After moving to London nearly 4 years ago, the first thing I realized was how much Londoners like to eat out and how much choice there is. Part of the reason I set up London Life UK was to help people like me, find those places where you should go and just as importantly where you shouldn’t. So here’s our 8 top tips for picking the right place to eat.
1) It’s more than just a meal
When it comes to eating out in London, there is an abundance of fine eateries, cutesy cafés and boutique-style restaurants to choose from. In fact Trip Advisor lists over 16,000 restaurants in London and that’s a mind melting number to choose from. Although the cuisine plays an extremely important role, it’s not always solely about the food alone. It might seem obvious but you need to look at the whole package and make sure it’s ideal for your ultimate dining experience.
2) Foodie hotspots
When it comes to choosing a restaurant, there are a number of foodie hotspots to consider depending on what experience you’re looking for. A few of the more prominent areas in London which are often overlooked include the likes of Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street Station, Victoria and Belgravia which are starting to see the benefits of regeneration and Canary Wharf which boasts some fantastic places in amongst its iconic skyscrapers. Many of the fine dining establishments found in these areas boast venues with the added advantage of being in a central location and fantastic scenery.
It’s easy to go along with the latest trends in dining, there’s always another part of London that is up and coming, but there are many places that are already there. Canary Wharf in particular can be quite a thrilling area to dine in, especially if you want to impress. My tip for these parts is Boisdale, which offers a menu of fine wines, great food and live jazz. It’s got something for most people as it’s a lively, upbeat restaurant that features live entertainment; but it also provides a cigar terrace and caviar and oyster bar that overlooks the Thames and city skyline. It’s a venue you’d be just as happy to take a date to or your parents, though perhaps not at the same time especially if it’s a first date.
4) What to eat?
If you’re looking to indulge in the perfect dining experience, then choosing your courses wisely is a must. I’ve made the mistake on numerous occasions of my appetite being larger than my stomach and sacrificing dessert. I now try and choose both a lighter starter and desert, and a main that is filling yet not too heavy, which seems obvious when you read it but it rarely is when you’re hungry sat in front of a tasty looking menu.
5) What to drink
In order to ensure you get the best out of your meal, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the waiter for advice when it comes to pairing each dish with a series of accompanying wines. For those of you reading this who have been to a wine tasting event, you’ll probably already nodding your head, but many people still don’t know what a difference the right wine can have on a meal and the dining experience. You might pay a small premium by having a 175ml or 250ml glasses instead of a bottle, but trust me you don’t want a big bold red you’ve picked based on your main to overpower your delicate starter and sweet dessert.
Also most places don’t go out of their way to tell you that you can get 125ml glasses instead which might be better for all but the main course. Plus if you’re on a date, sometimes it can be the little things that can make the difference between getting another one, knowing even a small bit about wine can give off an air of sophistication and by the time they realise quite how limited your knowledge actually is you’ll have hopefully already won them over.
6) A bit of planning can go a long way
One of the best things about London is it’s an area that has something to suit all. Prior to picking any old foodie institution, think a little about the ambience you’re wishing to create. The classics of choosing a low-key, candle-lit venue for the likes of a first date or something more upbeat with a live band for a birthday are obvious. It’s also wise to check the menu in advance – taking the likes of a pescatarian to a steak house won’t earn you any brownie points. Sometimes it’s the big things that are the difference between getting another date.
7) Do your research
Whether you use recommendations from Trip Advisor, Blogs (Like London Life UK) or from your friends on social media, there is no reason why you shouldn’t do your research before you choose a venue. If you don’t and your dinner is a let-down, you’ve only got yourself to blame. Of course you could be very lucky and stumble across I great find but as we said at the beginning, with over 16,000 restaurants listed in London it’s a big risk to take.
8) Finally enjoy yourself
You’ve gone to all the effort of finding the right restaurant with the right menu and view. Don’t ruin it by being overly nervous, if it helps get to the restaurant earlier and arrange to meet your guest(s) there. That way you can speak to staff at the restaurant to unsure everything is going to plan, plus it’s probably a good idea to aim to get there early in case there’s a problem on London Transport. When it works it’s great but when it doesn’t whole life can feel like it’s tumbling down making you late and stressed. So if you get there early you can relax, look over the menu and the wine list while having a drink to calm the nerves, but take it easy you don’t want to be on your way before your guest(s) arrive especially if you think he or she is the one.
Do you have any other top tips for eating out? If so we’d love to hear them