Friday, 15 August 2008

Dining out in Florida

I am staggered by the sheer choice of restaurants in Florida, and by the value for money they offer. 

Last night we ate at Ponderosa on International Drive in Orlando, which is considered a family steak house here, and I had a steak better than any I have ever eaten in England.  In addition to the steak, our meal also included a buffet that boasted soup, salad, pasta, vegetables, fruit, and desserts.  You could go back as many times as you wanted.  The service was fantastic, the food delicious, and the bill for 3 people was under $50.  This included a beer and a glass of wine, as well as a constantly refilling glass of Diet Coke for Alex.  Even just a steak in England for 3 would have cost more than double that, and it would not have tasted as good.  (Steak in England can be very hit and miss, and I've even paid as much as £25 ($50) for a steak that was tough and not cooked as I would like it to be.)

Tonight we ate at TGI Fridays, again on International Drive, and the bill was $80.  Again the service was fantastic, the meals wonderful and we had wine and beer as well as a constantly refilling soft drink for Alex.  The atmosphere was friendly and we had a lovely time.  

Meals in restaurants in England, even in pubs, are becoming prohibitively expensive at at least £10 per person ($20) even for something as simple as fish and chips.  You nearly always have to make a reservation, again even in pubs, and a lot of places are becoming very pretentious. Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful restaurants in England, some of them very good value for money and very friendly, but they can be hard to find.  But many of the restaurants I love in England make for a very expensive night out.  

I appreciate people say portions in America are too big, but at the end of the day, you need only eat what you want to.  You are not expected to clean your plate.  Surely we all have enough self control to just eat what we want and not to stuff ourselves?

Here we can go out and spend less than half what we would spend at home, leave full (having not partaken only of tiny over-priced portions of nouvelle cuisine), and have a laugh both with each other and with the waiting staff.   How long is it going to take before we in England catch on to delicious, unpretentious dining with a bill at the end that does not make you wish you had not gone out in the first place? 

I dearly hope it isn't much longer, but I am concerned that we will remain stuck in the pretentious, over-priced vicious cycle that has been established for years for sometime yet to come.  It's partly because of our faltering economy, but also because we British hesitate to demand good service and we struggle so hard with change.  The more people travel and see how the other half lives, the sooner that day is likely to be.   In the meantime, I'll keep finding good British restaurants and putting them on this website!

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