Calorie counting doesn’t exist on cycling trips so find out about the traditional Full English Breakfast and try one!
English cuisine takes a lot of criticism. However, don’t pass up the chance to try the Traditional Full English Breakfast on your cycle trip to England. If you love a high fat content tasty meal and enjoy sampling a country’s iconic dishes, you will have fun with the Full English.
Read time: 10 min
What is the Traditional Full English Breakfast?
A local custom to try on your bike trip in England is the traditional full English breakfast. “Tourists love coming here for a Full English cause they see it as a traditional British meal. Kinda funny since we all come to work on a bowl of corn flakes,” said one London café owner carrying laden plates of brimming breakfasts over to two young Japanese tourists. The ‘Full English’ is not haute cuisine, and the English are the first to admit that. Nonetheless, they swear by it and in nationwide food polls it comes consistently in the population’s top choices for favourite dish.
What is the History of the Traditional Full English?
Reportedly starting with nobles wishing to impress with a prestigious spread for breakfast guests. Developing during the Victorian 19th century fad of indulgent eating when wealthy tables groaned under the weight of breads, marmalades, sausages, kippers and fried salmon. Not to forget, game of all sorts. Plus sweet cakes, eggs and seasonal fruits. Later the menu developed into a pared down version of this tremendous culinary experience. Yet still can cause the stomach to quell at its sight.
Enjoyed by all classes in England
During the growth of England’s industrialization, greasy spoons (cafés specializing in cheap fast meals) appeared near shipyards, factories and transportation hubs for workers. They quickly became famous for their hefty but economical Full English breakfasts, designed to satisfy the workforce’s appetites.
What is a Full English Breakfast?
Exactly what are the Ingredients to the traditional ‘Full English?
The first step, fry your eggs and bacon swimming in oil.
“No healthy poached style here,” remarked Jim, a Londoner friend taking time to prepare one, “also make sure you brown the bread up in the grease.”
He continued, plopping a huge butter slab into the warm frying pan. Mushrooms are added, fried of course (can you see the pattern emerging?). Sliced tomato, sausages, preferably English pork mixed with herbs and spices, and sliced potatoes, all fried.
Lastly, baked beans in tomato sauce are poured. The one thing not done in hot lard. Piled on the plate, dosed in a stream of HP Brown Sauce (HP stands for Houses of Parliament), and Tomato Ketchup and baptized with salt and pepper.
Not, perhaps, the most refined taste sensation, but there is something infinitely comforting about this meal.
Hard Day’s Work deserves the traditional full English Breakfast
No wonder the daily consumption of the Full English is victim to health consciousness and fast paced modern lifestyles.
For those who find it hard even to slip a vitamin pill past their lips before dashing to catch buses to work, it is according to Londoner friend, Sanjiv, a weekend, “stay in bed longer, I have a hangover so I’ll eat one later to sop up the alcohol,” kind of meal.
However, like the Sunday roast, it is still a beloved favourite and any visitor to Britain (Northern Ireland has their own famous Ulster fry up to tempt, as does Scotland and Wales) wanting a cultural experience should seek out a good breakfast nook café and try one.
Enjoy the traditional English Breakfast in England, Support local cafes!
This may be harder than it would first appear. Great Britain’s healthy eating habit change has forced many small eateries to rethink menus. Consequently, there are now more tofu salads being prepared in capital cafés than ever. However, many restaurateurs still stick to the old faithful breakfast deal which is perhaps the cheapest meal you can buy in England for this quantity of food, with average prices running at £4-6.
As Mark Roberts, the owner of the Southampton Solent Café, located beside the dock yards of this famous shipping city told me, “I take a lot of pride in my breakfasts, and if the punter wants something quick, I just say, sorry, the ‘Full English’ takes time to prepare and enjoy. Go somewhere else and get a sandwich if you’re in a hurry.”
Unfortunately, the current trend is that they do. Office workers now forgo the fry up for a quick pop down to the nearby upmarket franchise snack shop. Paying double the price, in order to return to the office and make some more sales.
In fact, according to BBC figures in 1958, “50% of the British population still ate bacon and eggs every day for breakfast – by 1976, that figure had reduced to 18%.”
The Full English Breakfast Cafes under threat
Today that number has shrunk further. In the wake of high rents and multi-national trendy juice bars, family run greasy spoons with their traditional English Breakfast have become a threatened species.
Eat locally and visit a family run café with a Full English Breakfast on its menu. You won’t regret this cultural experience.
“To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.”
W. Somerset Maugham
London's Diverse Full English
Touring London pursuing the best British breakfast may have added a few pounds on and most probably my heart is working overtime now, but the research was well worth it. Seeking out hole in the wall capital cafés, which still serve the meal, is truly a cultural experience. Sheer hard work and early mornings have kept many a mom and pop shop open and the smell of linoleum floors, formica tables, fake wood panelling, plastic chairs, all mingled with hot oil, seems to be the one thing they have in common.
Dedication to preserving the traditional Full English is the other.
Variations on a Full English
Since London is one of the most multicultural cities worldwide, the English are not the only ones embracing this greasy tradition. Many newly arrived have made it theirs too, with sometimes surprising variations. Sitting down to a bacon ‘butty’ (sandwich) in the East End, near Aldgate, I listened to a Bollywood greatest hits album with more than a bit of sandalwood incense wafting in. In another, on South London’s Wandsworth Road, I was regaled with Jamaican Ska and an offer of Belizean hot sauce to accompany my sausage and beans.
A Most Traditional Full English in London
Deep in London’s heart, Jack the Ripper territory, the ‘Full English’ is still a main part of the day. One of the best places to find the traditional fry up is in Smithfield’s market, near Clerkenwell.
It has been a market since the 12th century and is where William Wallace (of Mel Gibson movie, “Braveheart” fame) was executed. Each night, lorry loads of fresh vegetables and meat trundle into the capital, and stalls are set up in the early hours. This type of work deserves a hardy meal. Deep under the market in nondescript doorways, down several flights of stairs are the darkened halls of London’s best breakfasts. There at the bar at 6:30 am you can share pints of beer and eat platters of fresh from the farm eggs, sausage, bacon, chips and toast. Enjoy the company of burly tattooed men still in their slaughter house aprons and caps, continuing their long day listening to football scores and talking shop of meat prices.
The Full English in England’s Pop Culture
Fortunately, it’s not all gloom and doom for the ‘Fry Up’. Despite its loss in general daily eating habits, it has crept into British psyche, never to become extinct.
Re-runs of Monty Python`s ‘Spam’ skit: “Well, there’s egg, sausage and bacon; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam,” will at least make sure of that.
Even Twinings Tea (founded in 1706) who in their own words are, “influencing tea drinking habits .. helping shape the industry for ten generations,” have the ‘English Breakfast’ variety. Blended specifically to complement the traditional fry up. As a profit generating company they must at least have faith in the lardy feast being around for some time.
If the unlikely happens and the Full English loses its purchase in Great Britain, it has also migrated overseas with holidaying British masses. Thus, wanting a greasy egg on toast, drop into coastal cafés in Spain, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey or any other resort where British prop a beach umbrella. You will for sure see the signs outside all extolling their ‘Full English’ banquet.
Savour a taste of Britain with the traditional Full English Breakfast on your cycle trip
Those of us cyclists obsessed with trimming down, investing in feather light components and fixating about glucose content on food wrappers, embrace the chance to support local ventures and go for the Full English. It’s perfect for a big day’s English cycle ride.
Close your eyes on the calorie count though. It packs a power punch of about 850+ calories, 40g total fat with upwards of 16g saturated fats and.. gulp, a couple 1000mg of sodium! Hey we didn’t say it was nutritious, just iconic.
High fryers indeed! So go forth, joyfully indulge in what the British hold dear.
Pour the tea. Pass the sports pages and tuck in.
Ooh Coor Blimey, How Lurvely!