Hospital food – King’s

Kings College Hospital

Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS

We do hope that you will not end up in a local hospital as an inpatient, but if you or a relative do then this is a review for you. One of us ended up last year in St Thomas’s and recently one was admitted to King’s. Neither admission was for a life-threatening illness and the current one at King’s is a broken bone (tourist-related injury from a notorious fracture black spot in Sicily). My advice is to look at your feet and not the fantastic view when descending from the Juno Temple. But back to the menus.

My expectation of hospital food really relates to school dinners, soggy veg and prunes every other day so read this with a view to my very low expectations. But King’s has a fantastic menu. It extends to six A4 pages – see a couple of examples below. Lots of options, including surprising vegan ones like apple crumble and custard. The choice is pretty overwhelming at first until you get the hang of it. There are sections for starters, fish, pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian or vegan. In comparison, St Thomas’s has a much narrower choice with much less detail. 

Back to King’s where the food is cook-chill (most hospitals have this system) run by key workers who provide an essential ingredient to NHS care. Cook-chill means it is cooked, off-site usually, and reheated on the ward. This method does have an effect on the make-up and taste of the dish. Fish and chips for instance are not battered fish, it is breaded. The chips are mostly flabby as you might expect as they get steamed like all those Deliveroo orders from fast food outlets (see here as an example). You always get a vegetable – peas with the fish and chips – and luckily you get a spoon to chase them around the plate.

My favourite dish so far is the fish mornay – steamed fish, root vegetable mash and mashed potato (a particular favourite of mine) with a cheesy custard over the fish. The fish is fine – occasionally overcooked, but the cheese adds seasoning. I would like a bowlful of the mashed veg – carrots, swede and other roots. The mashed potato is not stuffed with butter, but it is smooth and generally not like wallpaper paste. My fellow patients also recommended the tomato pasta and beef curry.

There are lots of desserts including fresh fruit. For a tried and tested and really delicious one try the apple crumble and custard. The apples are caramelised just right, but not too flabby, and the crumble has a bit of a bite – I suspect some fibre to keep you regular. Although the custard is a bit thin it makes the pudding much easier to eat.

For those who want lighter fare try the tomato soup. It is real tomato soup like you might make from scratch at home, and although I am partial to Heinz (my go-to when under the weather), this was tastier, not as sweet, and felt a lot healthier as it wasn’t as smooth.

Breakfast is a bit of a mystery as I was nil-by-mouth on several days until the clinicians worked out that they couldn’t fit me into the theatre, so I had limited opportunities for early morning eating. Porridge and black coffee were passable. The porridge a bit on the sloppy side and the coffee a step up from conference coffee, but a long way from Costa. But this is a minor quibble as on the whole everything was much better than I thought King’s would be. As meals break up the day, it was a pleasant surprise that they tasted good too.

The catering staff are really helpful in making a choice and will dig something out if you missed the ordering time. All this food was at no cost, although I still hope none of our readers get to sample it.