Oftentimes, when British people talk about needing “good British food” in the States, Americans will scoff and utter words to the effect of, “Is there any such thing?”
Word to the wise — stop doing that. Of course there is. Because while y’all are obsessing over school meals from the 1800s such as spotted dick, or traditional Scottish dishes like haggis, we’re all chowing down on Angus beef and, yes, fish and chips.
Because fish and chips, when done correctly, is fantastic. The trouble is, it’s rarely (if ever) done correctly in the United States. Every “British pub” in this country will offer some bastardized, near-offensive version and three small pieces of breaded (or battered) fish rather than one long slab. If it’s cod, as it should be, then you’re lucky. Many times, it will be something like tilapia instead. The chips will be more like fries and thin and crispy rather than proper, fat English chips. And, horror of horrors, there will often be fucking lemon and tartar sauce with it rather than the mushy peas, curry sauce and/or gravy that we prefer across the Atlantic. Truly, you’re only hurting yourselves. Get it right, and watch your lives change.
As in the States, multiculturalism has improved the food in the UK. The large population of Indian and Pakistani people has led to the curry almost taking over from fish and chips as the national dish; Indian food is as popular in England as Mexican food is here in California. The good news for Brits is that good Indian food is easier to find (though not always easy) in the States than any popular British dishes. It can all be problematic, and there are many British musicians now living in L.A. that struggle.
“Good British food is hard to find here in L.A., so when I get the spot I tend to stay loyal, says Billy Morrison. “Obviously fish and chips is our national contribution to world cuisine and I will say that Connie And Ted’s on Santa Monica does a killer version. If it’s lamb chops you want (another British staple) that’s gotta be Bedford & Burns in Beverly Hills. And finally (and this is probably the most sought after thing I get asked for being British in L.A.), a good Indian curry! Even though it’s Indian by nature, the East End of London is known for its phenomenal Indian cuisine [as are Birmingham and Bradford] and finding a good curry here is hard, but Flavor Of India on Sunset Boulevard is the secret. Great guys, great food and a hidden gem!”
Thea Juliette Stevenson of folk rock band Fox Violet prefers The Pikey on Sunset.
“That’s my fave for the British pub food feel and feels really like a UK place — it’s quirky and cool and makes you think you are in Camden (London). The fries are insanely great (which we call chips).”
Billy Duffy, guitarist with The Cult, prefers to stay at home and prepare his own food.
“Sometimes me and my girlfriend will do the classic British dish of beans on toast, with marmite and farmhouse cheddar. I knew she was a keeper when I discovered she liked marmite!”
That’s questionable — marmite is a famously a “love it or hate it” food. It is available at supermarkets that have a small British section in the “international” aisle. Meanwhile, Michael des Barre doesn’t miss much about the British diet because he’s watching his figure.
“I’m a fanatic 138 lb 5 ft 8 1/2 inch rock & roll personality,” he says. “So this curtails my Britishness in terms of diet. When I do cheat, my wife and I go to a little restaurant called Foxes in Altadena on Lake Avenue. They make a traditional, perfect, Winston Churchill, Sex Pistols fish and chips with which I order extra tartar sauce [Editor’s note: WHAT?]. Since I don’t drink anymore I substitute a non-alcoholic beer and pretend.”
KAV Blaggers, formerly of the Happy Mondays and now of Blitz Vega alongside Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, says that he takes his food seriously and he loves making food almost as much as making music.
“I never thought I’d miss British food in L.A. but after about a year or so, I really did,” Blaggers says. “I used to get my British breakfast from the former Cat & Fiddle on Sunset or the [Ye Ole] King’s Head in Santa Monica. I’d go over there for Premier League [soccer] games and have breakfast. I’d also go to the Fox & Hounds in Studio City. It was a short trip from Los Feliz where I’m based. I’d mainly go there for the football [again, soccer to you Americans]. They used to do a great cheese & onion pasty — I’d have it with mushy peas and baked beans with a dash of brown sauce.”
However, we Brits have to be careful when choosing our British food and drink venues of choice — soccer team affiliation matters.
“I soon realized it was an Arsenal pub and being a Man United fan I always felt a little on edge in there,” Blaggers says. “One time Bonehead from Oasis was over for a gig guesting on guitar with me. I took him and his bandmate Alex to the Fox & Hound around 4 a.m. for an English breakfast and to watch the football. He wouldn’t stop singing ‘Oh Manchester’ which kinda annoyed the Arsenal contingent. Anyway, it got a little heated and I didn’t really feel welcome back there although it was just a bit of fun.”
When he’s not getting his British breakfast out, Blaggers is making it.
“I love cooking breakfast so I would go to Indian Sweet and Spices on Los Feliz Boulevard, and get my baked beans, orange squash and HP brown sauce. The Indian shops in L.A. stock a lot of British stuff because they always attract Brits (I think David Beckham would pop in there every now and again, so goes the legend). I’d go there to eat their homemade-style vegetarian Indian food and pick up my British food at the same time; traditional British baked beans and snacks like a Crunchy [candy bar] or a Kit-Kat with real British chocolate — also Walkers crisps [chips]. Samosa House on Washington Boulevard, close to Venice, is also good for British stuff. The food is amazing there, so I’ll always pop in there on the way back from the beach and pick up some British stuff.”
Last word goes to Enuff Z’Nuff guitarist Alex Kane, a Chicago native now living in L.A., though he fronted his band AntiProduct, based in London, for years in the 2000s. He took the opportunity to have a chuckle.
“The wit! The irony! Delicious! ‘Hankering for English food.’ HAHAHA. What a sublimely delightful and imminently British expression of the inherent self-loathing so systemic to English ‘culture.’ ‘May I have more gruel and blood sausages, Guvna.’ HAHAHAHA. When I want to be around the English, I go to an Irish bar in the Valley. Coach and Horses for English drinking milieu.”
Alright mate, huck it up.