To paraphrase Charles Dickens, living in London can be both the best of times and the worst of times and this often depends on your financial situation; if you’re flush then London life can be a veritable rollercoaster of thrills and spills, but if you’re broke then The Big Smoke can certainly bring tears of frustration to your eyes. This is no more apparent than when you decide to dine out; do you splash out on a lobster dinner with a Champagne chaser, or are you left scraping your pennies together to afford a discounted Tesco sandwich? Well, we’ve compiled a list of iPhone apps that will hopefully help guide you away from the latter and show you how to eat in the city in style.
What’s that? You live in London and you don’t have a tastecard? Are you mental?! Seriously, this app is absolutely essential when it comes to eating out in the city. It’s more of an app that accompanies the membership, but once you sign up to tastecard you’ll be able to use your tastecard app to claim discounts on any of the 6,000+ participating restaurants.
You can search for any of the restaurants by using Google Maps and can even view photos of the eateries before you make a reservation; a cool feature is that tastecard members can leave reviews about the restaurants so that you have a guide to choose from. The restaurants themselves are actually usually of a good quality and don’t seem to be doing it because they need to, if you see what I mean; the tastecard brand is obviously so prestigious that they want to be associated with it.
No, it’s not free, but it is a way to save a lot of money if you enjoy eating out; it’s also great for dates and taking your buddies out as the discounts will cover groups.
Although it’s primarily a US and Canada based app, Urbanspoon’s coverage in London is actually very impressive; because it is the king of food-locating apps, it seems as if every Londoner should equip themselves with this free restaurant guide.
My favourite feature of Urbanspoon is the ‘Shake’ element; if you can’t decide where to nosh down then just give the iPhone a quick shake and the Urbanspoon slot machine will present you with a random restaurant nearby! You can search for eateries under different variables, namely cost and food type and also where’s nearby in your ‘hood’ (I warned you that it was American…)
By ‘checking in’ to restaurants, your ‘Dineline’ is expanded, logging in where you’ve eaten and what you think of it; you can also check out what your friends’ opinions of where they’ve been are and compare notes on the best places. Considering it’s free, it’s a bit of a bargain.
Finding a decent bar in London can be a tricky business; if you just go off passersby’s recommendations you may find yourself in a rip-off merchant cocktail bar where you’re charged £5 per peanut or else in some soulless Wetherspoons, just hoping that you escape with your life.
DRINK. London promises a solution to these dilemmas as it lists 75 of the hottest and hippest bars around town; my favourite function is the ‘Nearby’ button, which lists reputable bars that are of a close proximity to where you are in the city. You can also send an email invitation to the bar to your friends as well as ring the bar directly to reserve a table (if you’re one of those sort of people…).
The app itself has a certain amount of kudos as it is written by three industry insiders; Ed Sullivan, the former Drinks Correspondent for the Evening Standard, Robbie Bargh of the Gorgeous Group, designers of bars and restaurants and Hannah Sharman-Cox who works with Diffords Guides (the ultimate cocktail manual). If you’re going to ask for advice on the finest bar in the city, it’s often best to follow the directions of professional boozehounds…
This one isn’t going to win over any health-conscious foodies, but for any Londoner who loves to feel the sweet trickle of meat juice down their chin as they tuck into a tasty burger, well, this app is pretty much essential.
You can tell that true food lovers have created this app, seeing as every venue that it directs you to is given a detailed description and, more importantly, a good rundown of the burger that is supplied. You can rate each burger on a five-star system and navigate yourself around the town based on the ratings of other users.
What I really love about this app is that you can contact the makers and let them know of new discoveries in the burger world by tweeting them at @BestSandwich.
Mmm hmmm! That’s a tasty burger…
(Editor’s note: My personal favourite burger in London is the duck and foie gras burger at Club Gascon; although I know that I’ll spend eternity in Hell for my brazen lack of ethics, it’s so insanely delicious that it’s just about worth it!)
As much fun as eating out can be and no matter how many discounts we can get using various iPhone apps, sometimes you just want to stay in and cook; well, you can brush up on your kitchen skills by taking the Leiths Cookery Quiz.
Do you know what part of cocoa is used to make white chocolate? How about the definition of a Simnel Cake? You can learn the answers to these culinary questions and more in the cookery quiz that’s brought to you the leading London cookery school, Leiths School of Food and Wine. If you do fancy yourself as a bit of a whiz in the kitchen, or you just want to expand your foodie knowledge then this free app is right up your street.
With 45 questions to try out, you can try them again and again until you get that perfect score (which you can then publish on Twitter and Facebook), giving you a good overview of some of the more in-depth questions that are used to test Leiths students. You’ll also get free seasonal recipes taken from Leiths Cookery Bible along with a glossary of cookery terms, tips on techniques and skills that will give you the edge in the kitchen. Who needs to go out to eat well?
There are so many home cookery apps on the market that it’s difficult to know where to start, but in deference to the glorious city of London, we’ll go with the ‘Pukka Prince’ himself, Jamie Oliver.
The app itself is free to download but to get any of the additional packs, you’re looking at £1.49 a pop; however, you can choose from a wide variety of different food genres, including ‘Classic Comfort Food’, ‘20-Minute Meals’ and the excellent ‘Crowd Pleasers’. The taster pack consists of 3 videos and 10 free recipes to help get you started and you have Jamie himself talking you through how to make all of the delightful recipes. The videos are very intuitive and, while some of the recipes are a little more adventurous than others, most of them are for meals that you can cook in any regular kitchen without getting in a whole heap of special ingredients.
What I really like about the app’s concept is that you’ll receive updates with each new version; the new Barbecue Classics is a must have for the summer as it teaches you the best way to throw another shrimp on the barbie!
If you haven’t heard of toptable then you’ve been missing a trick; plenty of decent pubs and restaurants in London have signed up to this restaurant booking service that gives customers that opportunity to book ahead as well as taking advantage of thousands of special offers, such as 50% off the food bill.
All you have to do is use the ‘Maps’ or ‘Postcode’ function to search for participating restaurants and you can call the venue directly through the app or use the controls on the screen to make, amend or cancel a booking. Be sure to mention that you’ve booked through toptable when you arrive at the restaurant and see if you can get a discount; you can also view sample menus online as well as reading other users’ comments on each venue.
This new app is a particular favourite of mine, as it concentrates on the actual dish that a restaurant serves rather than any of the other details such as the décor or the service. This is truly refreshing in a foodie scene that can tend to fetishize such irrelevancies as the placement of cutlery on a table and whether a lampshade is truly retro or not; I really don’t care too much whether the restaurant has got ‘the right’ tablecloth, just serve me a decent meal!
twiddish is essentially a social networking app that allows foodies to share their experiences of dishes in various restaurants in a critical format, allowing other users to use this as a guide of where and where not to eat. The users upload each profile with a photograph of the dish as well 1-to-5 star ratings on flavor, aroma, presentation, portion size, and overall value; it encourages other twiddish users to enter personal comments about the dish, which allows for more of a generally informed opinion.
twiddish users can search the app either through looking through the dishes, giving a live feed (no pun intended), of dishes that are being eaten and critiqued near their location; they can search through the restaurant directory to check out dishes that other twiddish users have enthused about or named and shamed or they can befriend other users and start following these ‘dishers’, commenting and recommending their way around their culinary world.
Although this is still primarily a US based app, I can really see it taking off over in London as it really is such a simple yet unique concept; ladies and gentlemen, start your twiddishing!
Although Capital Eats and Vouchercloud are well recognised food discount apps, I’m particularly partial to London Vouchers myself; whether you’re a London resident or just here as a tourist, there’s always something to be gained from this neat little app that recommends the best places to go and gives you an incentive in the form of money off or 2-4-1 vouchers.
The layout of the app is fairly straightforward, with local restaurant deals listed with regards to your location; it’s not just food discounts that are featured, however, as you can also get loads of savings on London attractions such as museums, art galleries, exhibitions, boat and river cruises and stadium tours. The danger of a discount app is that there’ll always be somewhere to go and you may end up spending more than you would by going to more and more discounted meals; however, if you’re fairly savvy then London Vouchers can be a very useful dining companion.
Growing up in a family that enjoyed a good takeaway, the arguments over which cuisine to get could sometimes get pretty vicious; well, here’s an iPhone app that could potentially put an end to spoiled children’s bickering, as you can choose to have any dishes from a variety of cuisines all together in one order.
The way that Deliverance works is fairly simple yet very effective; they have kitchens stationed all around the city which allows the to deliver to most inner-city London postcodes. You type your order into the iPhone app, choosing from the incredibly varied menu that ranges from American Grill to Thai and Chinese, picking any dish or side from the drop down menu.
A fun feature of the app is that you can actually tag each dish with your each diner’s name, avoiding any squabbles when the meal is delivered; you can also get soft and alcoholic drinks included in the package and you can pay using your debit or credit card. To be honest, the food is not of a particularly impressive standard, but it is a great way to get a variety of takeaway style dishes delivered to your home or office door at the push of a few buttons.
If you’re into food then check out Ben Norum’s 10 Best iPhone Apps for Food & Drink.