This is always a hit or miss affair, so I will try to guide you through the various kinds of eating establishments that you will find in Britain, starting with the cheapest, and best…
Fish and Chips
By far the best value for money and a real tradition in Britain. Fish and chips used to be wrapped up in used newspapers, until they realized that this was probably not the most hygienic way to serve food. Now wrapped in clean, unused, plain paper, you can get a large portion of chips (French Fries), battered cod, fishcake or jumbo sausage, for just a few pounds. Perhaps somewhat unhealthy due to the high fat content and lack of greens, but absolutely delicious with salt and vinegar, and worth every penny!
Fast Food Outlets
A little more expensive and not as appetizing as fish and chips, but still a firm favorite for those on the go. In Britain you will find McDonalds, Burger King and KFC, as well as a host of Chinese, Indian, Kebab and Pizza take-aways, which is English for “take outs” or “to go”.
Sometimes referred to as “Pub Grub”, probably the cheapest and best way to eat inside and sat down. In most cases, the food offered is of very good standard, but you may be restricted if you are into eating healthy foods, are vegetarian, or have any other dietary concerns.
Most pubs will offer bar food, which you eat in the bar, and it is generally served at lunch time between 12:00 and 2:00PM, and in the evenings between 7:00PM and 9:00PM. You will find menus on the bar as you walk in, and / or chalked up on a board somewhere. Many of the choices of bar food will more than likely contain chips, which are not to be confused with corn chips. My recommendation for bar food is the Plowman’s Lunch, consisting of a chock of cheddar, some crusty bread, a few leaves of lettuce, some pickles, in the form of a pickled onion and / or relish, and some butter. As with ordering drinks in a pub, you generally need to order food at the bar, as there will be no waiter / waitress service. If the pub is busy find a table first. You will also generally have to pay for your meal when you order it.
Some pubs also have a restaurant either attached, or as a part of the bar itself, and these generally work in exactly the same way as any restaurant with table and waiter / waitress service. If there is no waiter / waitress service then you will need to order at the bar and your food will be brought to you.
Some pubs these days also offer a very affordable buffet service or carvery where you will have a selection of meat and vegetables. I would recommend a Sunday roast consisting of roast potatoes, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and vegetables, all swimming in gravy and garnished either with English mustard or horseradish sauce.
You will probably find the food in a pub restaurant to be more expensive than a bar meal would be. In a pub restaurant, as with most English restaurants, a service charge may be included in the price marked on the menu, so this will be the price you will pay, with no need for additional tipping. However, if it is not included then the usual tip of 10 to 15% applies.
Coffee Shops and Tea Rooms
These will normally be found inside large stores and supermarkets, in shopping malls, and in the center of cities, towns and villages. You will not always get large cooked meals at many of these establishments, but you can buy coffee, tea, cake and, of course, English scones and cucumber sandwiches.
Something you will not find in the U.S. is a garden center with it’s own coffee shop and / or tea room attached. These are becoming ever more popular and range from small farm shops serving just tea, coffee and cakes, to large garden centers serving complete roast dinners.
These are many and varied, both in price and cuisine. They range from restaurants attached to pubs and hotels to independent establishments varying in price from modest to expensive. The best value restaurants are the ones attached to pubs and hotels, but many of the independent restaurants also give similar value.
From Italian, Chinese, Indian to traditional English Sunday roast, you should find something to suit your taste, and your wallet. As mentioned, a traditional English Sunday roast consists of roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, peas, cabbage and plenty of gravy. Try it, and don’t listen to what they say about English cooking!