American and English mid-range restaurants

Pubs, cafes, bistros, diners. Fifteen years ago, food in American mid-range eateries was bad; on my first visit to England, it was worse. I’ve eaten in many such places in America in the meantime, and I’ve watched the food get much better. So it was pleasant but not surprising to discover that similar improvements had been made across the Atlantic. (I made one trip in the interim, but my budget only permitted bread, fruit, cheese, and crisps.)

What was surprising was how divergent the menus are. In the US, I know what to expect. There will be toasted sandwiches, french fries, simple soups, meal-sized salads, often a brunch menu. Particularly fancy places will have some French touches (I do love duck confit), and the most common variation on the sandwich theme is the wrap or burrito.

There are obvious points of overlap. Part of our improvement was to realize that fish and chips and bangers and mash weren’t half bad, and put them on our menus. Sandwiches, salads, soups are all recognizable, but there’s notably more mushrooms, peas, and Shropshire blue cheese. The proportion of beef seems to be higher. Instead of burritos or wraps, you’ll find a plethora of savory things baked in pastries: steak and kidney puddings, various meat Wellingtons. Foreign influences, instead of being Mexican and French, are South Asian and Italian. Our hotel featured a chicken balti pasty one day, and lasagna was everywhere.

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