So, how’s the food in London? In a word: It’s great. But it’s not just the international food that’s great. Read on to find out why you should be eating traditional British food in London…

The capital of England is celebrated for many reasons—its colorful history, stretching back two millennia; its drama-courting royal family; its countless famous cultural sights and rituals. Typical food is not usually among them. Sure, you can find great diversity in London’s restaurants; this is a global city and it’s reflected in many a good, Michelin-starred continental and Asian restaurant. But English cuisine in London? The longstanding belief is it’s downright bad—except it isn’t. “Stick to ethnic food” is common advice. We say: Don’t follow it. To the complaints about bland, overpriced foods? We say: You must be eating in the wrong places. People love pontificating about why British food is bad—untimely industrialization, hard-to-get fresh food, a habit of rationing. We say: Less talking, more eating!

Things have gotten better in recent years, and more people are coming around to the fact that there’s actually really good British food in London. Knowledge is power, and that’s true in the pubs, restaurants, and markets of London—the ones you should be eating in. As in many tourist-friendly cities, a random restaurant selection in a high-traffic area will likely yield disastrous, pricey results. For this section, we’ve tried to find British dishes in restaurants, pubs, and markets where Brits still eat, shop, and drink.

For this guide to typical London foods, we considered both tradition—the wonderful but dying breed of pie-and-eel shops of the East End; the sweet and buttery 18th-century breads—and prominent ethnic influences; the typical things our local friends eat regularly as well as those dishes every visitor really must try. We’ve paid close attention to those chefs, producers, and pubs making an effort to rewind the country’s gastronomy back to its core basics—wild game, local/seasonal ingredients, nose-to-tail preparations—and we sought out the newer wave of local artisanal gins and microbrews alongside that old-school pub standard, real ale. The resulting spread, we hope, is as appetizing as it is reputation-busting. Let’s dig into 38 essential foods of London.