudding

Traditionally a North East dish, pease pudding is the perfect comfort food to enjoy with a nice, warm stottie. Back in the day, it was adopted by London’s east-enders who’d enjoy it with faggots or a yummy saveloy sausage. These days, gentrification has taken hold, and you’re more likely to find it in some of the city’s more upmarket eateries. Butler’s Wharf Chop House on the river serves it with wild boar and venison, while at Simpson’s in the Strand you can enjoy it with oxtail faggots. If you’re on a budget, you’re best bet’ll be some of the larger supermarkets. Sainsbury’s currently has it for 40p.

Black Pudding

Black pudding has seen a bit of a revival lately and can be found on the brunch menu of many a gastropub. While many southerners will still wince when you reveal the ingredients, for us a full English just isn’t the same without it. Black pudding’s origins are dubious, but one of the strongest and well-supported claims comes from Bury. You can buy the real Bury stuff at Sillfield Farm’s stall on Borough Market. Or if you’re after an alternative, you can enjoy it with a first-rate fry up at grade II listed caff E Pellici in Bethnal Green.

beefdrippingBeef Dripping

Forget goose fat. Everyone knows that any kind of potato-based accompaniment tastes a million times better when it’s covered in beef dripping, even if it is sending you to an early grave. Northfield Deli in Borough Market sells great big tubs of the stuff for you to experiment with at home. Alternatively, you can head down to trendy British eatery, Albion in Shoreditch, for a ready-made portion of beef dripping chips.

Lancashire Hotpot

A hearty stew, topped with some crisp potatoes and served with a heap of red cabbage, Lancashire hotpot is a common teatime favourite. While it is available intermittently on the specials boards of certain gastropubs (and mentioned in many posh cookbooks), at present it’s proving particularly elusive. Alas, even Twitter was unable to help. However keep an eye out at your local after Christmas roast season is over and you might just be fortunate enough to get your hands on the perfect winter staple.

Words by Emma Brooke, chip picture by Chris Butchart.

This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.

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Article by Emma Brooke | 7 Articles | View Profile

  • Mark Rowland

    As an expat Yorkshire lad of 30-odd years in London I have to give a mention to the Golden Hind chippy on Marylebone Lane. A good few years since I’ve been there, but when I was last there they still fried their Fish n Chips t’ proper northern way – in beef dripping. Nothing beats the smell and taste and it’s probably the one thing I miss the most from my Northern roots.

    • Stephen Sidlo

      Cheers for the tip mate!

    • JohnnyFox

      do they also fry fish t’proper way without skin? A fish fryer in Barking once told me there was a ‘skin line’ stretching across the country roughly from Liverpool to The Wash and that north of that line, fish and chip shops removed skin from their fillets before battering, south of the line it’s traditional to keep it on.

      • MattFromLondonist

        Not heard of that concept. Interesting. In Grimsby (AKA the Home of Fish and Chips), the fish always came with the skin still on, and that’s a good 50 or 60 miles north of The Wash.

        • JohnnyFox

          Ha ha, M@, perhaps we need one of your maps with the skin contour more accurately defined!

          Definitely in my hometown of Heywood, Manchester, in Blackpool where my aunt and uncle had a guest house, and the part of Yorkshire where I grew up (Harrogate) there’s no skin on the fish. Wonder if it’s a feature of fishing ports like Hull and Grimsby to leave it on?

          • Will

            Never had skin on in Heywood, Dale or Bury. However I don’t think I’ve ever had the skin on in Portsmouth or London either…

          • JohnnyFox

            I’d pick Masters, Fish Central, Seashell and Fryer’s Delight as my top London chippies and they all have to be asked specially to do the cod without skin, but they all will. I’m also sick to death of hearing gastropub waiters say “chef says he can’t remove the skin” either because some agency cook doesn’t know how to wield a sharp knife and pull the skin with salt-dipped fingers, or because it’s a thin tail-end fillet bought cheaply in the catering trade, or worst of all pre-battered and frozen.

        • http://markslondonrambles.wordpress.com/ Mark Rowland

          In Grimsby it was probably still twitching a bit as it went in the fryer Matt!

      • Loiner

        What would a fish fryer from Barking know???
        From Leeds, I have only ever known batter fried skinless fish fillet by special request to the fryer – like when ordering a ‘special’.

        • JohnnyFox

          He works in Barking now, but he was from Yorkshire

  • Dave Greenwood

    The St. John Eccles cakes can also be had from their Druid Street bakery (just round the corner from Maltby Street) on Saturday mornings.
    Is anyone in London making artisan Chorley cakes, does anybody know?

  • katie

    fish and chips is delicious and the cakes, but the others make me feel ill…

  • Rob Smith

    Would love to know where to get proper haslet. Stuff I have found was very bland and pale.

  • Tom Bolton

    Any tips on tracking down good white pudding? Not sure if it’s Northern, as I’m a Midlander, but I like it a lot.

  • Dan

    Is that all? I’m shocked! Even this effete Southerner knows there are Northern exiles trawling the streets of London in search of a decent babby’s yed or pie barm. A follow-up chapter is needed, as a matter of urgent public service!

  • Squiz

    The Friars Delight changed hands a while back and is a shadow of its former self as evidenced by the exodus of the black cab drivers that used to throng there.

  • fule

    you can get chips & gravy in any branch of KFC as any fule kno

    • Mark Lowe

      That’s not real gravy though (any more than they’re “real” chips!)

  • SJ

    Any chance of finding a Parmo in the south, with proper garlic sauce?

    • Will

      Little chance of finding a parmo outside of the borough

      • Steven Hamilton-Healey

        Not true, Belushis do them in all their branches across london, as do Papillon Pizza in Stratford. Check out the Parmo Map published by the Gazette.

  • http://londonist.com/ Rachel Holdsworth

    Parkin. I remain convinced that it’s impossible to buy parkin in London.

  • Penel

    Who sells tripe and onions, cheese and onion pie or potted meat?

  • Funny, It Worked Last Time…

    Chips and gravy? Nah, mushy peas!

  • Emma

    Pease pudding and faggots has to be Chrisp Street market Poplar!

  • JohnnyFox

    I wish someone could explain why ‘meat pie’ and ‘meat and potato pie’ are never exported outside Lancashire. Pie shops use the same hot water and lard pastry as pork pie, and the filling is only mince, potatoes, onions and (in the case of Jimmy Greenwood’s in Heywood) an equal quantity of white pepper – but they don’t travel. I’ve seen one on sale at Borough Market but (a) it wasn’t authentic and (b) it was seven quid.

  • SimplyLondon

    Oh why, I haven’t eat anything yet, this just made me hungry!! but anyway great post!

  • Gareth Rees

    Yes but where can I get a butter pie and a friendly chat about t’weather?

  • Vinnie

    Any place in London that will fry you a greasy King Rib?

  • Angel of the North

    Coming from the North East myself, I do miss dreadfully the fresh pease pudding, stotties, parmos, saveloy dips and more. I certainly would be interested in investigating if there is an interest to get some of these Northern delicacies supplied down south. Although I have been told that apparently Greggs in Staines now sell Stotties for all us Geordies! Worth the trip – errr yeah!

  • Wendy Natale

    Kennedy’s chippy in Streatham does fab chips and gravy. Their fish is spectacular too – skin on, mind. I have to say as an ancient northerner, their fish and chips is among the best I’ve ever had. Mushy peas are too sloppy though.