Best British Breakfast: The Perfect Fry Up!

To truly appreciate the greatness of a proper fry up, you really need to escape the safety of the basic English Breakfast and venture over borders to the morning staples of the wider British Isles. Journeying to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland even, and probably not Wales. As only the way to truly appreciate the Best British Breakfast is by bringing together a compilation of all the best bits.

Breakfast Fry and Cafes on Main Street Bangor in Northern Ireland

The Fry Up Police

Throughout I will try tackle many of the most divisive issues in British society, like “how you take tea”, “is that even traditional”, and “do baked beans belong on the plate”. Issues I’d follow fairly closely in a group called the ‘Fry Up Police’ before I was banned for posting a ‘fry up on a pizza’ as I apparently broke their ‘sandwich’ rule. Fortunately, the group does get zucced on occasion, and so I managed to sneak back in. How’s a pizza a sandwich anyway…


The Full English Breakfast

Beginning with the basics, the traditional English Breakfast, or fry-up as it’s better known, which Google tells us traditionally includes “fried eggs, sausages, back bacon, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and often a slice of white or black pudding. It is accompanied by tea or coffee and hot, buttered toast”. The start of pretty much every British breakfast.


Do Baked Beans Belong on a Fry Up?

I’m starting with the Great Baked Beans Debate. Should beans be on the plate, touching everything, or served separately in a ramekin, or should they just not be there at all? Are they even traditional? Well, given baked beans are American, I’d say no. But they do work well with bread heavy fry-ups, and give that bit of sauciness for those that want some. Alternatively, you could just use sauce.

Breakfast at Blackwood Golf Course Cafe in Bangor Northern Ireland

What Sauce is Best with a Fry?

HP Sauce. Invented by a grocer from Nottingham, and named after the Houses of Parliament as depicted on the labelling. Nothing is more British than HP sauce. Although local variations of ‘brown sauce’ are also acceptable. The same does not go for ‘red sauce’ aka ketchup which should be nowhere near a British breakfast. I’d sooner do Sriracha. Or maybe a zingy wee chutney.

Ulster Fry Breakfast at Old Post Office Cafe Lisbane Co Down N Ireland

Fried Breads

I often see fry-ups with toast which is just weird to me, and while I do find toast served at hotel breakfasts, I’ve always seen it more as a starter before the fry-up arrives. I’d never eat them together unless fried. And there are variations of acceptable fried breads, including bread-bread, soda bread, potato bread, and most definitely not pancakes. The key is then perfecting the frying, with enough oil that they’re not too dry, but not too much oil so they’re all greasy.

Red Berry Cafe in Bangor Northern Ireland

Potato Bread / Tattie Scones

Potatoes are a culinary staple on these islands, so breakfast without them seems wrong. And while I am impartial to the occasional hash brown, they are an American import, and the general consensus with traditionalists is they should be bucked in the bin (alongside the baked beans). Otherwise both the Scottish Fry and Ulster Fry (Northern Ireland) include tattie scones.

McKees Cafe Farmhouse in Craigantlet Hills near Bangor Northern Ireland (4)-2

The Ulster Fry

Northern Ireland’s Ulster Fry would be a fairly bread heavy fry up with its own regional addition of soda bread, and potato bread, you could probably make a sandwich of it, just don’t show it to the Fry-up Police (their pesky sandwich rule).

Traditional Ulster Fry in Northern Ireland Cafe

Serious Sausages

For me, the traditional breakfast sausage is just king of any fry up, it’s irreplaceable. But I’d happily are additional sausages around will happily accompany them. In Scotland, where breakfast sausages are known as ‘links’, the focus is otherwise on Lorne Sausage, also known as square sausage due to its shape, which is more like a sausage meat paddy without the casing.

Ulster Fry, Best Cafes in Bangor Northern Ireland

It’s all About the Puddings

Another of the more divisive fry up additions is black pudding, and, despite being traditional, I find it more than not to be excluded from the plate. Partly because of one somewhat off-putting ingredient where the pudding is made from onions, pork fat, oatmeal and pigs blood (it’s more or less blood sausage). There is also a blood-free option in white pudding although it is rarer and I find more common across the border as a staple in the traditional Irish breakfast.

White Pudding, Traditional Northern Ireland Food and Drink

Full Scottish Breakfast

“Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!” Who’s gonna argue with Rabbie Burns. Again, this is contentious, given haggis is not traditionally found in a fry up, but the peppery, savoury pud could not be more fitting to the Full Scottish Breakfast. It is also commonly included in tourist/hotel breakfasts, alongside additions of square (Lorne) sausage, black pudding, and tattie scones. The traditional Scottish is hard to beat.

Traditional Scottish Breakfast, Scotland Road Trip in Scottish Highlands in Winter Snow

The ‘Healthy’ Bits

Fried tomato? Traditional or not, fried tomato is an unnecessary guilt trip on the plate. A reminder of what you should be eating instead of the delicious grease-fried, carb-filled, meat feast in front of you. And it’s still fried, and I almost guarantee that tomato is the most common leftover on every British breakfast plate. Tomato purée seems to be a more common addition to modern fry-ups but it does look a bit too ripe and fruity for me. I’ll pass on the fruity fry-up thanks.

Breakfast at Starfish Cafe and Restaurant at Cairnbay Lodge in Bangor NI

The Full Welsh Breakfast?

Ever heard of laverbread? Neither had I until recently. Admittedly Wales is a less-visited region for me, and I can’t say I have tried a traditional Welsh Breakfast. But the main addition to the plate is fried laverbread (aka lava bread) which is like a mush of dried seaweed. It’s not even bread. Also, cockles, and I really don’t want to go down this route. Anyway, apparently laverbread “tastes like salty wallpaper paste” and it’s “why the Severn Bridge should never have been built”. I would try to source a photo here but I don’t want to put you off your breakfast.

How You Take Your Tea?

I am an anomaly on these islands in that I do not drink British tea. And while I’ve been to many British tea hills in Asia (tea is not grown locally) I cannot for the life of me remember drinking British tea (coffee please). But it tends to be a battle between Yorkshire Tea, PG Tips, and Tetley. Otherwise, statistics show a high majority prefer milk no sugar, followed by milk and 1 sugar, and least prefer black no sugar (a handy tea map here).

Roka Coffee House Hamilton Road in Bangor Northern Ireland

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