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An iconic British breakfast dish, kippers are herring that have been cured via kippering (yep, it’s a verb too)—split open, cleaned, salted, and smoked; then usually grilled/broiled or sauteed. This method of curing fish dates to the 1840s, in Northumberland (northeast England); it was introduced to London soon thereafter. The best kippers hail from the northeast, particularly the Isle of Man and Scotland, but they’ve long been sent down to London, where they enjoyed immense popularity on Victorian breakfast tables.
The fish is strong and oily, as good herring will be, but don’t be dissuaded: With a little butter and lemon—and maybe a poached egg—it’s rather brilliant.
Where: We loved the grilled kippers at Soho’s handsome Dean Street Townhouse (69-71 Dean St., map), a popular restaurant, hotel, and celebrity haunt with a cozy, cushy-chaired lounge room and a beautiful wooden-floored bar. The restaurant focuses on seasonal British food, which we appreciated.
When: Mon-Thurs, 7am-midnight; Fri, 7am-1am; Sat, 8am-1am; Sun, 8am-midnight (breakfast daily till 11:30am)
Order: The grilled Manx kippers with butter (£9.50), made with real-deal herring from the Isle of Man. They’re served on the bone, as per tradition, with some butter on top and lemon on the side—no frills, and none are needed. The taste is deliciously smoky, subtly buttery, and not very “fishy” at all. Picking around the small bones is a bit time-consuming—our server called it “ritualistic” for those die-hard fans—but the work of it will only let you better appreciate the really meaty parts. This is a lot of fish; devouring it all is one of the more enjoyable ways to overload on healthy omega-3s. You can add two poached eggs if you wish.
Alternatively: Lots of hotels and classic restaurants, like the historic Simpson’s-in-the-Strand (100 Strand; breakfast served weekdays only, map) and The Wolseley (160 Piccadilly, map), have kippers for breakfast. (Some are even starting to offer it at dinner too.) In the middle of Borough Market, you can try grilled Orkney kippers, from Scotland, at Roast (The Floral Hall, Stoney St., map).
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