Nostalgia, a slice of edible culture, a taste of history – whatever your reasons for craving an old school British pudding, these London restaurants serve some of the best.
An evolution of the fool, trifle – an amalgam of fruit, booze-soaked sponge (or ladyfingers), and cream – probably came about in the 1500s. Served in a brandy glass, it’s been a staple of Simpson’s menu – or more correctly, ‘bill-of-fare’ – for a large part of the restaurant’s 180-year history.
Sweetings’ Ginger Pudding
Not as well-known for their accurately labelled ‘comfort food puddings’ as for their Dover sole or lobster bisque, but still, Sweetings don’t cut corners with the third course. They steam their ginger pudding (a method true to its roots, but generally outmoded because it’s not exactly easy and convenient), which produces a moister crumb and a sweet, glutinous layer on top.
Dean Street Town House’s Spotted Dick
A sponge mixture containing suet, citrus zest, and dried fruit, which is steamed for a couple of hours before it’s served with copious amounts of custard. Spotted dick is, through little fault of its own, something you don’t often see on the dinner table these days. Nothing however is too traditional for Dean Street Town House and its classic British menu.
The Parlour’s Knickerbocker Glory
Knickerbocker glory is a mountainous construction of cream, ice-cream, fruit, meringue, syrup and nuts. A particularly elaborate variation of a sundae, in other words. The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason does a version that’s almost a celebrity in itself – it’s been on the menu since 1955.
Wiltons’ Bread & Butter Pudding
Wiltons set up shop on Jermyn Street at about the same time bread and butter pudding was first documented in the early 18th century. Indeed, it could conceivably be that their interpretation of this classic dish is as old as the restaurant itself.
Scott’s Bramley Apple Pie
It’s a dish considered flag-wavingly American, but the British have been making apple pie since the 1300s. Scott’s rendition is something to be admired – soft and sweet apple in a shortbread-like casing, with a silver boat of custard served alongside.
The Gilbert Scott’s Eton Mess
Along with the also-very-British Eccles Cake, Eton mess regularly crops up on Marcus Wareing’s menu at The Gilbert Scott in King’s Cross. As to the dish’s origins, legend has it someone’s Labrador sat on someone else’s picnic basket full of meringue, cream, and strawberries at Eton College, though Wareing’s version forgoes the subsequent ‘mess’ for something a little prettier.
Ormer’s Apple Crumble
Family dinner table apple crumble is perfect in its imperfections – burnt edges, a slightly too thick crust, and a slightly toothsome filling. Looking a bit unfamiliar in that respect is Ormer’s modern take, served in a white chocolate ‘shell’ with caramel and vanilla ice cream. It won’t remind you of family dinners back home, but that might not be a bad thing.
Quo Vadis’ Sticky Toffee Pudding
It’s strange to think sticky toffee pudding has only been in existence since the 70s, such a dinner party stalwart as it is. It’s a treat commonly seen on restaurant menus too and there’s no better place to try it than at Quo Vadis in the heart of Soho.
The Wigmore’s Treacle Tart
Treacle tart first appeared over a hundred years ago in Mary Jewry’s 728-page tome Warne’s Model Cookery. It’s enjoyed a healthy, if sometimes forgotten, life since. Dozens of restaurants in the capital continue to give it the attention it deserves, including Michel Roux Jnr’s modern British tavern, The Wigmore.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.