There was a time when the U.K. was a great place to visit if you wanted to see wonderful art, fantastic theatre and fabulous countryside.
It was just the food that you had to eat while you were there that was likely to ruin your holiday.
Now all that has changed. Instead of being forced to make do with well-done steak and overcooked vegetables, today’s tourists have a culinary treat in store.
For the British restaurant scene has been transformed by a new generation of chefs who have changed the way we eat.
The revolution was begun, perhaps predictably, by a small group of Frenchmen who arrived in the Sixties and Seventies.
These included Albert and Michel Roux — who set up Le Gavroche and The Waterside Inn respectively — and Raymond Blanc, the proprietor of Le Manoir aux Qaut’ Saisons.
It’s hard to overestimate quite how unsophisticated the British palate was in those days. A vivid illustration of this came in 1957, when the BBC was able to fool many viewers into believing that spaghetti was grown on bushes in Switzerland by broadcasting an April Fool’s edition of the current affairs program Panorama purporting to show the annual harvest in action.
Against this background, the French invaders got to work, not only producing Michelin-starred cuisine but training a new generation of British chefs such as Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, who went on to spread the gospel of great cooking with high-quality seasonal ingredients.
By now, the British consumer had also grown more adventurous thanks to the package holiday boom, which took millions of Brits to Spain, France and Italy every year.
These days, the average Brit is not only familiar with spaghetti but knows their papardelle from their tortellini.
Indeed, the Brits have become so accomplished that they are exporting their expertise abroad, Including, to the horror of the establishment there, to France.
The French media were recently aghast to discover that the coolest chef role model among the young was no longer Escoffier but a scruffy young Englishman called Jamie Oliver.
His books, including one called Tout le Monde Peut Cuisiner, regularly top the bestseller lists.
As Gordon Ramsay once said: “Cooked well, British cooking is as good, if not better, than any other.”