London: 5 classic British desserts found on most pub menus

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Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky toffee pudding is the traditional British dessert for diners with a serious sweet tooth. Photo: Supafly

Much of what you’ll read on EuroCheapo’s London blog will highlight the incredible variety of cuisines on offer in the capital. From top notch Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French and Italian to Lebanese, Turkish, Spanish and Indian, London is the ideal place to introduce your taste-buds to new flavors.

However, what we tend to shout about less are the homegrown recipes we locals grew up with, the tastes that punctuate British cooking. While most visitors to London try to seek out a traditional fish and chips, English breakfast or Sunday Roast during their stay, one thing I think Britain does very well are desserts. And happily for Cheapos, these are almost always quite affordable!

Here’s a run down of my favorite desserts to look out for on any pub menu during your stay. I’m sure you won’t regret giving them a try.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

The absolute dream dessert for anyone with an ultra sweet tooth, Sticky Toffee Pudding is about as traditional as it gets. Nobody is quite sure when the recipe was really invented, but some believe it is as early as the start of the 1900’s. The pudding itself is a lovely steamed sponge with a dark, toffee color due to presence of dates and black tea in the recipe. The sponge is topped with a thick, rich, warm toffee sauce.

It’s normally served with cream, custard or vanilla ice cream, all of which make a welcome addition when matched with the intense sweetness of the dessert. Your teeth will hate you for this one, but your stomach will love you!

Fruit Crumble

Fruit crumble is a summertime staple. Photo: rukakuusamo

Fruit Crumble

A summer favorite, crumble has been a staple British dessert since the 1940’s and you’ll find it made with lots of different fruit combinations on dessert menus across London. Traditionally, a fruit crumble is made with stewed apples, blackberries, rhubarb and sometimes sharp gooseberries. The delicious sweetened stewed fruit mixture is then covered with a crunchy “crumble” topping of sugar, flour and butter. It’s best eaten hot with a dollop of cold vanilla ice cream.

Strawberry Trifle

Strawberry Trifle — like “mum used to make.” Photo: sifu_renka


One of the oldest British desserts, and one that highlights the nation’s love of custard, Trifle has been a traditional sweet since the 1500’s. Trifle isn’t found as regularly as other desserts on restaurant menus and tends to be a more nostalgic dish that everybody’s mum “used to make.” If you do spot it being sold somewhere, then it’s well worth a try, or alternatively you can pick one up in supermarkets like Marks & Spencer for a few pounds.

The main ingredient is thick custard, which is layered with sweet sponge cake, fruit jelly, fresh strawberries or raspberries, cream and a bit of sherry to give it a kick.

Eton Mess

Eton Mess is a popular sugary mix of goodness. Photo: Curns

Eton Mess

This simple summer dessert is said to have been invented at Eton College in the 1930’s. It’s a sugary mixture of crushed meringues, fresh chopped strawberries and whipped cream that continues to be a popular choice with Brits today.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding is a traditional and delicious way to end a meal. Photo: sifu_renka

Bread and Butter Pudding

Very English and ever traditional, while Bread and Butter Pudding may sound like a strange way to end a meal, it really is delicious, with a surprisingly delicate taste. This dessert has been a staple dish since the 1700s at least, and is made by layering buttered bread and raisins with cream or milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. The dish is baked in the oven so that it is crispy on top and and gloriously soft underneath. It’s normally served warm with ice cream.

Where to try them

Good pubs in London will always offer a wide selection of traditional desserts, so check out our post on the best pubs in London and traditional British restaurants for some ideas.

Other locales of note include London’s oldest restaurant, Rules in Covent Garden, where they serve up a mean Sticky Toffee Pudding, if not a little on the pricey side at £7.95. Canteen is also worth a look – this small chain has restaurants on the South Bank, Canary Wharf, Baker Street and Spitalfields, and specializes in reviving classic Brit dishes. The desserts are delicious and start from a more palatable £4.50 each.

Roast in Borough Market and Market in Camden Town also offer a mouthwatering selection of typical desserts starting from around £7 each.

Have a favorite British dessert?

Did we miss one of your favorite British desserts? Have a suggestion for a great place to try any of those listed? Share with us (please!) in our comments section below.

About the author

Nina Derham

About the author: Nina is a freelance travel writer who will leave no stone unturned in her quest to discover the very best on offer in a destination. She recently relocated to London after spending over four years in Madrid and is currently enjoying rediscovering her home town.

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One thought on “London: 5 classic British desserts found on most pub menus”

  1. While in England I visited many of the great houses and gardens. Most had cafés with lots of desserts displayed. One I had never heard of was coffee walnut cake. Bakewell Tart was one I made while there. It is definitely one I will make again.


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