HOME > Chowhound > U.K./Ireland >


Foodie "must have" gifts from London -- need advice

Mr. alka is headed to London soon, and i want him to bring back to the US some choice foodie items that are not available here or are simply much better in UK. Tips? (obviously, they have to be readily importable for hubby to bring back in the luggage.) Cheers!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. IIRC, your border police will not allow the import of fresh items, so how about these as a starter of packaged stuff:-

    Shortbread biscuits

    "Gentleman's Relish"

    "Uncle Joe's Mint Balls"

    All classicly Brit

    1 Reply
    1. re: Brit on a Trip

      Though you can get some of them here - there are some interesting Fortnum & Mason teas that I like - like the Queen Anne's blend. English Cadbury's chocolates taste better from the U.K., I think.

    2. Fortnum & Masons fudge. Impressively packaged and indulgently delicious!

      1. i'm going to add that i also love relishes of all kinds, chutneys. also, what about a good bitter orange marmalade? any other exotic jams/jellies?

        also, if you know of the store names, please let me know. cheers!

        3 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          You can pick up good jams and marmalades at almost any supermarket. Frank Cooper's is a good brand for bitter. Fortnum & Mason's also has a nice supply. I always found that the Duty Free shops at the airports have a good selection of chocolates and biscuits, although that means not being able to pack them in a suitcase. I'm not sure what you enjoy cooking, but shops here have an incredible selection of herbs (especially 'Indian') which are difficult to find in some U.S. supermarkets.

          1. re: zuriga1

            For Indian spices, I go to Indian grocery stores if there are any in your area.

          2. re: alkapal

            If Mrs Bassa is still at Borough Market, then it's well worth picking up some of her relishes/chutneys. I don't go there regularly any more, though, so I don't know if she still has a stall.

          3. How about some tea from the Chinese Tea shop in Covent Garden?
            Chocolates from Montezuma's in Spitalfields (http://www.montezumas.co.uk/) or fudge from Burnt Sugar (http://www.burntsugar.co.uk/) at Borough Market. Good jams or relishes, maybe from one of the Borough stalls.

            1. Choice foody items.... Plane tickets back to the US?

              Ahem, I'll be nice.

              Jams and marmalades. Proper cheese if you can get it shrink wrapped.

              4 Replies
              1. re: JFores

                It's all so expensive now, with the dollar over $2 to the pound, that I try to buy here at home instead of lugging it back. Airlines are really getting nasty about overweight luggage. Honestly, there are so many British brands in any gourmet store and even at T.J. Maxx.

                That said, Fortnum and Mason are very accommodating, and they will ship back. I'm also a huge, huge fan of Marks & Spencer's Food Halls (the Oxford Street store has a great selection.) I never come back without wine gums.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Wine Gums are chewy sweets about the size of a quarter in diameter and about half an inch high. They come in different colours and flavours, like yellow, green, red and dark red. Common brand is Maynards. They are extremely chewy and rubbery and get stuck in your teeth. Each one takes about 3 minutes to chew and swallow and are excellent for movies or football matches as it takes ages to get through a tube of 12.

                    Bring back smoked Salmon (Scottish or Irish), incomparable to lox or nova in the usa. Yes it is permitted through customs as long as it is vacuum packed.

                    1. re: smartie

                      smartie, thanks! yep, need some smoked salmon!

              2. Here's an eclectic list of stuff-
                British teabags (e.g. Sainsbury's Gold Blend- reasonably priced)
                "Crunchies"- candy bar in distinctive gold foil wrapper
                "Double Decker" candy bars- there is nothing similar in the US
                Mint Imperials
                Kinder Eggs (but they're not British but they are good, especially for kids/if you're a kid at heart)
                kippers (from a good fishmonger, not a grocery store)
                Eccles Cakes (these are crumbly but if you're good at packing, they'll arrive intact. Make sure they're made with real butter)
                British crisps (known as chips in the US. The UK has flavors of crisps that would seem exotic in the US. My personal favorite is cheese and onions)
                "Twiglets"- kind of like a pretzel but different

                Last time I visited the UK, I returned to the US with many British foodstuffs including a loaf of British bread (Kingsmill). It was in my hand luggage.

                1. Jaffa Cakes are always a big hit, and not very expensive. They sell them in tubes now so they don't crush as easily. It's especially fun to get Jaffa cakes for a Beatles fan. Legend has it John Lennon stuffed himself on these when the Beatles first became superstars.

                  Shortbread is always nice. Fortnum's packages theirs in some very pretty gift-ready boxes.

                  English mustard

                  Crumbly fudge/Scottish Tablet

                  English candy bars are always a hit. Maltesers, Curly Wurly, Crunchie, Aero, etc. Yorkie bars are fun to give to male chocolate lovers since the package emphatically states, "They're not for girls!"

                  Branston Pickle

                  1 Reply
                  1. Maltesers (soooo different from whoppers!), Shortbread. They're selling Mince Pies now since it's the Christmas season -- my American friends love them, once they get over the fact that mincemeat is not actual meat.
                    I like also a can of vanilla custard. Oh and at the Harvey Nichols foodmarket, there's a whole bunch of good stuff -- I have never had a better pesto-in-a-jar. Also Prestat chocolates are yum.
                    Also, I know that there is haribo gummy candy in the states, but for some reason it just tastes soooo much better in England so get your haribo gummy bears here. Perhaps because they're made in germany, and are the real Haribo thing?

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mel21

                      Mel21, the reason why most candy, cakes, and even soda taste better in the UK/Europe vs the US is because sugar is used. In the US, candy, soda, cakes....eveything!...contains high-fructose corn syrup instead. It's cheaper for manufactures to use HFCS, but alas the taste is sacrificed.

                      1. re: misswills

                        if i'm going to eat something as "nasty" as animal gelatin in the shape of coke bottles, then i am going to get it with sugar, damn straight!!!

                    2. No one has mentioned this yet, but seasonal Christmas items are now available. I've always liked mine pies and I also saw Christmas cake while exploring the John Lewis food hall. The latter is perhaps an acquired tasted, but something you're unlikely to get in the US. Though these probably don't qualify as a foodie item, I've also always enjoyed Tunnock's Tea Cakes:


                      Cheers, BB

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bombaybeauty

                        you like dark or milk chocolate in turnook's, bombay beauty?

                        ps, what is best moroccan, lebanese, or kebab near 1. russell square tube, and 2. picadilly tube stations? thanks, mr. alka liked your last recs.
                        or good english breeakfast with bangers?

                        1. re: alkapal

                          I've only found the milk chocolate ones... BB

                      2. I would definitely go for chocolate, as there are so many great artisanal chocolate companies growing up, and I'm afraid it does taste so much better than most US chocolate. Montezumas already mentioned, but I would also look for Rococo and Hotel Chocolat.

                        Savoury stuff is more difficult, as you can't take the fresh stuff back, as there is nothing to beat a good Pork pie (Mrs King's my top choice) or some Colston Bassett stilton.

                        And definitely, any of our tea, even the ordinary stuff! I still take my own to the US when travelling!

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: CountryMum

                          How about HP Sauce and tins of baked beans? Used to take those - and CurlyWurlys - over to the US for a friend who craved them.

                          1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                            Heinz Baked Beans may be available in the US in the international food section in grocery stores (my local Kroger and Harris Teeter sell them), World Markets or Indian grocery stores (if you have them in your area).

                            1. re: Chow Penguin

                              I don't understand this taking baked beans to the US. Heinz is an American company and the baked beans found back there (not always Heinz) taste better - at least to me. Is there something special about the UK Heinz beans?

                              1. re: zuriga1

                                Oh yes - they do taste different - not as sweet/baked. The tin has a green label on it and is also, I believe, vegetarian. But this version is, as another poster said, available in the U.S.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Just to clarify. I've seen the following in US grocery stores in my area:
                                  the US-made Heinz Vegetarian Baked Beans AND the UK-made Heinz Baked Beans. These are different products made in different countries.

                                  I'm not a huge (British style) baked beans fan but I'm told that the Heinz Vegetarian Baked Beans taste a lot more like British style baked beans than the usual American style baked beans (that are usually more sweet and contain meat product).

                                  1. re: Chow Penguin

                                    I agree - the British ones are what are great for beans on toast - not exactly an American phenomenon!

                          2. re: CountryMum

                            The OP should definitely not attempt to bring any meat related food items back from the UK. As much as I love/miss pork pies myself, these are an example of meat items that should not enter the US.

                            The best thing to do would be eat pork pies in the UK (and Cornish pasties too since I mentioning savory British snacks).

                            Cheese is OK as long as it's a hard cheese.

                            1. re: Chow Penguin

                              If cheese is OK, then I'd recommend a trip to Borough Market for Bourne's Cheshire. I suspect Cheshire cheese is not too easy to find "over there" and Bourne's is the finest example.

                          3. I've been bringing Monmouth coffee and McVitties back for my foodie friends in the US. The McVitties are a comfort thing, and the Monmouth Coffee is probably the best coffee I've personally ever had....

                            My British friends in the US are missing mince pies, Heinz baked beans, and PG Tips!