From Bakewell tarts to Yorkshire puddings: 5 iconic British foods and where to find them

Jun 11, 2020

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Here in the U.K., we may not historically be known for fine dining or particularly healthsome fare — but it’s distinctive, and generally filling. Think big hearty pies and food to fuel you through the winter.

And while some of our “delicacies” might not be to everyone’s taste (jellied eel, anyone?) the places they hail from could be. So while there’s a big focus on staycations, domestic travel and supporting our local businesses, see how many of these dishes you’ve tried then go and have another while visiting their homes.

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1. Bakewell tart — Bakewell, Derbyshire

Bakewell, Derbyshire. (Photo by P A Thompson/Getty Images)
Bakewell, Derbyshire. (Photo by P A Thompson/Getty Images)

Bakewell tart is a pudding made of shortcrust pastry with layers of jam, frangipane and a topping of flaked almonds. One common myth is that it was accidentally created in 1821 by a landlady’s cook in Bakewell who meant to make a jam tart. It went a bit wrong but the result was so tasty that it continued to be a popular sweet. It is very delicious.

Bakewell itself is a thriving market town in Derbyshire, in the East Midlands. It’s nestled on the banks of the River Wye in the Peak District National Park and its quaint cobbles and medieval bridge have made it a magnet for painters and photographers. The market, on a Monday, is particularly popular with tourists, and you’ll also find a 6th-century Yeoman’s house converted into a museum.

Read more: The ultimate guide to visiting Brighton

(Photo by AnnaPustynnikova/Getty Images)
(Photo by AnnaPustynnikova/Getty Images)

Nearby, there’s famed Chatsworth House, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire. This vast stately home is one of the biggest attractions of the region, and the gardens were designed by Capability Brown. Bakewell is also close to many stunning trails of the Peak District — perfect if rambling is your thing.

Where to stay

Try the Rutland Arms Hotel — it is rumoured that Jane Austen wrote “Pride and Prejudice” there. It’s located in the centre of town so everything is on your doorstep. Rooms are in the main building or in a pretty courtyard — it’s affordable, too. Rooms start at about £77 per night.

Where to get the best Bakewell tart

Head to the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop (technically the dessert started out as a pudding but evolved into a tart) in the heart of the town. Dating back to the 1800s, it’s said to have the finest Bakewells in the land — and you can even learn how to make your own there.

2. Pork pie — Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire

Saint Marys Church in the town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire
Saint Marys Church in the town of Melton Mowbray. (Photo by mrtom-uk/Getty Images)

A picnic favourite, a British pork pie is a pie filled with roughly chopped pork meat and a layer of pork fat jelly encased in hot water crust pastry. It’s normally served warm or at room temperature and is pretty heavy going.

It’s believed to have been created in the town of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire by a small-time baker and was a popular snack for fox hunters in the late 18th century. Melton pies are distinctive because of the hand-formed crust. It’s worth noting there is also a Yorkshire pork pie, which is served hot.

Melton Mowbray is sometimes referred to as the rural food capital of the U.K., as it’s also home to one of the six licenced makers of Stilton cheese. It still has a weekly livestock market. It’s not a very big town so you can easily do the Melton Heritage Trail in an afternoon including taking a look at Bede House, a 17th-century almshouse where six widows or widowers could stay for free provided they prayed daily for their benefactor’s soul. Melton County Park is nearby, too, as well the Belvoir brewery.

Read more: 6 UK National Parks to visit and what makes them special

(Photo by Diana Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Diana Miller/Getty Images)

Where to stay

About five miles away is Stapleford Park Country House. It’s set in 500 acres of landscaped gardens and woods and the Grade II-listed Victorian stables have been converted into a luxury spa. As well as lovely rooms and suites, there are cottages on the grounds, too, and lots of country pursuits to be enjoyed such as clay pigeon shooting. Rooms start at about £175 a night.

Where to get the best pork pie

Dickinson & Morris has been making pork pies since 1851, and the original bakery is now Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe. Stuff your face with pie, learn about its history and watch a pie demonstration in the “shoppe”.

3. Yorkshire pudding, Yorkshire

(Photo by Maremagnum/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maremagnum/Getty Images)

God’s own county in the north claims that this savoury pudding made from egg, flour and milk batter is from there. Yorkies are the perfect accompaniment to a traditional Sunday roast, dripping with gravy. And making them is an art form. Historically, they were served as a starter as they are both cheap and filling, so diners wouldn’t need so much costly meat for their next course. But now, they’re even used as a giant edible bowl filled with meat and potato goodness. While there is no specific place in Yorkshire where the pudding can be traced back to, there are plenty of places in the county’s capital of York to sample them.

The walled city of York has Roman roots and a Viking past — meaning there are 2,000 years of history to take in — it also has more attractions per square mile than any other city in the U.K. The York Minster, its cathedral, is magnificent and there are also 30 museums to explore. Discover some of its gristly secrets at York Dungeon, too. York has an exciting culinary scene, a Bettys Cafe Tearoom (for a Yorkshire brew of course) and some fabulous shopping opportunities. York is close to some of England’s most beautiful countryside and York Racecourse, on the fringes of the city, is one of the U.K.’s oldest racecourses and a great day out.

Read more: The best road trips from London that take 2 hours or less

(Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

Where to stay

The York Marriott combines a country house vibe with all the facilities of a modern hotel. There’s also a four-star leisure centre so you can enjoy a dip in the pool and a spa bath after a busy day in the city. Rooms start at £89 per night. It’s a Category 5 property so one night would cost you 30,000 Marriott points on off-peak dates.

Where get the best Yorkshire pudding

Enjoy a Yorkie with a twist and head to The York Roast Co. — there are two branches in the city. It serves giant Yorkshire puddings wrapped around a choice of meat with gravy, stuffing and vegetables.

4. Cornish pasty, Cornwall

(Photo by Southern Lightscapes-Australia/Getty Images)
(Photo by Southern Lightscapes-Australia/Getty Images)

This shortcrust pastry treat is associated with Cornwall, in the West Country. There are very specific rules about what makes a genuine Cornish pasty — it must contain onion, beef, potato and swede, the ingredients have to be cooked from raw in the pastry parcel and they have to be made in Cornwall.

Cornish pasties were traditionally “all in one” meals for tin miners — a good pasty could even survive falling down a mine shaft, it is said. Another quirk of the pasty was that it could be baked into dinner and dessert — one-half savoury and one-half sweet. Again, there isn’t one particular place in Cornwall that can claim the pasty as its own but Ann’s Pasties on The Lizard, the most southerly peninsula on the British mainland, are said to be legendary.

The Lizard has stunning views and has castles, museums and World Heritage Sites to explore and you can’t get any deeper into Cornwall than this area. Daphne du Maurier based many of her novels there and The Lizard is also home to rare breeds of birds and flora. Kynance Cove is particularly spectacular. If you’re a diving fan, Falmouth Bay has loads of sites including Manacles Reef, home to at least 50 wrecks — Cornwall was, after all, a smuggler’s haven in the 18th century — especially for contraband like brandy and gin.

(Photo by creacart/Getty Images)
(Photo by creacart/Getty Images)

Where to stay

The Top House Inn is the most southerly inn on the mainland and a 15-minute walk to Lizard Point. It’s a “good old fashioned Cornish pub”, with hearty pub grub and eight en suite rooms in an adjoining building. Top House Inn is dog friendly, too. Rooms start at about £100 per night.

Where to get the best Cornish pasty

Ann, of Ann’s Pasties, and all the women in her family (and now her son) were pasty makers and people come from all over Cornwall to queue outside her brightly coloured shop in The Lizard village.

5. Snowdon pudding — Gwynedd, Wales

(Photo by Andrew Peacock/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andrew Peacock/Getty Images)

Snowdon puddings (there’s a slight theme here) are steamed fruit and suet puddings flavoured with raisins and lemon marmalade. It’s a classic Welsh dessert and it was served to climbers at a hotel at the foot of Mount Snowdon from the late 18th century.

Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and located in Snowdonia National Park. Besides the obvious activity of climbing it (it’s 3,560 feet above sea level) with both beginner and more challenging routes to choose from, there’s the 100-year-old Snowdon Mountain Railway. It only goes five miles per hour but the views are wonderful. There are also charming little towns to explore such as Betws-y-Coed and Beddgelert. For adrenaline junkies, you can go white water rafting at Canolfan Dŵr and, of course, don’t forget to visit the Victorian seaside resort of Llandudno.

(Photo courtesy of Tin and Thyme)
(Photo courtesy of Tin and Thyme)

Where to stay

The Grand Hotel in Llandudno is a magnificent old building on the North Shore Promenade overlooking the bay. It exudes old fashioned grandeur and is about 25 minutes by car from Snowdon. Room start at about £62 per night.

Where to get the best Snowdon pudding

Since this dish is quite old fashioned and a bit obscure, it can be hard to find somewhere that has it on its dessert menu. So why not make your own? Click here for an excellent and easy recipe, by award-winning food blogger Tin and Thyme.

Bottom line

There’s no denying that all of the above British treats are rather… solid dishes. But all date back hundreds of years when this type of food was typically used for workers who spent long hours doing hard labour — so they needed something filling! However, the places they originate from are great spots for a visit and may not be on your radar, until now. So go and see these areas for yourself — but arrive hungry!

Featured photo by Gerard Puigmal/Getty Images

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