Tourist Information UK

Eating and Drinking

Long gone is Britain's reputation for bad food because the British food revolution is well underway. Inspired by celebrity chefs, good food can now be found throughout the country. Today, Britain has some of the finest chefs, running award winning restaurants and producing innovative new menus.

There are millions of good places to eat in the UK, ranging from 3 Michelin star restaurants to good old fashioned tea shops, cafes and pubs.

Typical food


The British diet is so varied and multi cultural that it is difficult to define a typical meal. Britain is quite famous for its fish and chips, which is cod or haddock deep fried in batter and served with chips (fries). Food served in pubs, 'pub grub', is also popular because it is cheap and is the most representative of what British people like to eat. In large cities and towns you can eat anything from Lebanese food to Sushi.

Restaurants


Cities and towns tend to have a wide variety of restaurants to choose from. It is a good idea to ask for a recommendation, either from the place where you are staying or from a local information source. Online reviews of restaurants can be found at Timeout.com (London only), restaurant-guide.com, or http://www.bestbritishrestaurants.co.uk/" target="_blank">Bestbritishrestaurants.co.uk.

Booking


Good restaurants will usually be very busy on a Friday and Saturday night and booking a table is advised. The most popular time for bookings is between 8pm and 9pm. You can book either by visiting the restaurant in person or by telephone. All restaurants in the UK are now a non smoking area. If you are a smoker, you may want to enquire if there is anywhere to smoke after your meal.

Tipping


Tipping is not a big custom in the UK but there are certain situations where it is regarded polite to do so. Restaurants are a prime example. Some restaurants will include a 12.5% service charge on the bill, so you need to check in order not to tip them twice. If they do not, then it is up to your discretion to decide how much to tip. A good guide is 10% to 15% but for a large party, a more generous tip is usually given.

Any establishment that offers waiter/waitress service, like a café or tea room would also be a suitable tipping situation. In this country though, we do not generally tip bar staff but if you feel you have been served well it is customary to buy them a drink.

Another service that receives tips is taxi drivers. Some people round it up to the nearest pound, other people add 10%, again it is at your own discretion.

Staff from larger hotels are also recipients of tips. People who carry your luggage, doormen or concierge are usually given tips. For bell boys it may be a £1 but if a concierge is very helpful during your stay you may want to leave more.

Pubs


Most pubs now serve food as it brings more customers through their doors. Pub food varies in quality from fresh home made produce to re-heated, mass produced menus. Decent pub grub is extremely good value for money and some pubs offer meal deals such as two courses for £5 or children eat free. Some pubs offer food all day and others cater for lunch and dinnertime only.

A typical pub menu will offer a variety of choices such as fish and chips, lasagne, curry, shepherds pie, chicken pie, salads, pasta, jacket potatoes, steak and grill and baguettes and sandwiches. Nearly all of these will be accompanied by chips!

Pubs operate in different ways when it comes to ordering but you usually choose a table which will have a number on it. You then decide what you want to order and place the order at the bar. A waiter will then bring your food to the table.

Curry


British people love their curries and you will find Indian restaurants up and down the country. A typical curry house has a standard menu serving beef, lamb, chicken and vegetable curries. Recently, Indian restaurants have become far more upmarket, with modern décor and innovative menus. Unless the Indian restaurant is very popular, you can just turn up and get a table. The busiest times for a curry house are Friday and Saturday nights.

Cafes and tea shops


The good old British cup of tea with a slice of cake is one familiar stereotype, but the British do love their cups of tea. As a reflection of this, tourists can find some great cafes and tea shops serving mouth watering slabs of cake, washed down with gallons of tea. The menu will also offer baked potatoes, salads and sandwiches. Some of the best tea shops are found at tourist attractions such as Castles, Historic houses and landmarks.

Fast food


Our reputation as one of the fattest countries in the world has been aided by our love of fast food. Most town high streets will contain at least one fast food giant such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Kentucky fried chicken, Subway and Burger King. Fish and chips, kebabs and burgers from a mobile van are also popular fast food choices.

Sandwiches


A quick and traditional British lunch will usually be a sandwich. There are lots of places selling sandwiches ranging from chains like Pret a Manger and Subway to independent traders. Sandwiches are quick, cheap and a healthier option than fast food.

Take away


A take away is food that you order either by phone or in the establishment and then collect or have delivered to your home. Chinese, Curries, Kebabs, and Pizzas are the most common form of take away in the UK.

Alcohol


Britain’s drinking culture is evident throughout the UK. Many young people like to go out in the towns and cities on a Friday and Saturday night and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. While the majority of people are responsible with their drinking, there are some that drink too much and end up in trouble.

The law in England states that you have to be 18 years old in order to buy alcohol from a pub, off licence, supermarket or other outlet. If you look under 18 years of age then you will be asked for some ID with your date of birth on it. Fake ID is common with under age drinkers but a passport is usually considered an acceptable form of ID. It is illegal to give alcohol to a child under the age of 5.

Young people aged 16 or 17 can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if it is bought by an adult and an adult is accompanying them.

Some towns and cities have by laws that prevent people drinking in public spaces. If the police find you drinking under these circumstances then you may be given a fine or arrested.

Apart from pubs and wine bars, you can buy alcohol in shops called off licences, supermarkets and some local shops. The cheapest option for buying alcohol is in supermarkets.