The experts' guide to eating out
The Zagat restaurant guides are some of our favourites when it comes to choosing where to eat in and around London. The reviews come from restaurant customers (rather than pernickety critics!) and give an honest reflection of the experience you can expect, whether you’re going to be queuing up for a burger at Pitt Cue Co in Soho or pushing the boat out at The Waterside Inn in Bray.
I caught up with founders of the guides, Tim and Nina Zagat, at the Duck and Waffle restaurant in London, where they were announcing the winners of their 2013 survey, to ask them for their top five tips on guaranteeing a great meal out.
The Duck and Waffle's signature dish, a fried duck egg with mustard maple syrup on a waffle
1. ‘Think carefully about what it is you’re looking for,’ says Tim. ‘Do you love Italian food? Do you want somewhere romantic or somewhere the children can run amok? If you don’t give it much thought, you can’t blame the restaurant if the menu doesn’t appeal or the atmosphere isn’t right.’
2. ‘Read reviews,’ he adds. ‘Whether you buy a Zagat guide, get your information free at zagat.com or anywhere else, do your research.’
3. ‘Check out the menu before you go,’ says Nina. ‘Often people don’t and are shocked by the prices, or find there’s nothing they fancy. If the menu is a cuisine you don’t know or uses unfamiliar ingredients, do a bit of research first.’
4. ‘When choosing wine, tell the sommelier your budget and ask him to suggest the best one for that price. He buys the wine and knows the list, so his advice is best,’ says Tim.
5. ‘If you’re hosting a table with clients or for a family party, make sure you tell the restaurant in advance so that they seat you in the most appropriate place and run any queries by you. This is particularly important if you’re a woman, as many restaurants still assume a man is in charge,’ admits Tim.
What are your top tips when choosing where to eat out?