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If you Google for "eating out in Britain" you will find lots of tourism promotion sites which will tell you that Britain has experienced a culinary revolution in the last 10-20 years.
They eulogise the wonderful array of cosmopolitan restaurants in every city centre, and will tell how the British palate is now thoroughly stimulated with a huge range of tastes from around the world. They gush over British pub food, now being elevated to hitherto unknown heights of culinary excellence.
And indeed if you live in the big cities, the affluent commuter counties or in tourist honeypots like the Lake District you'll have no problems finding pubs and restaurants serving excellent food in pleasant surroundings. Some of it good value, some eye-wateringly expensive.
However in many areas, albeit where tourists are less likely to tread, the situation is less than inspiring. There are still lots of fish and chip shops and cafes outside city centres. Most surban and small town shopping street may have several. These can be good places to try an english breakfast. If you cannot find one head for the local market as there is usually one there to cater for the needs of market traders. In many town centres US chains like McDonald's and KFC can be found, Chinese and pizza takeaways as well as doner kebab shops are popular with late-night drunks. Small town hotels tend to specialize in overpriced mediocrity. Pub food can vary from a standard menu to a carvery serving Sunday style roast dinner. Pub chains may offer a club night several times a week offerfing a different style of food each night.
Your best bet is to find an Indian restaurant, even the smallest town has at least one. If there are people sat eating at around 8pm it will be OK. If no signs of life it makes its money from the late-night drunks who can afford a bit more than the kebab house above. Steer clear.
When thinking about food in Britain it is important to distinguish between British cuisine and restaurants in Britain. The British themselves rarely go to a restaurant to eat their own native cuisine, when they go to a restaurant it's most likely to be an Indian, Chinese, Thai, or Italian. There is a very international range of food available both in restaurants and in supermarkets. "Ethnic" restaurants offer probably the best-value eating in Britain.
Vegetarian restaurants also offer some of the most imaginative British food, unable as they are to follow the traditional "meat and two veg" formula.
British cuisine is very simple and generally does little to the ingredients - think of the tradtional Sunday roast (roast meat and vegetables), or the cooked breakfast. This means that you need good-quality ingredients, which is why the best British cooking is often to be found out in the countryside where local fresh ingredients are available.
Pubs are now open all day, and many serve food all day as well. Pick a good one, especially a country pub, and you can get good British fare. Look out for pubs displaying Les Routiers signs in the window or by the door, for decent, value for money food, and as an indication of well stored drinks, cask marque signs. Pub chains such as Weatherspoons are popular and offer a good meal for those on a budget. The food in these places is centrally produced then merely assembled and heated on site. There is not really much you can say for them, but little you can say against them either. At least you know what you are going to get. But at least they are better value than McDonalds for just a few pounds more. There are more and more "gastro-pubs" which specialize in food, although they are generally expensive. In London and the big cities, you can get world-class cooking (at world-class prices).
There is one place where Britain excels food-wise, and that is in supermarkets. British supermarkets sell an incredible range of foods from all over the world which enable you to create really quite authentic food in your own kitchen. If you fancy making sushi, for example, all the stuff you need is probably in your local supermarket, imported from Japan. Similarly Italian, Spanish, Indian, Mexican ingredients are all there. If you are invited to a dinner party at someone's house, do not be surprised if you are served something much better than you can get in any restaurant.