There are lots of articles on the internet helping travellers find a good restaurant when abroad, but what about when it comes to finding one close to home? Dining out is an expensive luxury and for most it is an occasional treat. When it comes to parting with our hard earned cash, we want to do our best to ensure we’re spending it somewhere that will be worthwhile and on a good experience. Here are a few tips that I have picked up on how to find the best restaurants nearby.
- Read reviews from local food bloggers. Until a couple of years ago it wouldn’t have even dawned on me to follow a food blog for ideas on where to eat out. TripAdvisor would usually be my first point of reference, but in more recent times there’s been much speculation about whether the reviews posted on the site are an entirely trustworthy source. Food bloggers can be a more reliable bet when it comes to reviews. Find a blogger who likes to eat in the same places as you, and look out for their suggestions for eateries that are worth a visit. I’ve listed a few that I keep an eye on in my post 10 of the best UK food blogs to follow.
- Food hygiene rating. How many of us check the food hygiene rating of a restaurant before we make a booking? Do we even care? Well we should! The last thing anyone wants is to get sick from eating food prepared in a kitchen that hasn’t been practising good hygiene. Scores on the doors is a website that enables you to quickly check a rating. Enter the restaurant name and post code in the homepage search bar to find out their score and the date when an inspector last visited. A mobile app version is also available to download if you’re out and about, and most eateries will proudly display their badge on a window, door or entrance area.
- Have a look at the menu online… is it created with seasonal ingredients? A good restaurant will be keen to source ingredients from local farmers and food suppliers, to offer their customers the freshest and tastiest produce available. If it’s the middle of winter and you see asparagus on the menu for example, it’s unlikely that it’s been grown and picked in the UK.
- Ask for recommendations in social media groups. As a food blogger I do understand and appreciate that not everyone wants to read my blog – after all I can’t possibly be right about everything. Therefore I created a Facebook group as a platform for others to share their experiences and local foodie recommendations. If there isn’t a similar local forum on Facebook or Twitter in your area, then why not consider setting one up?
- The Good Food Guide. This has sort of become my food bible when I’m visiting the next town or city to where I live. According to The Good Food Guide the book lists the very best in the UK, and for the restaurants included it’s a very credible accolade. Be sure to look out for the readers recommend and local gem entries for ‘neighbourhood venues’ that may be on your doorstep that you haven’t thought to visit yet.
- Download an app. Love it or hate it…there’s an app for everything these days. Sometimes you just need the decision to be taken out of your hands and there are several apps that can help you so just that. For apps covering UK restaurants take a look at Open Table, Zomato, VegOut, British Street Food and yelp.
- Personal recommendations from friends and colleagues. We are instinctively more likely to trust the opinions of those we already know. Ask friends, family and the people you work with where they like to eat.
- Is it hard to get a reservation? It might just be that a new restaurant has opened up and everyone wants to be seen there, but if it’s been open for 12 months or more then the chances are it’s popular for another reason. Be prepared to book in advance as it’s probably worth the wait.
- Atmosphere. The quality and value of food on the menu are going to be big deciding factors on where to go – you’re there to eat after all. However if it’s happy hour and you’ve got the kids with you, no matter how good the food is it may not be the right choice. Make sure you check the website and social media pages to get an idea beforehand of the restaurant’s theme, to ensure that everyone in your party will be comfortable.
- Gut instinct. Sometimes you just have to let life take you somewhere new and unexpected. Take a leap of faith as you never know, you might be the first to discover the next best place in town.
Spot anything that I’ve missed? Please leave your tips and suggestions in the comments box below.