Chicken tikka masala and sweet and sour pork have long been hailed as representing Britain’s top food choice.
But pasta and pizza are more likely to tempt our taste buds, according to a survey of eating preferences carried out in 24 countries.
Although Indian and Chinese dishes traditionally top the culinary charts for Britain’s most loved foods, an in-depth look at our dining habits suggests Italian dishes are more popular than curries and stir-fries.
A YouGov international study of more than 25,000 people revealed Italian food gets the highest overall global approval rating, and the same is true for Britain where Italian is numero uno.
YouGov asked people to look at a list of 34 national cuisines and say whether they had tried and whether they liked or disliked them. Italian food was liked by 91% of Britons compared with the average global popularity rating of 84%.
In fairness to fish and chips and a Sunday roast, Italian food tied with British food as the joint most popular cuisine with domestic diners. The next most popular national foods were Chinese (86%) and India (84%) respectively.
French food, commonly accepted as a major influence on British cooking, scored a rating of 68%, only one percentage point above Turkish cuisine. That means almost a third of British diners do not like confit de canard, cassoulet and île flottantes. Zut alors!
The survey makes for interesting reading in light of Brexit and plays into all manner of Euro-sceptic/pro-European interpretations.
However, one thing is clear: the British catering and hospitality sector faces an uphill battle convincing a European audience of its culinary merits. The UK, and London in particular, are frequently cited by guide books, chefs and critics for the variety and standard of the food offer. But the message from the YouGov survey, carried out between May and December 2018, could not be starker: “British cuisine is regarded as unpalatable across mainland Europe. While 91% of Britons say we like our own national cuisine, fewer than half of those in the other European countries agreed.”
There is particular disdain for British food among Germans, Spaniards, Danes and the French, of whom only 25% to 28% said they liked it.
What lessons can be drawn from the survey? Like any study of its kind, its reach is restricted. Although 25,000 people sounds like a large sample for a global poll, it equates to just over 1,000 people in each country.
Nevertheless, there is a disconnect between the social media noise around certain styles of food and the picture the survey presents about British tastes. For example, Vietnamese, Korean and Peruvian food, which all have outstanding offerings and have attracted plaudits, scored low for popularity in Britain, liked by only 53%, 43% and 27% of respondents.
With public opinion and entrenched views playing such a significant role in informing food buying decisions, the survey explains the huge risks operators take when they venture out of dining’s comfort zone and open less familiar restaurant outlets.
But the time may be right for a calculated risk.
If Italian and British food really do rule the roost for domestic diners, maybe it is time to combine the best of both worlds. So, here’s a thought: a hybrid dish of “bangers ’n’ mash pizza” could be a few focus groups away from coming to a high street near you.
Mangiare bene, mate.