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Re-Defining the Exotic Cuisine of London

The days when visitors to the typical London hotel could only find exotic cuisine where that was defined as ‘French’ are now long gone! 

Today’s visitors staying in a London hotel don’t have to worry about access to a wide range of dining experiences. Just about every cuisine on the planet is available locally now, but, in fact, this is a comparatively recent phenomenon.

London's conservative taste

Anyone much over the age of about 50 can remember the days when the typical dining experience in the capital was a very different thing to that of today. Perhaps as late as the 1970s, in spite of being a huge capital city, London was traditionally known for its culinary conservatism. There was a great emphasis in restaurants and even the typical London hotel’s kitchens on 'good, plain British cooking', perhaps with some French influences thrown in. That would typically have involved some variation on ‘meat and two veg’ with gravy, or fish and chips (and the occasional piece of grilled lemon sole for those with pretentions).

In general, many of the capital’s inhabitants viewed continental or foreign food with great misgiving. Of course, there were exceptions. Some parts of the city already offered the merest whiff of the exotic through Chinese restaurants, and a few brave Indian restauranteurs were already starting to set up business too. In the City and West End, there were a few traditional Italian, French and Greek restaurants, but they were still few in number and frequented largely by the rich, business folk or the 'in' crowd. The net result of this lack of culinary choice was Britain’s unenviable international reputation for indifferent food and limited choice.

The modern world

Yet fast-forward to the 1980s and 1990s in the UK capital and the world looked completely different. By and large, the British capital had become an international city rather than an English one - as reflected by the vast array of various cuisines on offer on its streets. In fact, it’s arguably the case that there is very little difference between the opportunities for exotic dining during the 1980s and that available today. So, what changed the position so much back then in as little as 10 or 15 years?

Global changes

The social and political changes that took place from the end of the 1970s through to the end of the 1980s resulted in increasingly large numbers of people from other parts of the world coming to London for work. They brought with them a demand for far more adventurous cuisines than were available locally and, almost inevitably, demand led to a reaction in terms of supply. Add to that of the explosion in global tourism as a result of cheap air travel and the typical London hotel of the 1980s was full of foreign tourists with their own culinary expectations.

Are the changes good or bad?

Few would argue that more choice is a bad thing, however, it’s worth noting that for 30+ years, many fantastic aspects of traditional British cuisine have been overlooked, discarded and in some cases virtually forgotten. Sadly, today it can be difficult to find good traditional British cuisine in the heart of the capital.

Fortunately, the occasional London hotel and enlightened restaurant is now working to try and rediscover and reintroduce some of those lost gems.

Article Tags: London Hotel

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Matthew Zelinski works for the London Regency Hotel, a top London hotel in Kensington. This wonderful hotel embodies the true flavour of Kensington, with its traditional regency-style façade and superb facilities. Whether you're looking for accommodation in London for business or leisure, the Regency offers an effortlessly elegant experience. 

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