Often the subject of more pity than praise, the cuisine of the United Kingdom and Ireland seems forever cast into the murkiest, bleakest depths, a place where tones of gray and beige dominate, and where humble ingredients seem to forever preclude notions of refinement.
To which Anglo-centric foodies reply, Rubbish.
With their plain and hearty personalities, the dishes are well-suited to homestyle preparations—and to moments when conviviality and the imbibing of adult beverages are likely accompaniments. Typical of the breed are Irish classics that keep a steady focus on meat, potatoes and cabbage, and the only slightly more sophisticated repertoire of Great Britain, which ranges farther afield and is far more likely to embrace seafood.
It’s those very moments of simple satisfaction and homestyle fulfillment that lift the food of the British Isles to a level that technically may lag behind France or Italy, but lies on a more spiritually honest and human plane. This is a cuisine with many moments of magic and whimsy, filled like a Dickens novel with lovably scruffy characters and endearing to the end.
A reliable destination for both food and revelry in Newark and Wilmington, Rooney’s aims to keep the Irish accent low-key and the menu fortified with all the expected bar-and-grill classics and the taps loaded with your Irish favorites.
102 E. Main St., Newark, 369-7330; 1616 Delaware Ave., Wilmington, 654-9700 • website
The UK vibe carries through jolly well thanks to restrained and modern aesthetics, though the menu makes no apologies about its traditional culinary values and its comforting embrace of pub-style love, from beer-battered fish and chips (with mushy peas) to bangers and mash to shepherd’s pie.
18388 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 644-2250 • website
The parent restaurant of Go Brit! and the original concept from ex-pat Britisher Alison Blyth is a must-try for many a Rehoboth wanderer, especially for its spot-on fish and chips, but also because of its cool, casual vibe. Her mum’s sticky toffee pudding is bliss.
24 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-1044 • website
Sheridan’s Irish Pub
A decor that strives to be authentic without being cliché helps lift Sheridan’s credentials, as does a broad selection of simple-but-seductive Irish classics and an extensive menu of the stuffed potato pancakes known as boxties.
44 W. Commerce St., Smyrna, 659-5566 • website
British ex-patriot Mike Stone’s homage to the hearty fare of his homeland pubs succeeds because it feels so honest and sincere. If you’ve never braved a plate of bangers and mash, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, or toad in the hole, this is the place. The buzz: 50-plus varieties of single malt Scotch Whisky and Brit-forward beers.
3007 Concord Pike, Wilmington, 477-9740 • website