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How do I order at a London pub without looking like a fool?

How do I order at a London pub without looking like a fool?

Old Mar 7th, 2001, 05:54 PM
  #1  
Holly Golightly
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How do I order at a London pub without looking like a fool?

It's one of those funny questions that doesn't usually worry you until you get there... How/what do I order in a London pub? What do I ask for? I'm not crazy about dark dark beers but the last thing I need is a typical American "Bud"-type lager -- Bass Ale is great, for example. What's the etiquette and the lingo? Do I tip (and when)? Advice welcomed by this naive (but enthusiastic) American tourist!!
 
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 06:11 PM
  #2  
wendy
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I had this problem too - just ask the waiter what he recommends. I asked if service was included in the bill when he brought it, and he looked at me as if I had three heads. I wonder if that was a rude question.
 
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 06:25 PM
  #3  
kathy
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Try the dry cider.
 
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 06:44 PM
  #4  
steve
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I don't know about London, but in a couple of pubs I have been in in england, you could sit all day at the table and never be bothered by a waiter/waitress. In those cases, you need to order your food (and drink) at the bar and then take it to your table
 
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 07:37 PM
  #5  
John
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Holly, go up to the bar and order a half pint (10 oz) or a pint of bitter, which will be something akin to the Bass ale you can get in the US. Or, order a small cider, which you'll probably enjoy, too, or a gin and tonic or a glass of wine or whatever your fancy. Note "whisky" will mean Scotch. Don't tip at the bar, with table service it's okay to tip along the same lines as in the US, (with food orders inspect the bill to ensure a service charge hasn't already been added) but watch the locals and see if they're tipping and follow their lead.
 
Old Mar 7th, 2001, 08:08 PM
  #6  
Karen
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I always order lager, which is like Coors or Millers. The bar will always have menus to peruse then order drink and food at the bar, sit down and the food will be brought to you at you table.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 01:38 AM
  #7  
brianh
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Probably the best thing to do is just ask the person behind the bar whether you need to order there or at your table. Having a pub lunch is really pretty informal - its not really like having a meal in a restaurant. I find the best thing to do if you have any doubts about what to order is just ask the staff..... and don't feel embarrassed! I hope you enjoy your vist.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 03:08 AM
  #8  
egg
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You just go up to the bar and ask. If you like your beer really cold, ask for lager. Real ale is served just below room temperature. It's usual to order pub grub at the bar and it will then be brought to your table. As for tipping, it's not done if you are just getting drinks at the bar, but if you order a large round of drinks or the barman/maid is specially helpful, it's quite common to add "and whatever you're having". They'll either get a drink for themselves or put the money to one side "for later". My son on his first trip to New York said to a barman, "And one for yourself mate." The barman was pleased and said that nobody had ever offered to buy him a drink before. Of course now he knows that in the US you tip everything that moves.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 03:13 AM
  #9  
kate
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In pubs you always order at the bar, and pay immediately. You will not get table service.

Tipping: it is up to you. It used to be common practice to tip the barstaff but this happens less and less and most people don't bother anymore. If you do want to tip (and beleive me, as someone who has worked the bar in a pub, it will always be welcome), you can either say "keep the change", just hand them 50p or say "one for yourself". This doesn't mean they will take a drink for themself, but rather take about 50p from the change.

Having said all that, I never tip in pubs anymore, unless the bar is really crowded. Then it can help with getting faster service the next time.

Beer: There are, broadly speaking, 4 types - lager (like Bud), bitter (like Bass Ale), Mild (a dark Ale you will only really see in the Midlands and the North) and Stout (eg Guinness). You order them in Pints or halfs (half a pint) (eg "I'll have half a lager please"). Also sold by the pint (and half) is cider - a fizzy apple-based alcoholic drink, slightly stronger than larger.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 03:25 AM
  #10  
Marion
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Basically the difference is that you have to order everything at the bar and you are under no obligation to tip - even if you have food. We really just don't do the tipping thing - which is why I always have such a nightmare when I visit the States as I find the whole thing rather embarrassing (yes, we Brits are exactly the way that you think!)

Regarding drinks, if you want a lager go for something like Stella or Kronenbourg - but be aware that they are much stronger that the usual American beers. The white wine found in traditional pubs can be a truly revolting experience so stick to red (or only drink wine in bars). You can always play safe with vodka/gin & tonic but our measures are smaller than yours (yes - this country is a rip-off). You should give local beers a go though - the variety is enormous and the barman will be able to recommend.

Some American friends of mine LOVE 'pub grub' but please don't expect it to be the culinary experience of your life! However you definitely should have at least one pub meal during your stay.

Pubs are great places and a truly British institution but bear in mind that we tend to be far more reserved when it comes to striking up conversations with strangers - this doesn't mean that we're rude, most of us will gladly chat away - so please don't be offended if people are a little short with you. We're just a little strange!

Anyway, have a fantastic trip!
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 04:11 AM
  #11  
stacey
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Holly -

I'd say the beer and tipping questions have been covered pretty well. If you're looking to try something different - try the ciders. They come in dry or sweet and a variety of brands. I know that when I order cider here in Mass - my choice is Ciderjack - take it or leave it. I usually leave it. The ciders in England and Ireland do not give you the headache/hangover that the American ones do. I'm sure this has to do with the method of processing. (of course, this is only my opinion).
Food-wise...(again, only my opinion) if you get the opportunity, order a potato jacket (baked potato) with tuna and sweet corn. If you've never had it - it's an amazing, addicting taste sensation. I've tried to duplicate the tuna/sweet corn mixture at home and just can not to do it.

Have a great time - wish I was going back soon!
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 06:23 AM
  #12  
Eva
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I am curious to know why tipping isn't common place in England? Do the bar staff make enough with their salary to earn a decent living? Is it expected more in the cities than the smaller towns? I remember we were in a pub in Cambridge and my boyfriend (who happens to be from there but has been living in the states)tipped the bartender. The guy didn't know what to do! I don't think he'd ever been tipped before! Also, my boyfriend who has just recently opened his own restaurant was waiting on a large group of English travel agents on some tour. Not only did they come in right before last call and order two rounds but they left a $4 tip on over a $100 tab!
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 06:26 AM
  #13  
Fran
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ick. Please avoid the tuna and sweet corn debacle. These are people who like sweet corn on their pizza.

Anyway, I've noticed that while you can order "half a lager" in England, while in Ireland you have to specify which beer you are talking about.

And, please, "scotch" is not "whisky" it is "whiskey". Irish whisky is whisky.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 06:27 AM
  #14  
Fran
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And I was always told that only woman who don't shave order pints.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 06:29 AM
  #15  
Fran
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One more thing--Bass Ale sold in the US tastes a lot different than in the UK--it's got more bubbles in the US. Bitters sold in the UK are very smooth. I definitely prefer this to a bunch of carbonation (which, if I want, I'll go buy a coke), but I know many Americans who don't.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 06:52 AM
  #16  
kate
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Fran, 2 points:
1.Of course whisky isn't just scotch, but I think the point the previous poster was making is that if you just ask for whisky, you will automatically be given scotch unless you specify otherwise.

2. It's very outdated to think only butch women drink pints. I don't know a girl under 35 in London who drinks halfs rather than pints.

As regards tipping, no. it's not standard practice for barstaff as, although not highly paid, they are not expected to supplement their earnings through tips. Any tips they get will just be a bonu.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 09:34 AM
  #17  
KT
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Kate, I believe Fran was not trying to say that whisky isn't necessarily Scotch, but that the Scotch stuff is spelled "whiskey" with an "e."

However...that's not true. In Scotland, it most definitely is spelled "whisky" (no "e"). Of course, none of that maters when you ask for it.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 09:56 AM
  #18  
sally
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From an English person

Just go up to the bar and ask for either a pint of lager (cold, light beer) or a pint of bitter (room temperature ale. I'm sure you can manage a pint and if you can't leave the rest. You can order a half if you like but most men order pints. If they say what sort, say whatever they recommend. If they don't want to recommend ask what they have got and then just choose something. Or else a pint of Guinness (black beer) is always a nice change.

No-one tips at a bar in the UK. You only tip when you get service at a table. If you feel you need to give something you can say "and one for yourself" as previously suggested and they will take something out of the change for themselves. But this is really not necessary and usually only happens with regular attendees at that particular bar.

You can then either drink your drink right there at the bar or go and find a table to sit at. No extra charge. You can also go in by yourself - no-one's bothered.

You'll soon get the hang of it. You can stand at the bar while you're drinking your drink and see what other people say to improve your performance next time.

Other common drinks ordered in the UK are gin and tonic, whisky with ice or water or soda, vodka and tonic. Measures are pretty weak unless you ask for a large one and they don't give as much ice as in the US but I am sure you can cope with the local customs. There are ice buckets on the bar from which you can add more ice.

Prices in pubs don't vary dramatically, about 2.50 a pint.

 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 10:02 AM
  #19  
sally
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I's the previous responder, making a few amendments.

My previous response was directed to a male. We're a little sexist here, and I've just realised you're a female. Females normally order halves, normally half a lager. And it would be quite unusual for a female drinker to offer to buy the bar person a drink. Females don't normally go into pubs alone but it is not out of the question although you may be examined with interest. You would probably feel more comfortable in a cafe/which has tables and service.

Sorry about the confusion and the sexism but that is the way it is.
 
Old Mar 8th, 2001, 10:08 AM
  #20  
Thyra
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Wow all this info... As previously stated it's pretty easy. I like lagers and ciders. When my girlfriend and I backpacked back in the 80's, some locals told us that it was considered kind of "slutty" or "manly" for women to drink whole pints.. we thought they were kidding, just to be on the safe side we started ordering half pints. To this day, thats all I order. You will find UK pubs fun lively, smokey and in my experience friendly, have a great time!
 

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