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Don't Laugh... Please tell me how to order food at a British Pub

Don't Laugh... Please tell me how to order food at a British Pub

Oct 1st, 2008, 03:54 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Don't Laugh... Please tell me how to order food at a British Pub

Okay, I admit that I have not eaten at a pub in London... at least not in the last many years.

A few times I have tried going in (for dinner), I was intimidated because there was no one around, no bartenders and no diners, so I walked out.

On my upcoming trip, I would like to try perhaps grabbing weekday lunch from a pub.

I know some pubs have the bar area on the street level, and a restaurant upstairs. But can I still get food in the bar area (the restaurant is more expensive, right)?

Do I seat myself? Is it common to share tables? Do I order at the bar? Will there be a menu somewhere (apart from the chalkboard outside on the curb)? Will I be frowned on if I don't order any beer/ale (I don't drink alcohol)? When & Where do I pay? Do I tip?
yk is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 03:55 PM
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You'll get the hang of it

In a traditional pub (not a restaurant masquerading as a pub) you order and pay for your drinks and food at the bar. Collect your drink at the bar and tell the barkeep where you are sitting. Then generally someone will bring the food and silverware out to you.

There are other set ups - but that is the most common.

You can always ask if an empty seat is taken if the pub is crowded and you want to share a table - and if you are at a table w/ empty seats in a busy pub, someone will ask you.
janisj is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 03:59 PM
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If you don't hurry, there won't be any pubs left in London. According to PQ, they are closing at the rate of 65 per day.
Dutch is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:00 PM
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I've never encountered anything unusual in a British pub as far as ordering goes.

I go in, sit down, someone brings a menu, I order, the meal comes, I eat it.

Have I missed something?
StCirq is online now  
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:11 PM
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St Cirq, oue last experience (last month) was EXACTLY as Janis described it. The food came upstairs (there were no seats downstairs and we were a party of 5) via dumbwaiter, someone came up from downstairs (NOT via dumbwaiter!) to serve it, bring condiments and silverware.
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:12 PM
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mdtravel is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 05:11 PM
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We have an authentic British pub in a community very near us (Upperville, VA) called the Hunter's Head. You order there just like in a London pub---order food and drink at the bar (look for the menu board), pay and take your drink. They'll bring the food to you. I've never ordered food at a pub anywhere in England while sitting at the table.
hipnut76 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 05:38 PM
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In answer to some of your other questions:
- Yes, you seat yourself;
- As janisj says, it is common to share tables if there's no other place to sit;
- There is usually a few menus at the bar tucked between the brown sauce and the wall;
- Nope, you will not be frowned upon if you don't order booze;
- You pay when you order;
- Tipping not necessary - and I should warn you, flanner may shortly be telling you want he thinks of tourists that tip.

The last time we were in England, in 2006, we ended up in two pubs where they actually told us someone would come to the table and take our order. I didn't like it all. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
rickmav is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 06:07 PM
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Dutch, what is PQ? And can that possibly be true? How awful!!
socialworker is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 06:28 PM
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" what is PQ"

An ill-informed fodorite who posts a lot of doom and gloom about the UK. Gets much of his info from NPR
janisj is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 10:10 PM
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yk, go up to heh bar and ask the barperson if you order there or at a table. There is no rule. What janis says is common but not, for example, what happens in our local. Ask. They will be pleased to tell you.
sheila is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 10:38 PM
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"I go in, sit down, someone brings a menu, I order, the meal comes, I eat it."...

...is something I've never encountered in 40 years' eating, at least once a week, in English pubs. St Cirq's talking about a Britain on some other planet only she's ever visited.

London pubs aren't closing at the rate of 2 a day, and to give him his due PalQ didn't say they were. British pubs - of which there are 57,000 - are closing at that rate. Which means that by 2050, we'll be down to our last 25,000.

Rickmav is right to remind you not to tip. Not because of what I think, but because of the serious risk you'll be targetted by the Sweeney Todd Crew of the Old Gits Vigilantes. This group of hooded, grey-haired grumps kidnaps people who tip in pubs, dismembers them and turns their corpses into meat they sell to the "Authentic English Pub" industry to use in scotch eggs.

So be very wary of what you eat in the Ye Olde Roverers' Returne at the Lake Havasu 'This Really Is the Bridge We Thought We Were Buying' Englandland theme park.
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 10:48 PM
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There will be one of two options

In real pubs - you go find somewhere to sit. Then go to the bar and order your drinks and food. Collect your drinks, go sit down, and someone will bring your food over when it is ready. this is what happens in the majority of pubs. The menus are found at the bar. Or sometimes on further chalkboards inside. Sometimes the tables will have numbers on them for you to tell the barstaff where you are sitting, otherwise you'll just have to describe the general area, or they'll give you some sort of numbered sign to put on your table.

In pubs with pretensions - or those with a separate restaurant - you can normally tell as they will have waiting staff zipping around. Sit down and order from a waiter as usual in restaurants. In a lot of these places there will be separate bar and restaurant menus, yes, with the bar menu a bit simpler and cheaper. If you want to eat in an authentic pub manner though I'd try to avoid these places, as you might as well just go to any restaurant!

If you go into a pub and there is no-one behind the bar, just go to the bar, lean on it, and wait. Someone will pop up out of a doorway shortly after you appear...

We don't share tables just to be sociable but if the place is packed you could try asking 'is anyone sitting here?' then 'do you mind if I sit down?'. Don't try to join other people if there are empty tables/seats at the bar.

No-one gives a damn if you don't order alcohol. The soft drinks cost just as much anyway!

In a normal pub you usually pay for food when you order. In a very small place they may say 'oh pay afterwards' but it's not common. You always pay for drinks when you get them from the bar.

Don't tip in pubs. At all. It's not being mean, it's just not what happens. Don't even bother with the 'and one for yourself' thing (offering to buy the barstaff a drink) as this is really only something regulars do with staff they are matey with. If you have mistakenly wandered into one of those restaurants pretending it's a pub, you have to tip in the normal restaurant way.

nona1 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 10:53 PM
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Oh and a real pub won't care how and what you order. If you fancy eating 2 starters instead of a main meal, or 3 desserts, or just a plate of chips (fries) go for it.
nona1 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 11:29 PM
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Every pub has a different way of doing this, although pubs of the same brand or chain will usually have the same procedure. Many of the visitors to any particular pub will be on their first or only visit, so the staff will be used to telling people what to do.

Generally speaking, however:

1. Order at the bar. If staff come to your table to take your order, the bar staff will tell you.

2. You will not automatically get glasses full of ice with a small amount of water. If you want tap water with your meal, you have to ask and will not be charged. it should not be your only drink.

3. You can start a "tab" at the bar, and then pay for your drinks and food after you have finished. They may ask for your credit card first, and may want to keep it. The bar staff will not ask for your passport.

4. Americans eat earlier than the British, and pub kitchens often have limited hours. Don't expect to be served food except between noon and 2 p.m., and between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

5. There are no hard and fast rules.
chartley is online now  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:04 AM
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That's my only advice. As an American living here for the last year I still haven't figured out. I know there are different rules for restaurants and pubs, but it's not always obvious which is which. For further confusion, one of the places in our little village that we love asks that you order from the bar until 6 pm and then after that the waitstaff will take over.

So, be polite, be considerate (maybe even a little self deprecating if you can manage it without looking false) and just know that if you completely embarrass yourself you never have to see them again!
BKP is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:26 AM
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StCirq - I have NEVER been in a pub where someone brought me a menu, unless it is the kind of pub that has a separate dining room, and I don't think that's what the OP is talking about.

The question here relates to places where you can get a pint and also get a feed. Non-gourmet.

Are you being ironic or do you go to places not on my radar.

Which is it?

afterall is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:46 AM
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I must go to places not on your radar, afterall. The last one I was in was not far from St. Pancras Station, a few weeks ago. We sat down.A waiter came by with menus. We ordered. The food came. When we finished we asked for the check. It came. We paid. All very standard IME.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:50 AM
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That sounds like a restaurant to me.
I have never been in a pub where you sat down and had a waiter coming to take your order.
If you tell others to do that, the poor souls will be waiting unfed for hours.
Josser is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 04:57 AM
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in London there are stacks of pubs so don't worry about the closing down scare stories you hear. If you are in a village is can be different if the only pub closes down! Unfortunately there are a lot of pubs now called gastro-pubs in London (and posher suburbs) which cost the earth and are little more than French restaurants. They cost a lot for very little and I presume some people like them. Certainly pubs in the UK are not like those in the US where you are pretty well forced to sit at the bar if you don't eat. With pubs the idea is to buy at the bar and if you want to sit at a table feel free to do so. There is no tipping. Just order the food (menus either on the bar the table or on a blackboard) and it will be brought to you at your table whilst you take the drink straight away (and also pay straight away). It can be very relaxing. Incidentally unless it is a huge chain such as Wetherspoons (very cheap including the drinks!) many pubs only serve food at certain hours ie lunchtime especially so don't expect them all to have food their whole opening time.
darryl870 is offline  

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