As culture changed in the 19th Century, British cuisine moved with the times. Restaurants featuring food from abroad didn’t remain a novelty for long. The writer and chef Elizabeth David did much to introduce new dishes from the continent. Indian and Chinese takeaways came to be ubiquitous on high streets across the land. Chicken Tikka Masala famously became the nation’s favourite dish. Refined dishes came to the British Isles from France and other countries. As foreign travel got easier, residents of the UK developed a taste for sophistication, and food moved into the realms of style.
As food became fashionable, a definable culture grew up around it. Celebrities such as Delia Smith served a strong market for books and TV programs about traditional home cooking, but celebrity chefs like Keith Floyd paved the way for a new generation of sophisticates interested in dishes from abroad and fine wines to accompany them. If British food had been seen as plain and limited, new ingredients and new cooking methods brought it of age.
In the midst of a dietary revolution, a new found appreciation for traditional British food emerged, fuelled by chefs intent on enhancing traditional British recipes and bringing them to a new audience. While many were looking to nouvelle cuisine from France in the 1980s, others were seeking re-interpretations of traditional meals that would go on to become a major feature on menus in restaurants around which social life came to revolve.
Traditional recipes for stews, puddings, roast meats, and pies have been revitalised in recent years, with new, imaginative cooking methods and the innovative use of herbs and seasonings. These days it’s not rare to find top class restaurants offering a fresh twist on such traditional dishes as bubble and squeak, steak and kidney pie, and steamed pudding. More elaborate dishes involve ingredients such as roasted venison loin, pickled shellfish, and wild rabbit. Menu items that were thought lost forever came back with a force in trendy eateries offering British fare. Mutton and suckling pig came back to plates in the UK and there was a definite challenge to the understanding abroad that British food was bland and boring. A growing taste for healthy food failed to hamper the development of a distinctly British cuisine with natural ingredients prepared in a traditional way. In modern times consumers appreciate the value of a balanced diet, and traditional British food is known to have its place.