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Cost of food per day?

Here is one of those fun, but rather tricky questions.

How much can two people anticipate on spending (in USD) on food while in the following cities (for lunch and dinner). Lunch I think we are used to spending around $15 USD here (in a large city), and dinners errr probably around $35-40 USD per person. We don't like eating at ratty places.....we will probably slip in a 5 star restaurant once in Edinburgh and I'd imagine once in London.

The other question (in general) are the portions large, small, or in between? Here is the states things are huge, I hear France it is incredibly small.. What about England?

I have my own guesses about the cost, but I'd like to hear from people who have been to the following cities:

Edinburgh
Alnwick
Lake District
Conwy/Llandudno
Betws Y Coeds
Cotswolds (near Cirencester and Chippenham)
Bath
London

Posted by
1280 posts

The portion sizes in the UK are probably closer to those of France than the US. Price wise the UK is not a cheap place to eat out in but remember all prices quoted should include VAT and we do not tip anywhere approaching the way Americans do.

Now to the food. It depends what you want and where you want. McDonalds is about £4 per meal, so based on the exchange rate of £1 = US$1.50 you are talking $6. A restaurant like Wagamamas or Nando's will be about £10 per head once soft drinks are added in for one course, $15. Then a chain restaurant like Frankie and Benny's will be £15 to £20 per head for the same, one dish plus soft drinks. So $25 to $30. A meal for two with soft drinks, two dishes, will be £25 / $40 per head. Add in a bottle of wine and add another $20 minimum to the bill.

If you want to push the boat out, the per head could easily be approaching three figures in sterling.
That said, VAT is in the costs quoted, currently 20%, and the tipping is generally a couple of pound coins on the table. If the bill comes to £40, the tip I leave is often £2.

Posted by
4734 posts

Here, as a general guide, the more expensive the meal, the smaller the portion. Meals are generally much smaller than those I have had in the States. Pub meals in the north are usually much larger and cheaper than those in London and the south.

There is a huge variety in the price of food here. A 5 star meal will cost you upwards of £150 for 2 including a cheaper end bottle of wine. A pub meal will cost from £7 each plus drinks. Prices will vary more on the type of establishment rather than variation between towns.

Tipping is generally 10%. Anything less is too mean, but be aware that some automatically add on service, so don't leave a further tip.

Posted by
1280 posts

Jennifer, I must be really mean as I rarely go above 5% ;-) And will leave nothing if the service is poor.

Posted by
8232 posts

I just recently traveled to UK and France and agree the portions are about the same but I did not feel they were incredibly small. I felt most of the portions filled me up comfortably without left overs. I would typically not order a starter, a main and a dessert as many locals seem to do as that would be way too much food for me. I might order a starter and a main OR main and dessert or just a main. Maybe a glass of house wine as well.

During my trip I spent time in and purchased food in Bath, Conwy and London. I do NOT go for fine dining. I would say prices usually were in the 18-25£ range for dinner with one huge outlier in London. I went to a Thai place listed as vegan friendly and altho I looked at prices on the menu outside, the bill for spring rolls, veggie stir fry, plain rice and bottled water was 33£. (Came thru on the credit card bill as $55.) I was surprised but that was totally my fault as I had not added up the extras such as rice and water, lol. The food was fine but not worth the price. I felt I got better food at a neighborhood restaurant recommended by the hotel reception. I believe I paid around 20-25£ for a main and a glass of wine.

In Bath, I ate a couple of times at a wonderful vegan restaurant (The Green Rocket) and wound up paying around 12-15£ for a huge lunch which had me still pretty full at dinner so I just snacked. The higher amount was the day I also got a delicious vegan dessert. Oh wow.

Conwy, again a main and a glass of wine and it was perhaps 15£.

You may wind up with slightly higher prices than me, just because since I am vegan the menu selections are often limited so I get what I can. I also picked up some terrific to-go/takeaway prepared salads at some of the grocery chains. Usually they were in the neighborhood of 3£ each, so if you had 2 smaller salads plus water you are under 10£ for lunch.

I'm guessing you are calculating budget. I would say to overestimate your amounts and then you will be happy. Food prices feel high to me in Europe but I live in Idaho for heaven's sake and rarely eat out! However, you have to eat anywhere you are and if food is important to you, make yourself happy. If you are staying in hotels with full breakfasts and you eat those kinds of food you will probably not be too hungry for lunch!

Posted by
4594 posts

As usual, I agree with Pam. The prices we encountered in London last spring were higher than we are used to paying, (Midwest prices are definitely lower than most), but not horrible. The portion sizes are fine; not overflowing plates like we get here at home, but certainly adequate. The portions seem to be based on what a normal person would actually eat. (And if you were to ask for a doggie bag, you'd probably just get a puzzled look.) Look at other diners' plates; if the main looks skimpy, add a soup or salad. We never left the table hungry. And we came in under budget for the trip.

I also second the idea of a good breakfast at your hotel. Even hotels that don't offer a hot breakfast usually have plenty of cereals, yogurt, fruit, cheese, and often cold cuts and boiled eggs. (That doesn't sound as generous for vegans, but there's always lots of bread, cereal, and fruit.) But with a filling breakfast, you can either skip lunch, or have a late lunch and skip or snack for dinner.

Posted by
205 posts

Portion sizes are much smaller in the UK and France than in the USA. So in general are the people and there just might be a connection. I have never seen anyone ask for a doggie bag.

As for prices of course you, as has been said, should factor in, or out, the tipping customs. (I was once, quite literally, chased down a Manhattan street by a waiter because I had only left 15% as a tip. He didn't get any more money but at least he learned a few choice British expletives that night).

Posted by
3318 posts

The Lake District has everything from takeaway fish/chips and sandwiches and the like, to very high end $70+ per person in some of the nicer hotels in the area. When we go we do a lot of hiking so I often get sandwiches at Bryson's in Keswick right on the main square to take along. There is a fairly large Booths grocery store right in town as well. Pubs will run you anywhere from $15 - 30 per person for lunch (Sunday roast a little more) and up from there for dinner depending on what you order and how "local" it is. The nicer in-town restaurants will be between $25 - $40 per person.
London can be done cheaply, expensively and everything in between. You can get fairly cheap takeaway at Pret a'Manger or eat at a mid range place like Hush Brasserie (there are a few of them in town) or Brown's in Covent Garden. Both have great food and won't break the bank. Both have excellent afternoon tea as well that is reasonably priced. We spend between $25 - $40 per person at these places for lunch, a little more for dinner.
Generally speaking you'll spend a little more on food in the UK than you will in the states but the food is very good and you won't feel like you've not got your money's worth like some other countries.

Posted by
1838 posts

By law, all dining establishments / food takeaways must have prices on clear display on the front of premises. If a service charge is to be added, this must be clearly shown & all taxes are included in the price. You are under no obligation to tip. It is known that the person who actually serves you does not necessarily receive the tip you leave but that the money may go into a pool to be shared amongst all the staff - or worse - be simply kept by the management/ owner. The attitude amongst the Brits is often - why should I contribute to the staff wages or make restaurant owners even more wealthy? That said, tipping does take place - especially in the more expensive establishments.

All food premises must clearly display a food hygiene rating with 5/5 being the highest.

Note that 'chips' in the UK are really French Fries only much bigger.

Posted by
31289 posts

The cost of restaurant food is somewhat of a subjective matter, as everyone's dining habits are different. I don't usually worry about budget during holidays, and choose meals according to what I feel like having at the time. Based on the figures from my trip in September, while in London I spent about Cdn$ 87.00 per day for lunch and supper for one person. Based on my past experience in various parts of the U.K., you'll probably find restaurant food slightly less expensive in smaller towns.

Posted by
25716 posts

To elaborate on the comment above,

Food selling establishments must be inspected by government inspectors from time to time, and the they then earn somewhere between zero and 5 stars for hygiene.

These ratings are public and available easily to the public via a website and a couple of apps. They are issued a sticker with the rating on it, but the establishment does not have to post it.

Many who get good ratings do put it prominently on or near the door. Many who have bad ratings don't.

The app is very easy to use:- use "Scores on the Doors" for many places in the country, "Food Hygiene" with the green fork icon for other places.

If you don't find the place you are checking in one app, try the other. They are both quite small and free.

I am not aware of any regulation in England requiring the posting of menus outside the establishment. I know of that in France, but not England.

Posted by
4527 posts

There used to be a requirement for a menu with prices outside of restaurants in the UK but this was changed in 2008 to an obligation at the point of sale. Many will still do so as advertising.

Don't confuse service charge and tips. Service charges whether compulsory or voluntary are the property of the restaurant, who decides what they do with them. They may be paid on top of the server's wages or others, or just used as part of the restaurant's income. Most chain restaurants declare their policy; independents less so. Cash tips are supposed to be the property of the servers, who may decide themselves to pool them outside of the restaurant management. Less scrupulous owners might interfere with this. Tips paid by credit card fall somewhere in between, as they have to be processed by the management.

Posted by
3895 posts

Of course it varies - we (me and hubby) were in London last month and ate at an Italian place in the Trafalgar Sq area (burger and fries for me, gnocchi for hubby, large bottle of water, coffee, dessert) and it cost 34GBP total. The next night, we ate at a little hole in the wall place in the theatre district recommended by our couchsurfing friends and paid 18GBP total for a lovely meal of chicken, roast potatoes, veggies and soda. (And that is doubled for us with our Canadian dollar so low).

Neither my husband and I are big eaters and the portion size - for us - was just right...not eating to the point of feeling like exploding. I even found the portions in France just right (well, I shouldn't say that - I had a few Caesar salads I had to fight my way thru because they were huge)...but I do find a lot of the portions here in Canada just right as well. I'm thinking of a diner we ate at in California that gave us enough food to feed three people - compared to that, European portions are tiny.

Posted by
12472 posts

Just to comment on portions, we didn't find them "tiny" at all in London or Paris. Smaller, yes, but really the size that they should be and not so much that you can't finish half of it. We don't normally eat lunch, and didn't feel deprived enough after a good breakfast to need it in either city - although we did eat dinner early.

Posted by
77 posts

Wow, great info. Is it acceptable to have a small child share a plate? Our youngest eats so little that often he just eats a little off his sister's plate. It's fine here in most places in US, but not sure in UK.

Posted by
4594 posts

Nicole, what was the hole in the wall place? We're heading back to London next spring, and would love some new less expensive dining ideas. Thanks.

Posted by
3895 posts

OK - I hate recommending places because I have very simple tastes and unless something is truly horrid, I'm happy. It's not fine dining - just very homey comfort food. The Stockpot. It's on Old Compton Rd (I think) near Shaftesbury Ave. The review below pretty much sums it up - cheap, filling, nothing overly special, but when our Canadian dollar sucks so bad (costs us $2 to buy one GBP) it was nice to eat somewhere comparatively cheap, and it reminded me of something I would eat when visiting my mum or auntie. :)

http://www.timeout.com/london/restaurants/stockpot

Posted by
11262 posts

Nicole, if you were hoping to keep The Stockpot a "secret," or were thinking it was obscure - that ship has sailed. I've never eaten there, but I remember the name as having been listed in several of the guidebooks I've used over the years. So I pulled out my 1989 Let's Go Britain and Ireland, and sure enough, it's there!

Posted by
3895 posts

Harold...I'm just not a fan or recommending places in case someone eats there and hates it and they go...'oh, that Nicole suggested this place. She's nuts!' Lol. Well, I do recommend yummy dessert places, but people have such varying tastes for restaurants...mine is very simple.

Posted by
25716 posts

Oh dear, I'd hoped nobody else would have found The Stockpot.

Tasty, ain't it?

Posted by
3895 posts

I guess the cat is out of the bag (tho apparently it has been for years). We did enjoy our meal there on our last night in London! And you can bet we will be eating there again if we are in the area when it's that time of day! I love a good deal...

Posted by
4594 posts

Oh, no! I had added it to my list of places to check out next spring. Other recommendations, Emma?

Posted by
25716 posts

The last day for the super Soho stalwart, The Stockpot, very sadly, in floods of tears, is tomorrow.

Posted by
3895 posts

Well, at least I won't go looking for it next time we are in London and wonder what happened...hopefully our London friends can suggest another spot...

Posted by
1187 posts

Since we traveled by auto we had the opportunity to shop at the Delis in the local Grocery...and thus had lovely picnics and snacks on the road. Also if you want fancy eats some of the Pubs and Taverns have excellent eats. We stayed at a Pub on the road from Chester to Conway that was owned by a 3 star chef. Betws Y Coeds is Vegan friendly. Bath is good for Tea. Conwy is small and touristy. I would eat in Pubs in Edinburgh...they have wonderful Ploughman's Lunch with nice cheese and bread. Lake District stay in a Farmhouse B & B which features Full Board...local food! Things are spendy in the Cotswolds...eat a big breakfast at your B & B and have Tea at one of the Big Estate Houses. Look at the National Trust UK site for property listings with Tea shops or restaurants for great atmospheres. Think outside of the box.

s

Posted by
130 posts

I don't mean to hijack the topic, but does anyone know the price of a typical 6-inch Subway sandwich in London? I intend to make them my main source for lunches when I'm there next year.

Posted by
11450 posts

jaeson.. being Canadian we do take a beating eating in the UK ( its that 2 dollars to one GBP thing) so we really have to watch what we eat there .. that being said.. we have never found the portions of food in the UK or France to be small.. we have found however that in the States the portions are monstrous .. definitely enough for two small eaters to share a plate in some places.

As for children sharing plates etc. I think it really depends on several factors.. is child very young.. I mean no one expects a 3-4 yr old to eat much.. but an 11 yr old would be a different story.. Also.. the type of place you eat.. in a pub I doubt anyone cares who eats what.. but in a fancy sit down restaurant.. I would at least order a soup or dessert separately for a child if plate sharing ( unless child is very young of course.. as I said I doubt anyone expects much out of a toddler )

We tend in UK to eat a huge breakfast.. usually included in room rates.. but not always.. and we have found one can get a huge breakfast cheap .. we grab street food for lunches usually.. a fast food meal or bakery buy etc.. and sometimes we have a decent dinner out.. ( for us seems to ring in about 30 GBPs each at least ) and sometimes if exhausted we grab food from a grocers .. many have huge selections of take out foods.. salads and such.. and head back to our rooms.
We do like a nice meal out once in a while.. but in London we have found its better to spend a more reasonable amount and get a nice ethnic meal instead.. we love east indian food and find good value in them.

Posted by
25716 posts

The lunch deals - the meal deals are now history at most - now are a very limited selection of 6 inches and a drink for £3 and some more at £3.20

Only the really fancy ones are a lot more money.

It is certainly true that all supermarkets will have a Lunch Deal of around £3 or £4, even Marks and Spencers at the train stations and other locations now have a deal.

You actually get a bit more with most of the supermarket deals - crisps or veggie dip or various other side dishes, then a wrap or a sandwich or a salad bowl or sometimes sushi, a drink (500 ml bottle or smoothie), and a sweet of some sort all for that money. Subway gives you a bigger sandwich but the drink needs to be a fountain one or coffee, and you don't get anything else for about the same amount of money.

Boots the Chemist seems to give you the most choice and their prices are comparable. They are on every high street and most stations of any size.