Restaurant reviewer reveals their top tips for eating out

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After 20 years anonymously checking out the best restaurants across the UK, the reviewer revealed how to find the best eating experiences and dodge those that will not be up to scratch.

They said: “I’m fully aware of how lucky I am to have this job, which has taken me all over the UK in search of fabulous food. I’ve had the best, and the most expensive, meals of my life along the way – and interestingly, the correlation between ‘best’ and ‘expensive’ is not as tight as you might think.

“I’ve also had some dismal experiences, worthy of Fawlty Towers, but I’ve had the thrill of discovering amazing restaurants tucked down country lanes, in cities, on beaches and on loch edges in the wildest reaches of Scotland.”

After scouring restaurants across the country, this is what they have learnt.

Look for independent gems

There is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and some of them are excellent, but there is a real thrill to discovering a true one-off.

Broadly speaking, it is also more likely there will be less corner-cutting and fewer bought-in or mass-produced items in the kitchen.

Independent restaurants need your support now more than ever. They deliver variety and true personality, and there is something special about knowing you won’t find the same restaurant with the same dishes in every city.

Expect good service…but be nice

In my experience, the restaurants where staff lack warmth, take ages to greet or serve you or generally seem a bit ‘off’ are usually bad all the way through. Rarely do you find a great kitchen behind a shoddy front of house operation.

I have walked out of restaurants where I have received a particularly poor welcome or been ignored for too long when I’m waiting to place my order.

Having said that, don’t throw your weight around or be rude. Working front-of-house is challenging, and I have seen too many customers use their position as a chance to be bullying or make unreasonable demands. So, show empathy, be kind, and leave a tip if your waiters have earned it.

Ask questions

I’ve had to ask a huge amount of questions over the years, because even an experienced inspector can’t always identify every ingredient and technique has been used to make a dish.

Asking questions really heightens your enjoyment of your meal. It means that you slow down and savour each element, understanding what you are eating and appreciating the work that went into creating it.

Don’t be shy about asking. A good restaurant will make sure its staff have sampled everything and know how to discuss the food with diners.

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Ask for wine recommendations

I have seen pompous customers insist on ordering wines that don’t go with their food just because they want to show off their supposed knowledge of wines.

For my part, I have often stuck with the house wine simply because I’m on a budget. But if you want a glass of wine and really want to enjoy your food at its best, ask the waiter or sommelier what would go best with what you have ordered.

The right wine will truly elevate the whole eating experience. Yes, it may cost a bit more, but trust me – it is worth it (and you can always ask the sommelier for recommendations within your budget – they’ll understand).

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