“Let’s eat out,” must be one of the most cheering phrases in the language. For some, there’s no discussion – it’s straight off to a much loved favorite eatery. For others, what follows is a hugely enjoyable runthrough of every eating out option within striking distance.
And that’s one of the best things about eating out. Suddenly, we’re not limited by the contents of the fridge, or the need to eat last week’s ready meals in “Best Before” date order (come on, we’ve all done that). Instead we can let our imaginations roam, while we decide what the most satisfying eating out experience will be.
For families with children who are just reaching the fussy stage, or who are sensitive to some foodstuffs, eating out solves the problem of everyone wanting to eat different things – everyone can get a meal they’ll like, and can eat.
How, When And Where We Eat
The weather is probably the greatest influence on what we actually feel like eating, at any given time. On a cold, grey night, with rain spattering on the window, we start thinking about comfort food and cosiness. There’s nothing like sitting in a nice pub, with a log fire, and the faint tang of wood smoke in the air, enjoying a drink and browsing the menu. The food doesn’t necessarily have to be traditional pub fare. Many pubs now serve excellent curries – a brilliant way to warm up inside and out. Vegetarians and vegans will also find hearty grub. And if you do want the traditional roast in a pub, a brisk walk through the woods before you eat, makes you feel that you’ve definitely earned your Sunday lunch.
Compare that with a light summer’s evening. Not only do we want to eat outside, but for many, it has to be near water. So riverside cafes, seaside fish and chip restaurants, and historic harbour pubs are all packed with people getting a skinful of vitamin D from the sun, while they eat. And of course, in summer what we eat really changes. This is the time of year when many people want grills, such as burgers or steaks, or just salads. Heavy hot puddings are less popular, and cheesecakes, sorbets and ice cream become irresistible.
Many pubs now have barbecue events, and unlike the ones the neighbours ask you to, the food is always properly cooked. Again, vegetarians are well catered for with veggie burgers, often topped with halloumi cheese. It’s taken a long time for the more traditional eateries to catch up with veganism, but that’s now happening, with some great chefs bringing vegan specials to the fore on pub menus.
Fine Dining – Local Sourcing And Organic Ingredients
Fine dining is enjoying a surge in popularity, partly because people can now browse restaurant menus online, and are therefore able to take their pick of the most interesting menus. Some people will even follow a favourite chef from one restaurant to another. With more people travelling abroad for their holidays, we’ve become more adventurous eaters, and are prepared to try new foods, spices and flavour combinations. Be prepared to book in advance, because a popular gastro pub or restaurant can be booked out for weeks. It’s not that everyone’s suddenly rich – just that many people are prepared to spend more on special meals.
Some country fine dining pubs now specialise in menus featuring local farm produce, and have close relationships, both with their meat suppliers, and with local producers of cheese, ice cream and other specialities. All of this comes at a price of course. But many people are happy to spend more, if they are getting locally sourced, carefully reared and organic food.
Some of the best value meals in any town are to be found in the cafes and restaurants run by owners who come from other cultures. Whereas “Indian” used to be used for every restaurant run by someone from the sub continent, you’ll now find eating places specialising in Balti, South Indian, Keralan, Cashmiri and other cuisines. A similar process has occurred with Chinese food.
Add Thai, Indonesian, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Malaysian and a dozen other cuisines, and you’ll find yourself able to sample the cooking of half the world, especially if you live in a large town or city. And again, vegetarians and vegans may find they have more choice with food from cultures that are very inventive in the use of fruits, vegables, nuts, seeds and pulses, imaginatively flavoured and prepared.
No Impact From Home Delivery
Food delivery services don’t seem to be impacting the eating out market. It’s the “out” bit that matters. With houses and flats getting smaller, going out to meet friends can feel like freedom. And best of all – no clearing up!