What springs to mind when someone mentions the words ‘British’ and ‘cuisine’ in the same breath? Meat and two veg? Fish and chips, of course. Or — if you can bear the distressing thought — jellied eel? Is British cuisine an oxymoron, producing much laughter in France and Italy?
Apparently not. This may surprise, but exports of British food and drinks have been growing for seven years and over 3,500 food and drink companies from around the world, including India, have set up in Britain. Scotch whisky exports have increased 50% and food an astounding 62% over the last four years.
What does this mean for the 100,000 visitors who have come for the London Olympics? In the first week of the Olympics, visitors spent more than 450 million pounds on their Visa cards — around 12.7 million pounds of this was spent in restaurants, an increase of nearly 20%.
Are they getting to taste a lot of British culinary marvels such as Melton Mowbray pork pies, Scottish smoked salmon and trout, Welsh lamb, London curries, Cornish pasties, Thorntons chocolates or English ales, wines (including the unusual sparkling red) and apple brandy?
I’m not sure they are. The reason, ironically, lies in London’s success as the pre-eminent city of international food — coupled with the traditional British reticence to showcase indigenous food and drinks. Restaurants that boldly advertise British cuisine are still playing catch-up.
And inside the Olympic venues, you are more likely to be sold hot dogs than Melton Mowbrays, although the latter are far more tasty and nutritious.
There is, however, good news for Indian consumers. Scotch whisky may still be largely unaffordable because of outrageously high Indian taxes, but British pork producers are contemplating a push for the Indian market. With meat consumption booming in India, can the Melton Mowbray find a way to India?
“Because of our protected geographical indications, the pies have to be prepared in Melton,” said Matthew O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association. “But there’s a way out — we are can ship the preparation over to India and bake it there.”