On a freezing cold, wet and breezy December day in London, nothing is better than ducking inside a local pub for hot fish & chips! When planning my trip to London, there were two recommendations that I received time and time again.
1- Attend live theater because it is the best in the world!
2- Order fish & chips at a local pub. I had heard that traditional fish & chips may be severed with smashed peas also known as mushy peas. I had never heard of smashed peas before and they did not sound appealing, but when in Rome……
What is the history behind smashed peas? Mushy peas are part of traditional British cuisine, made up of dried marrowfat peas. These peas are pre-soaked overnight in water along with baking soda, rinsed and then simmered with a little sugar and salt to create a thick, green, lumpy soup. They are often served with fish & chips in Northern England and the Midlands. In Northern England, you may see mushy peas on the menu as an entrée called Pie & Peas. Fish & Chips have been one of Britain’s favorite dishes since the 1860’s.
The Glassblower is located between Regent Street & Piccadilly Circus at 40 to 42 Glasshouse Street, which is walking distance from the Le Meridien Piccadilly where we stayed. The pub was originally a Victorian workhouse. Earning its name, The Glassblower was a place where workers spent their day blowing glass.
I always pictured a brew pub in Europe as a noisy establishment located on a busy street corner with dim lighting, dark wooden floors, bar stools, tables crowded together, lively atmosphere, men in coats and scarves, a long oak bar with several brews on tap and people crowding all around trying to order. Well guess what? It was exactly as I pictured! Upon approaching the pub, we could hear all the loud voices each time the front door opened.
There’s something to be said for a brew pub in the winter. Looking around, I took note of the coat racks and everyone who walked in. I observed as they took off their jacket and scarf and hung it on the rack. The cold temperatures could be felt from the windows as we sat inside. The smell of hot fish & chips filled the air each time the waitress passed the table. You’ll hear the sounds of clanking dishes, constant chatter in various languages, and a lot of cheering. Waitresses were making their way up and down a narrow staircase, which led to a smaller bar area.
The Glassblower appears much larger on the outside than it truly is on the inside. Are all pubs located on a corner? There is a story behind that. Landowners in London controlled large pieces of land which were available to developers via leasehold. Before the developments began construction, pubs were built to feed the workers. The corner location allowed the pub to stand out on a block of businesses. It’s also more convenient to be dropped off on a corner than in the middle of a street. After completion of the developments, the pubs remained on the corner and became a point of social focus. Some developers were not thrilled with pubs in their area so they offered them large amounts of cash to move out.
The menu includes traditional British entrées such as Lamb & Sweet Potato Pie, Pastrami Burger, Chicken & Chorizo Burger, Ploughman’s Tart, Sausage & mash, and Chicken Chardonnay Pancetta Pie! The Ultimate Fish & Chips are hand-battered cod fillets served with your choice of mushy or garden peas, pickled onions, bread & butter, curry sauce and tartar sauce. The Glassblower offers a nice selection of international bottled beers and an array of craft brews on tap. Butcombe’s Bitter and Shepherd Neame’s Whitstable Bay to name a few.
$$ Saving Tips: The Glassblower is a little pricey which is to be expected for Central London. I highly recommend sharing a platter. The portions are huge and we should have really split the Fish & Chips. Fish & Chips platters start at £12.69 which is approximately $19.50 going up from there and a pint of beer is £5.70/$9.00.