I took a road trip back in May, and naturally, I prepared for it by researching British and Irish shops and restaurants along my route from Chicago to Orlando. That’s how I discovered Best of British Café and Pub in Davenport, Florida, a relative newcomer to the Eating British in America scene.
Owners Anne and Jimmy Jones are originally from Durham, England. They bring great warmth and hospitality to the cozy establishment, which opened in early 2019. They also have a stubborn streak that has helped the fledgling establishment weather the pandemic.
During my visit, I talked to Anne about their struggle to stay in business when the pandemic hit last year. Best of British developed a strong following during the first year it was open, and they moved to a larger space in March 2020. Just days after the move, the pandemic was declared, and they had to lay off most of their staff. It was touch and go for months, but they managed to stay afloat thanks to staunch support from local residents, including the area’s large British expat community.
CAFÉ BY DAY, PUB BY NIGHT
Best of British has something of a split personality. It’s primarily a café during the day, but it has a lively pub vibe in the evening. There’s always something going on, including karaoke, pub quizzes, poker, live music, and a monthly drag show.
The walls of the restaurant are covered with an eclectic mix of British memorabilia, Union Jacks, signs, and artwork. The jumbled décor creates a warm, lived-in feeling that distinguishes it from the dark wood and beer memorabilia that predominates in many British-style pubs.
JUST LIKE NAN USED TO MAKE
Anne and Jerry pride themselves on using family recipes and authentic ingredients for their home-cooked meals. The centerpiece of the breakfast menu is the traditional Full English – eggs, English bacon and sausages, black pudding, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast. If that sounds too filling, consider the Flying Start, which is a lighter version of the full English. Other breakfast options include bacon and sausage sarnies, beans on toast, and crumpets and jam.
The lunch and dinner menu is packed with British favorites like sausage rolls, cottage pie, bangers & mash, and lamb & mint pie. There’s also an assortment of sandwiches, including cheese toasties, bacon & brie baguettes, and coronation chicken, and jacket potatoes stuffed with a variety of fillings. Desserts include bread pudding, apple crumble, golden syrup sponge, and sticky toffee pudding.
We settled on the Picnic Sampler (two mini sausage rolls, two mini pasties, and a Scotch egg) and the lamb & mint pie, which is one of the house specialties. We finished with some freshly-baked Maids of Honour Tarts made using a recipe passed down from Anne’s nan. Everything was delicious, especially the tender, flaky cheese pasties.
Best of British also offers afternoon tea, Sunday roast dinners, and twice-monthly curry nights. The Sunday roast options alternate between lamb and chicken one week and roast beef and pork the next served with potatoes, two veg, and Yorkshire pudding. Like most British pubs, Best of British often sells out of roast dinners, so it’s a good idea to get there early.
The restaurant partners with Chef Paul and the Viceroy Chipshop Curry Club on its curry nights, which are held every other Saturday (reservations required). The menu varies but has included tikka, korma, bhuna, Madras, vindaloo, jalfrezi, balti, and butter chicken. All meals come with pilau, onion bhajis, samosas, Bombay potato, and naan, so you definitely won’t leave hungry.
Other special events include British-style pancakes on Shrove Tuesday and festive Christmas dinners. Reservations may be required for some events. Best of British is a welcoming place for families, and there are regular family-oriented events such as petting zoos, unicorn visits, and even the chance to meet a chainmail-clad St. George during the restaurant’s St. George’s Day celebrations in April.
Best of British also functions as a corner shop. It stocks an extensive selection of British products, including Twiglets, crisps, Heinz baked beans, spaghetti hoops, salad cream, pickled onions, malt vinegar, HP Sauce, Yorkshire pudding mix, Sharwood’s sauces, Be-Ro flour, Ambrosia Devon Custard, semolina, and rice pudding, and a small selection of Mr. Kipling’s products. Frozen foods include Murphy’s back bacon, London Sausage & Bacon Co. bangers, Winston’s white and black puddings, and Real Dairy Cream Doughnuts.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with Chocolate Hobnobs, Border biscuits, Jammie Dodgers, Tunnock’s Teacakes, Jaffa cakes, Wagon Wheels, Scottish shortbread, and an extensive selection of candy, including Galaxy, Lion, Bounty, and Mars bars, Milkybars, Munchies, Turkish Delight, Buchanan’s clotted cream fudge, Walkers English toffees, and Taveners and Rowntree’s sweets. Just be sure to leave some of those Milkybars for me!
New shipments arrive on a regular basis, but some items sell out almost as fast as they’re put on the shelves. If you have your heart set on something specific, it’s always a good idea to check in advance to see if it’s on hand.
Anne and Jerry have also been hard at work on their latest venture, The Chippy Authentic British Chip Shop, which is located next door to Best of British. The opening has been postponed several times because of COVID-related equipment delays and delays in the permitting and inspection process, but they should be opening soon. Keep an eye on The Chippy Facebook page for updates.
The Chippy menu will include freshly battered cod and haddock, a variety of delicious meat and veggie pies (each with a Union Jack embossed on the crust), doner kebabs, battered sausages, chip barms (soft, buttered rolls filled with chips), and traditional accompaniments such as mushy peas (made from scratch), brown gravy, and curry sauce.
They believe that an authentic British chippy needs authentic British fittings, so they’ve imported a variety of equipment from England, including a potato peeling machine called a rumbler and an automatic chipping machine. The rumbler can peel 50 pounds of potatoes in three minutes, and the chipping machine can chip 50 pounds of peeled potatoes in just 90 seconds, so there’ll never be a shortage of fresh chips.
The Chippy will also serve up authentic British chippy vinegar. Americans usually sprinkle malt vinegar on their fish and chips, but according to Anne and Jerry, many British chippies use a non-brewed form of vinegar that tastes quite different from malt vinegar. They’ve imported this British chippy vinegar for the shop.
THE BRIGHT RED PHONE BOX
Best of British is in an unassuming strip mall, but Anne and Jerry have added a big dose of British flair to the mall with the addition of an authentic British phone box that sits on a patch of cobblestones across the parking lot from the restaurant. There’s even a zebra crossing so you can give your best Abbey Road performance as you cross the parking lot.
Anne told me it’s generated a lot of interest since they installed it earlier this year, and people often stop to take pictures. It’s lit up into the night, so you’ll be able to take photos of your own whenever you visit.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Davenport is about 35 miles from Orlando, so be sure to plan a stop at this “Eating British in America” gem the next time you’re in the greater Orlando area. The kitchen is typically open from 9 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday, and 9 am to 6 pm on Sundays, so there’s a good chance they’ll be open whenever you can stop by. I recommend checking the Best of British Facebook page for the latest information on operating hours and information on all their upcoming events.
Whether you stop in for a full English breakfast, a hearty lunch, or a proper pint, Anne and Jerry will be waiting to give you a mahoosive welcome and a big slice of British hospitality!