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Two Food Questions: Haggis and Burgers

We're going to be in London in early to mid-April and, much to my surprise, I am contemplating trying haggis if it can be found (I may still chicken out; I know my wife will). Is there any "real" haggis to found in any London restaurant? As a follow-up, has anyone tried the dish and is it as "bad" as it sounds? If it tastes livery, I am out. Liver is one of the very few foods I just can't stomach.

Now: burgers. A coworker visited England in the mid 90s and had a hamburger. The burger was served in a company cafeteria and the company was located "out in the boonies". He described the burger as being more like a meatloaf, with unusual (to an American) condiments such as grilled tomatoes. Does this describe what is, or more likely used-to-be (if it ever was) a British hamburger? If it is/was somewhat a traditional burger, can such an animal be found now? If yes, any recommendations for a restaurant? I'm at least a bit suspicious that a company cafeteria just might have served something that wasn't typical? LOL Regardless, from seeing photos of burgers in online menus while researching our trip, I think the Brits could teach a thing or two to many American burger joints these days!


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Posted by
4805 posts

Haggis, being Scottish, may be less common in London, and not that many Scots probably seek it out, except maybe on "Burns Night". Haggis is found in two basic forms (in my view), "modern" style which is closer to a sausage or black pudding, or what we here would think of as a hash; and then the more traditional dish prepared in a sheep's stomach.

Taste can vary, the more commercial stuff is milder, a good traditional preparation will have more of an offal taste.

As for where to go...do a google search, there are several Scottish themed pubs and restaurants that come up, but most of the spots I have been list it as an appetizer, even deep fried like a hush puppy. Most likely use a commercial canned or prepped product. Myself, I have had it most often at breakfast. Traditional Chef made Haggis? not sure where that might be found.

As for the Hamburger, that does not ring a bell. Hamburgers are a big food item, many casual to upscale burger restaurants, but I think most fashion themselves off American Burger joints. I suspect the cafeteria you mentioned came up with their own interpretation.

Posted by
1093 posts

Is there any "real" haggis to found in any London restaurant? As a
follow-up, has anyone tried the dish and is it as "bad" as it sounds?
If it tastes livery, I am out. Liver is one of the very few foods I
just can't stomach.

I've only tried it in Scotland, but I guess there is at least one restaurant in London serving it. It's not bad at all in my opinion, especially if served with neeps, tatties and a whisky sauce. Can't remember it tasting "livery".

Posted by
8569 posts

Haggis is Scottish. It's not bad. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat it but if served, I'd eat it again. I don't remember it being "livery".

Burgers are everywhere and just like in the U.S. Besides the big U.S. chains--McDonalds, Burger King, Five Guys--two British chains with upper end burgers are Byrons and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. There are numerous toppings available. Both have websites you can visit to see what they offer on their burgers.

Every pub will have a burger on the menu.

Posted by
3978 posts

I have never seen haggis in London other than for Burns Night in January. It’s not sold in English supermarkets until you get close to the Scottish border. I like haggis although it can be dry and I hate liver. English black pudding is the closest, but it’s very different in taste, texture and ingredients.

Burgers come just as a burger on a bun with lettuce and raw tomato or you can get them in a variety of flavours with cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce, onions, avocado etc. I have never seen a burger with grilled tomatoes. There are many burger options including Gourmet Burger King, Hawksmoor, Patty & Bun and
Honest Burgers.

Posted by
54 posts

as "bad" as it sounds?

You come from a country that thinks cheese comes from a squirty can. Don't judge.

Posted by
5817 posts

Some suggestions for places to find haggis in London.
Some might only serve around Burns night but some will have them as permanent menu items.
https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/restaurants/best-haggis-in-london-burns-night-toastie-mac-and-cheese-a4048006.html

I've never found that it tastes particularly livery but it is offal so it will have a distinct flavour. There is usually a decent amount of oats in it so the texture is quite loose not packed like a meat loaf. If you have reasonably adventurous tastes you will probably enjoy it.

You shouldn't judge any food based on canteen food from 20+ years ago!
There are every type of burger in London. Do some research and go for the one that takes your fancy. I think burgers are a personal thing. I'm not much of a fan of the really fancy gastro ones that many people rave about, they're just too much for me. But in essence a burger is just a burger...

Posted by
129 posts

emma: Thanks for the restaurant recommendations. As to my burger question, I (hope) I implied that I knew a "canteen" burger might not be "authentic", but, IF IT WAS, I'd like to try one.

Posted by
1062 posts

"It’s not sold in English supermarkets until you get close to the Scottish border."

Oh yes it is, my local Sainsbury and Morrisons sell it all year round and very nice it is to. The taste of the offal is "disguised" by the spices that are added.

Posted by
6032 posts

When I was on a tour of Scotland we had haggis that was chef prepared just for our group. Some in our group wouldn't even try it after knowing what it was and how it was made, and some weren't particularly fond of it (to put in mildly), but myself and several others thought it was pretty good. It reminded me of a slightly spicier and slightly stronger tasting version of my grandma's old fashioned turkey stuffing (she always included organ meats in her stuffing). They used oats instead of bread as a binder. It was not nearly as bad as the andouille sausage I tried in both France and New Orleans - I didn't go for that at all.

I think the biggest problem, especially trying to find it in London, would be to get the real 'traditional' haggis and not the canned grocery store variety.

Posted by
573 posts

Haggis is delicious, but do tend to save it for Burns Night, as thats when shops in my area sell it. If you like saysages there is absolutely no reason why you shouldnt like haggis as well

Posted by
1093 posts

There are every type of burger in London. Do some research and go for
the one that takes your fancy. I think burgers are a personal thing.

North of Hadrian's wall you can even get Haggis burgers, I had one in the Scottish Highlands once and it was actually delicious.

Posted by
11677 posts

Melvyn’s comment was clever, not snide. And it wasn’t personal. He didn’t suggest that you eat that plastic cheese goo in a can.

As for burgers “like meatloaf”, the co-worker’s experience was 25 years ago. Maybe a holdover from the 60’s, when the only burger we could find in London was at Wimpy’s and it was indeed made with breadcrumbs, etc. mixed in to the ground beef, just like meatloaf. It was filler.

But you won’t find a burger like that in London these days, just good honest British beef, nicely grilled and on a proper bun, often with a choice of toppings. And usually they will cook it rare on request, unlike in some places in the US.

Posted by
23396 posts

The problem with April is that all the farm grown Haggises will have been eaten by then, just leaving the short-legged wild ones up in the Highlands. They are hard to find because they are well camouflaged so are pretty rare. The Highland ones do have the legs on one side shorter than the other so they can be level on the hills. Interestingly some are found when they try to turn around to graze the other way and fall off the mountain because the short legs don't touch the ground. They are called "rolled haggis".

Haggis is reasonably easy to find in a supermarket near me, as are many Scottish items, because of the large Scottish population of Corby which was a huge steel town.

Posted by
23396 posts

I've never heard of stewed tomatoes on a burger.

Posted by
553 posts

I can confirm that haggis is also available in our local Waitrose, so they must also be bought by soft southern nellies. There are certainly also vegetarian ones, and possibly also vegan. I don't think I have yet seen a gluten-free one or one for the lactose intolerant. There are probaly also organic and non-organic ones. But don't ask about the food miles.
I understand the difficulty in eating them may be finding lead shot. And what is the plural of haggis? Is it like sheep or trout and a noun that doesn't change?

Posted by
1093 posts

And what is the plural of haggis? Is it like sheep or trout and a noun
that doesn't change?

Isn't haggis an uncountable noun?

Posted by
129 posts

As to the plural of "haggis"; it is indeed "haggises". The reason one never hears the plural form is simply that no matter how many folks are at a party featuring haggis, one haggis is always an adequate amount. ;«)

As to my burger question, it appears that the burger "style" I asked about was likely just an industrial cafeteria recipe.

Nigel: A short legged, wild haggis simply won't do; I must have the farm raised type. Topped with stewed tomatoes! And catsup!

Posted by
4805 posts

Doing a bit more looking, you can stop by one of the Mac and Wild's (Fitzrovia or Devonshire Square) and get Haggis Pops, which is Haggis made into balls, breaded and deep fried. Not very traditional, but maybe an easy introduction, and for less than 7 GBP, not out much if you don't like it. They also have Haggis Mac and Cheese for the ultimate in easy eating.

More traditional would be Boisdale, either in Belgravia or Bishopsgate. They have a Haggis made by Blackface Meat Company, a respected Scottish producer. If you have guts (that could be a pun) get the meal for 17 GBP, if you are a bit shy, they have a mini version as an appetizer for 9 GBP. Both are still in the casing and served with tats and neeps.

Posted by
573 posts

Soon will be cooking chicken stuffed with haggis served with a whisky cream sauce, yum!!!

Posted by
8569 posts

I can attest that the Marks & Spencer Simply Foods in Dundee has a haggis ready meal. No joke.

I have not tried it nor have I seen it at the M & S Simply Foods in the England.

I last had it served at breakfast with eggs at my hotel in Edinburgh. I don't remember if the Premier Inn in Inverness had it on their breakfast buffet.

Posted by
3925 posts

It’s not sold in English supermarkets until you get close to the Scottish border.

Every supermarket that I visit near me sells haggis, it's given more provenance around Burns Night but it still remains there for the remainder of the year.

As for the taste, not like liver at all. I detest liver and I'll happily eat haggis any time. I first had it in Edinburgh as part of a Scottish breakfast (the same as an English one but with the addition of haggis and Lorne sausage). It was loosely textured because of the oats and crispy in parts as it had been fried after boiling. The taste was highly seasoned, quite peppery and fairly meaty, really quite tasty. If you didn't know what it was made from it's highly unlikely you'll ever guess.

I've eaten better burgers in the UK than the US, the majority of them in Scotland including one in Edinburgh that came topped with a slice of haggis all washed down with a glass of fizzy Vimto just because it felt right. I have never encountered a burger containing a grilled tomato only ever sliced raw tomato. When it comes to burgers I find the "less is more" approach to be more conducive to an enjoyable eating experience. There's nothing worse than faced with a burger that cannot be bitten into because it's so full and it's impossible to open your mouth wide enough. Those that need anchoring with a skewer often fall into this category. A beef patty, bacon, cheese, pickle and a sauce is usually sufficient, hash browns, onion rings, fried eggs etc are not.

Posted by
129 posts

I'm guessing the following is the authentic address to haggis. I wish I spoke the language. :«)

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe or thairm:

Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber mead.

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit hums.

Is there that owere his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

Thanks to all of you who have given suggestions as to where to find haggis!

Posted by
3227 posts

Never found haggis in London, but never really looked for it there.

Had it in several incarnations in Edinburgh. Enjoyed it very much. Wandered into a pub that had an interesting looking menu posted outside (sorry, don't have the name). The pub served haggis egg rolls, haggis soup, and a haggis stuffed chicken breast as a lunch special. All was very good (soup was a bit heavy on the vinegar for me). Definitely modern takes on the classic. The hotel we stayed at also prepared a traditional haggis in the sheep. I thought it was tasty as well.

I have had hamburgers with grilled tomatoes (NOT stewed, a completely different thing). A home town burger place (now gone except for their remaining outpost at the pro baseball stadium) would grill the sliced tomatoes along with their special sauce right next to the burger patty and stack them onto your burger. Fantastic flavor and texture! Completely unexpected the first time you have it. But, this was not in Europe. Every burger I ever had in Europe and the UK is pretty traditional when compared to what you get in the US. Many were good, some excellent, some barely edible. :-)