Curry is not so hot as the British stick to pub grub

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The television schedules may be full of programmes teaching exotic cookery secrets, magazines might carry features on celebrity chefs and describe cookery as the "new rock 'n' roll", but this is just the gloss on the chicken in aspic: the sad truth is that Britain's food revolution has totally passed half the country by.

A two-year study by researchers at the University of Lancaster found that 48 per cent of Britons had not eaten a meal in an Indian, Chinese, Italian or any other restaurant serving foreign cuisine in the past year.

Even the cheaper prices of a takeaway could not tempt the tastebuds of 27 per cent of the population, who said they had either never tried one or had not touched one for at least a year.

While the chatter in Kensington is about the relative merits of tempura at the nearest sushi bar or Gang Penang Gung at a favourite Thai eaterie, much of the rest of the country is still resolutely tucking into the classic British "meat and two veg".

In Bristol, widely regarded as a cosmopolitan city, 61 per cent of the population admit to shunning foreign restaurants. In Preston, where there is a wide choice of tandoori cooking, 51 per cent of people never partake of it. Or of any other ethnic food.

Professor Alan Warde, who headed the research team, said: "There is a sufficiently high level of abstention from foreign foods, and an enduring popularity of the English public house in the provinces at least, to suggest that exotic tastes are still far from thoroughly diffused among the British population."

Researchers interviewed more than 1,000 people in London, Bristol and Preston about their eating-out habits. The findings show that the working class in particular has shown a marked lack of interest in the influx of international cuisine.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers said they avoided "ethnic" restaurants. Only 4 per cent said they had eaten in all four categories (Indian, Chinese, Italian and other ethnic) in the past year.

Most skilled manual workers (57 per cent) and junior white collar workers (55 per cent) also shunned foreign food. Even among professionals there was a sizeable minority (22 per cent) who had not visited an ethnic restaurant for at least a year.

The favoured locations for a meal out remain the pub or the old-fashioned tea shop.

Michael Barry, host of the BBC's Food and Drink programme, said much of today's pub grub originated from overseas. "Lasagne, moussaka, chilli con carne and all those minced- meat based dishes from around the world now tend to be taken for granted as English food," he said.

In the study, Indian restaurants were used by 33 per cent of respondents, Italian by 31 per cent, and Chinese by 29 per cent.

The rapid growth and increasing variety of international cuisine is being supported by a dedicated hard core of mainly middle-class "foodies".

The researchers found that 34 per cent of professionals had eaten in all four categories of ethnic restaurant in the past year.

The research, to be published early next year, showed that foodies are likely to have been educated at selective or private school, be aged between 30-49, and have parents from the professional classes.

Most of them live in London, which has the greatest variety of ethnic restaurants and where 70 per cent of respondents had tried at least one foreign restaurant. "If learned acceptability of ethnic food, or its frequent consumption, is an indicator of multiculturalism, then its extent is still limited," Professor Warde said.

He concluded that there was still "widespread conservatism in taste among the English population". Pass the chips.

Emily Green's view, the Tabloid

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