Humans are creatures of habit and comfort; many of us take great pleasure in the simple rituals of everyday life, ranging from that first, fragrant cup of coffee in the morning to cosying up on the sofa in the evening to watch your favourite show. These unsophisticated habits and comforts are the metronome of everyday life, and without them we would feel a little lost; they give subtle structure to our ever-busy lives. However, there is one such relief from busyness that stands tall amongst our other simple luxuries, and that is comfort food. Whilst comfort food is not exactly a habit, least of all because of the potential risk to our waistlines, it is steeped in nostalgia, and happiness.
In an age where many restaurants compete for artistic presentation and delicate flavour profiles, it is easy to think that the art of producing hearty food is at risk of being pushed into the abyss. However, we wholeheartedly disagree. Comfort food has to stay, even if for our own sanity. There are only so many times you can be served a steak on an obscurely shaped slate, or a Sunday roast served as a child’s portion with pretentious leaves placed on the top. Sometimes a gargantuan pie and mash, or a sickly selection of sweet treats hits the spot in a way that so-called “fancy food” never will. Our favourite comfort foods evoke memories, conversation and a sense of relaxation, and so for these very reasons, we should all know of a few special places where we can go out and eat truly fulfilling dishes that satisfies our inner creature of comfort. To save you searching, we have rounded up some of the best places from around the UK to get your fill of ‘cheerful’ food.
The Hour Glass: Exeter
Tucked away on the corner of a quaint street, just up from Exeter’s historic Quay, is the equally historic pub, The Hour Glass. At nearly 180 years old, the snug pub is the stomping ground for those searching for hearty roasts or traditional pub food. The Hour Glass uses a stripped back approach, with a fastidious focus on quality ingredients, and utilising that to make homely classics that are pumped full of bold flavours. For a Sunday roast treat, the Belly of Free-Range Pork with homemade apple sauce is a must, whilst the Fish Stew, made with Cod, Squid, Mussels and Chickpeas is a warming seaside dish that seems an apt tribute to The Hour Glass’ maritime history. Not only that, but the food is enjoyed within the homely décor of the pub, which plays host to log-burners, mahogany panelled floors and walls, and a bar stocked full of local casks and spirits. The Hour Glass is the epitome of the traditional English pub, and with its immense character comes brilliant food that warms the soul.
Hatch 77: Pimlico
From dusk to dawn, Hatch 77 is a genuine all-day café, and for a lunch time spot, you can expect to find sandwiches that are overflowing with home favourites that are certain to make you feel warm inside and leave you feeling fully satiated. The various Salt Beef sandwiches are the crown of their menu, laden with pickles, slaw and if you are feeling particularly indulgent, the truffle parmesan fries are a serious decadent treat. However, at any time of the day, you can expect to find dishes that are crammed with delicious ingredients, which range from burgers and skirt steaks to Eggs Benedict and creamy pasta dishes. Not only that, but the cosy interiors bring an added informal, and comfortable atmosphere, which allows the food to do the talking.
This list would not be complete without the inclusion of a Fish & Chip spot. However, this is a contentious issue, as most people have their own personal favourites. Having said that, for us Krispies is right up there, and you can enjoy their variety of battered morsels on the Exmouth seafront, which offers a sweeping vista of the Devon coastline. Krispies follows a no-nonsense policy with their food, focusing just on the traditional approach to the nation’s most famous dish. Extremely crispy batter and the freshest fish is what dictates at Krispies; I mean the clue is in the title. The obvious choice is their Battered Cod and Chips, however if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, then their famous battered chips will unlock a new level of comfort food. Any trip down to the West Country would be well advised to try out Krispies, at least to just say you have had battered chips: a true British novelty.
The Electric Café: West Norwood
The Electric Café is our choice for a big English fry up, but similar to Krispies, we know full well that the majority of people already have their own firm favourite. A greasy fry up is pretty subjective, and arguments such as the debate over fried bread or hash browns will still rage for years to come. However for pure authenticity, comfort and nostalgia, The Electric Café should tick every box. Trapped in a time capsule from the 1940s, the café is over a hundred years old, and each element of décor helps shape the truly unique greasy spoon. Ultimately though, it is the fully stocked fry ups that steal the show and bring together all the elements of the endearing London café. Whether it is a hungover visit or just a pining for the adored Full English, you will struggle to find somewhere better equipped to serve up a veritable breakfast feast.
Original Patty Men: Birmingham
It would be remiss of us to not include a burger spot in a compendium of comfort food hotspots. An overloaded burger, whilst difficult to eat, is incomparable in terms of the level of content it brings, and it is no secret that the messier the burger the better it is. With that in mind, Original Patty Men, based in Digbeth, Birmingham is serving up different styles of burgers that literally burst from their buns. Filled to the brim with all the burger essentials, Original Patty Men are striving to create the most satisfying burgers possible, and with choices that include a Bacon Cheese, made up from Aged Longhorn Beef, American Cheese, Lettuce, White Onion, Pickle, ketchup and American Mustard you can be assured of a gourmet experience. Dripping with flavour, and exploding with burger essentials, the experience at Original Patty Men ensures that you receive genuine food for the soul.
Pullman Jacks: Liverpool
With winter just around the corner, warming food with plenty of sustenance is essential. One dish that jumps above most is the pie, and one such pie-maker stands out most: Pullman Jacks. The pie shop, based in Liverpool, delivers its award-winning pies across the nation, so wherever you are based you can guarantee that a bold flavoured steak and ale is never far from reach. From traditional approaches to more contemporary techniques and ideas, the team at Pullman Jacks use a wide range of methods to create their fabled products. As expected, each pie comes with lashings of rich gravy, creamy mash and mushy peas. Some would say that pies could well be the personification of comfort food, and Pullman Jack’s only add further proof to this.
Berners Tavern at The London Edition
The work of Jason Atherton at Berners Tavern could well be described as a shrine to British comfort food. Found within the Fitzrovia outpost of Edition hotels, Berners Tavern is a bastion of hearty culinary delights, accommodated in the striking baroque-cum-art-déco dining room. Cluttered walls with countless gold framed paintings alongside leather booths and intimate lighting help create a distinctly glamorous, yet relaxed environment. The arresting dining room is the perfect complement to the understated, yet slick menu that serves only traditional British cuisine, and whilst the majority of dishes are restrained in their presentation, there are touches of flair that elevate each dish. At its core, Berners Tavern is a celebration of true, authentic British dishes, a comprehensive collection of the nation’s favourite foods, that can be enjoyed in the opulent surroundings of The London Edition. Our choice would be the five-cheese macaroni, topped with a healthy amount of braised beef blade-it is pure culinary ecstasy.