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The UK Food Scene

British cuisine generally encompasses the traditional cooking styles and ingredients associated with the UK. It also includes ingredients and recipes imported from other lands. Traditional British foods usually include a meat dish such as beef, lamb or chicken and a vegetable dish such as potatoes, peas and carrots. To add extra taste, gravy or sauce often complements the food or sometimes just simple salt and pepper. Sandwiches, meat pies and fish and chips are popular in the UK and common dishes at many pubs and takeaways. The Brits have a fondness for eating out, especially with the numerous fast food restaurants, takeaways, fish and chip shops and pubs serving relatively cheap meals.

Cost of Eating Out

The UK is an expensive place for eating out compared to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland. However, it’s much cheaper than Norway, Denmark, Sweden or Switzerland. Eating at the restaurants and cafes situated in the city centre usually cost slightly more than those located beyond. Meals form the fast food chains, food stalls and takeaways typically cost £5-7 per head. You can get a meal from a budget priced restaurant for £7-10, casual restaurant for £10-20 and expect to pay £20-40 per head if you prefer some ambience and dining comfort.

Takeaway in London by Klafubra

Typical British Foods

A typical British breakfast is heavy, usually comprising of fried eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, baked beans and a cup of coffee. However, a lighter breakfast of cereals, toast, orange juice and a cup of coffee in now the norm for many Brits. A sandwich for lunch during the workday is common and available from the takeaways, delis, convenience stores and supermarkets. Typical fillings in the sandwiches include tuna, roast beef, salami and sardines. A typical British dinner usually consists of roast meat (such as beef, lamb or chicken), potatoes, vegetables and a dash of gravy or sauce.

Typical English breakfast by André Zahn

Fish and chips is practically a national dish and popular throughout the UK. Common fishes cooked are cod and haddock but also include pollock, plaice and skate at some establishments. Other popular traditional dishes include bangers and mash (sausages, mashed potatoes and green peas), Sunday roast (roast meat, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables topped with thick gravy), steak and kidney pie (diced meat and kidney) and shepherd’s pie (meat pie topped with mash potatoes). Go to the backstreet establishments rather than the touristy places for a real taste of British cuisine.

Ever popular fish and chips by Clemensfranz

Foreign Cuisines

The British have acquired a taste for foreign cuisines and most popular are the curry dishes served by the South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi) takeaways and restaurants. Other popular foreign restaurants include Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Chinese and Japanese to name a few. Pizzerias are also popular but may not present themselves as Italian establishments. South Asian, Chinese and Italian restaurants and takeaways usually offer relatively cheap meals and therefore very popular with the locals especially students.

Indian cuisine by Ewan Munro

Where to Eat

If you are on a tight budget or on the go, then sandwiches, cakes, snack foods, fresh fruits, cheeses, juices and drinks are readily available from the supermarkets. Major supermarket chains such as Asda, Sainsbury's, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose usually have a good selection of pre-packed sandwiches, possibly wraps, bakeries and fresh fruits to complement your meal. Convenience stores, chemists and newsagents will generally have a basic but decent selection of sandwiches. However, the best sandwiches are from the sandwich shops but expect to pay slightly more for the variety and quality.

Takeaways in the UK include the fish and chip shops and sandwiches shops but other takeaways are quite common such as the Indian and Chinese takeaways. These establishments offer inexpensive meals and the quality of the foods is generally good. Many tend to open late into the night to cater to the pub crowd. Pubs in the UK are not only for drinking but also for traditional British dishes. Most pubs serve food though many will only serve only during specific times. Generally, you do not sit at the table waiting to order but must queue and make your request at the bar counter.

Fish and chip shop by Mike White

You should have no problem finding fast food chains such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Subway in the cities and large towns but uncommon in the small towns. Furthermore, you can find a broad range of cuisines but choices usually limited in the small towns. Besides British, other cuisines that you can usually find in the cities include Italian, French, Greek, Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese.

Service Charge & Tipping

Besides the 20 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) that you pay for meals at the restaurants, most establishments add a discretionary 12.5 percent service charge to the bill. However, you are under no obligation to pay if unsatisfied with the service. If there’s no service charge added to the bill, then expect to give a 10 percent tip to the waiter.

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