Best specialty foods of Britain

An antique tea set on display at the Bramah Museum of Tea and Coffee, London
Image courtesy: Neil Setchfield

Want to go straight to the source of Britain’s tastiest produce? This article will take you on a tour of some of the best specialty foods of Britain.

Mozzarella in Hampshire

Traditionally, mozzarella is made with the milk of the water buffalo in the Campania region of Southern Italy. But there’s no need to go that far – instead, try the 2,500 acres of biodynamic farmland at Laverstoke Park Farm in deepest Hampshire, where you will find the biggest herd of water buffalo in the UK – and Laverstoke’s acclaimed mozzarella.

Tea in Cornwall

It may seem odd for a country that drinks so much of the stuff, but there’s actually only one tea estate in Britain, and that’s Tregothnan Estate in Truro, Cornwall. It’s in the warm, wet county of Cornwall, where the climate is not that dissimilar from the classic tea-growing areas of Sri Lanka and India. There are over 30 Assam and Chinese varieties, and tea production follows the time-honoured system of hand plucking the bushes.

Sparkling wine in Bodmin

There was a time when British wine was scoffed at. No longer. British wine, and in particular British sparkling wine, regularly picks up awards in international competitions. And no British sparkling wine sparkles more than that of the Camel Valley vineyard. It won the Trophy and a Gold Medal in the International Wine Challenge for Camel Valley Bacchus in 2009.

Apple juice in Brookthorpe

Berkley Pippin, Transparent Codlin: there’s a kind of poetry about the names of apples you’ll find growing in the orchards of Dave Kaspar and Helen Brent-Smith, the two-person workforce behind Day’s Cottage. You can buy  cider, perry and bottles of apple juice, each graded by sweetness and frequently with the names of the particular apples making the juice at this cheerfully ramshackle cottage.

Chicken in Chepstow

Madgett’s Farm has been there, in the rolling, wooded landscape where England meets Wales, for a very, very long time – it’s even mentioned in the Doomsday Book – and it has a reputation for the quality of their chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The birds have proper texture and a deep rich flavour, as you can judge yourself by visiting the farm, buying one and taking it home to cook and eat.

Honey in Monmouthshire

There’s a season for honey. It lasts, according to Les and Jill Chirnside of the Llanover Skirrid Honey Farm near Abergavenny , from about March until the end of October, or even into November. During this period, its all go for beekeepers, removing the honey from the combs and getting it into jars.  Les and Jill are happy to talk honey with anybody – just call first to make sure they’re not out tending to their bees.

Bread in Montogomery

Speed and heat are the great enemies of the goodness in flour, and nothing grinds slower or cooler than a water-driven mill. It’s this go-slow approach to milling that has made Matt Scott’s Bacheldre flours the choice of a slew of first-division chefs and bakers, as well as the Ludlow Food Centre in Shropshire, where Anna, the master baker, uses them for her cakes and breads.

Beef in Denbighshire

There are 12,500 acres of the Rhug Estate, the core of which is a 2,500-acre organic farm. Here, Lord Newborough has built up a herd of glorious Aberdeen Angus cattle. These are reared on a coastal farm near Caernafon and then moved to the lusher inland pastures of Rhug, where they can mature.

Pies in Cumbria

There are pigs galore at Sillfield Farm, in a handsome part of the Lake District. They’re special pigs, too – Gloucester Old Spot, saddleback, Middle White, Tamworth and wild boar – all old breeds with particular, delicious qualities.  In the end, they all go into a range of porky products made on the farm, under the watchful eye of Peter Gott, a true food hero, who can count Prince Charles and Jamie Oliver among his admirers.

Fudge in Penrith

It’s called The Toffee Shop, but it’s actually more famous for its fudge, which has been made to the same recipe for over 100 years. There’s not much on display in the windows, or even in the shop itself, just slabs of fantastic fudge wrapped in opaque greaseproof paper and heaps of toffee. And then there’s the comforting aroma of warm molten sugar and butter…

Freshly made fudge
Freshly made fudge
Image courtesy: Simon Greenwood

Salmon in Sutherland

You’ll find Kinloch Lodge, where Hugh Montgomery  practises his craft, on the northernmost edge of Scotland, off one of the narrowest, windiest roads you’ll ever drive along. Hugh passionately labours over his sides of salmon (wild salmon caught locally or farmed from Loch Duart) with exacting attention to detail. He also smokes trout, venison, mackerel, duck and pheasants and does a range of sausages and haggis.

Sausages in Nottinghamshire

So you want to learn about making sausages? Or how to cure? Then make the trip to Wellbeck, a kind of forgotten fairyland, where you’ll find the School for Artisan Food, housed in a block of renovated 19th-century stables. There’s a working bakery and a  dairy, as well as the butchery section, and a micro-brewery is about to open. Do a one- or two-day course – or you can also just look round for free.

Beer in Burton upon Trent

Burton upon Trent has been the capital city of British brewing ever since the unique properties of the water there were discovered to be ideal for the brewing of ales. Here you can tour The National Brewery Centre to see how beer is made or attend one of the regular tasting events, and then order a pint of your choice in The Brewery Tap bar.

Wild food in Sussex

Nick Weston was the survival expert on Channel 4′s Shipwrecked series, but now he shows other people how it’s done, not just the which-berry-can-I-eat-without- poisoning-myself part, but the full range of shooting, fishing, preparing and cooking as well. Between April and October, he conducts one-day and two-day courses that cover whatever food is free, wild and in season, how to find it, deal with it and how best to serve it up.

This article is an extract from an original piece by Matthew Fort that appeared in Lonely Planet Magazine UK. It was refreshed and updated in July 2012. To know more, see Lonely Planet India’s Great Britain travel guide.