Why dining out is so important
In an age when human contact is made more and more through social media rather than face to face, dining out is one of the few experiences left where people actually interact without the use of an electronic device. After all, it is difficult to text somebody whilst holding a knife and fork, so people have to look at the person across the table and hold a conversation.
Opportunities to dine out were once limited to special occasions, but with the choices of venue increasing every day, it is now a weekly experience for most people, and many eat out at least twice a week. Comfort food is now available 24/7, virtually every day of the year and at very reasonable prices.
Where to go and what to eat
Whether you are a fine diner or a student on a budget, the choices are endless. Fast food outlets appear on every retail park, many a high street has a variety of Indian and Chinese restaurants and there are a growing number of European restaurants too. Once limited to Italian pizza places, Spanish tapas bars, Greek tavernas and French bistros, we now see Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian and other central and eastern European restaurants.
Obviously, much of this diversity has grown out of the influx of immigrants to the UK over the last few decades, but it is fueled by the desire, particularly amongst younger people to sample alternative cuisine. The Hungarian Goulash has featured in cookbooks for many years but now people are experiencing Polish Bigos, a stew comprising chopped meats cooked with sauerkraut, or a Romanian Rasol, a dish made from boiled meats and vegetables.
Asian food has also undergone a transformation in recent years, with the introduction of Japanese sushi and Thai cuisine. Although the first Japenese restaurant opened in London in 1967, sushi only became popular when the first chain opened in 1992 and it remained very much a London thing until 2003 when Manchester got its first taste of sushi.
Historically associated with burgers, pizza and fried chicken, fast food restaurants have received a bit of a bashing from the press lately, blaming them for obesity and certain types of cancer. In response to this, most fast food outlets now offer low-carb alternatives and vegetarian dishes. They remain extremely popular with children though, so they are going to be around for a long time providing comfort food to future generations.
Traditional British Food
Let us not forget our good old-fashioned English cuisine. Fish and chips is the oldest form of fast food with the first “chippie” opening in Oldham in 1860, and it is still a favourite food, with many chip shops offering “eat-in” facilities.
Pubs are a great option for dining out too, as the drinks are usually cheaper than in a restaurant. Chicken in a basket was once just about the only thing a Pub would serve, but now there is a huge variety from steak and ale pie to chicken tikka masala, and it doesn’t always have to be with chips.
For those that can afford it, there is a new generation of gourmet chefs who are producing some amazing plates of food from locally sourced ingredients. The key elements of fine dining are good quality tableware, good service and excellent food, which is usually unique to a particular setting. This may be ethnic or traditional British cuisine with a twist.
The wine list must also compliment the food, and your waiter or sommelier should be able to recommend a wine to go with each course. If wine is not your thing, then there should be a good selection of craft beers available to suit your pallet.
The gourmet experience was once limited to the elite, but many celebrity chefs have opened up trendy restaurants serving affordable food in order to attract younger people who are likely to tweet their friends and post reviews on Facebook, thus generating more custom. These restaurants tend to have a more relaxed dress code as well.
A Family Outing
What could be better for getting all the generations of your family together for a special occasion? Most casual dining restaurants are child-friendly these days, and everyone gets to chose what they want. There is very little preparation required (just a few text messages or phone calls) and no mess to clear up afterwards.
If your dog is your best friend, there are even restaurants that allow pets, but you should check beforehand as some people might object to anything other than a guide dog.
To Sum Up
Whether you are looking for a gourmet meal or just some comfort food, there is no doubt that getting out of the house with your partner or meeting family or friends is a most uplifting experience and one you should try to do at least once a week.