Six of the best food and drink apps: from expert restaurant tips to free meals
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Organising dinner out in 2019 is harder than one might think. Yes, there are those of us that can simply throw their figurative dart at a Google map and happily pick a place to eat, but for foodies intent on getting the best experience, the most welcoming service, the best wine list or the most value for money – the wealth of choice can be overwhelming.
Luckily, technology is here to help. The restaurant-app industry is booming, with stats showing that during 2018, 20 per cent of all adults who own a smartphone have visited one of the top 14 restaurant apps. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twice the number of users who logged on to gambling apps (9 per cent), and double the number who used a dating app (10 per cent).
For those of us belonging to a circle of friends with every allergy and dietary requirement under the sun, the task becomes particularly hard. How do a vegan, a coeliac and a dairy intolerant find a table for three that very evening? Oh, and it has to be before 8pm to cater for the vegan’s 12-hour fast, and also must have an extensive range of alcohol-free cocktails – they’re all teetotal. It’s 2019, after all.
Though most of us have heard of and possibly installed apps such as OpenTable, Just-Eat and Tripadvisor, there are plenty of apps that go further than simply helping you to reserve a table and leave a review. Here are five apps that every foodie, be they a fervent oenophile or eco-warrior, should have on their smartphone.
For the one who has to look up the menu first: Eaten (worldwide)
Eaten, a new form of food rating app, was born out of a craving for raspberry sorbet on a road trip through France. After spending 30 minutes scrolling through restaurant rating apps in an attempt to find the best ice cream parlour that served raspberry sorbet in Lille, Tim Lui had the idea for an app that could tell him where the best raspberry sorbet was – anywhere in the world.
The premise of the app is that rather than rating the restaurant as a whole, users will log on and rate the individual dish they ate at the restaurant, be it an outstanding pizza or a moreish bowl of noodles. Once they have snapped a picture of the dish, they can add it to a comparative list of that same dish served at other restaurants within the area.
What builds up is a comprehensive countdown of the best dishes rather than the best restaurants, meaning that if you have a particular hankering for pad thai, you can look up exactly which restaurant has the best-rated pad thai. Simple, and a perfect way to satisfy your last-minute cravings.
For the newly converted vegan: Happy Cow (worldwide)
A trusted online guide to vegan and vegetarian establishments since the late Nineties, Happy Cow also has a simple, reliable app for finding both vegan-friendly restaurants and B&Bs around the world. Browse recommendations from the app's creators and fellow diners alike, and add listings if you stumble across a restaurant that hasn't yet been listed.
For the oenophile: Local Wine Events (worldwide)
Set out much like London app Dojo (another very good app for those looking for things to do and food to eat around London), Local Wine Events is a comprehensive What’s On page for all things wine-related. A quick scroll through the listings in my area shows sake tasting, mystery wine evenings and talks on just about every major wine-producing country, all within a five mile radius and taking place in the next month.
And if you attend a discussion on Tuscan wine and get a taste for it, there’s even a section listing exclusive ‘wine and food getaways’.
For the one who wants the inside scoop: Where Chefs Eat (worldwide)
Keen foodies may already know the hefty guidebook of the same name – now the makers of Where Chefs Eat have compressed the 7,000 recommendations into app form. It may seem steep to charge £10.99, but for those who would rather rely on the recommendations of Yotam Ottolenghi, Jason Atherton and Stephen Harris over an anonymous TripAdvisor post with multiple spelling mistakes, it’s a worthy investment.
Organised into useful categories such as breakfast, late night, regular neighbourhood, bargain, high end and worth the travel, the app gives professional chef recommendations spanning all price ranges and cuisines for over 70 different countries.
For the G&T enthusiast - Ginventory (worldwide)
We all know by now that this country drinks a fair bit of gin. And with ever-increasing demand comes an ever-increasing variety. Last year 54 gin distilleries opened in the UK, bringing the total to 326. So, when presented with an entire shelf of gin to choose from at the pub (even Wetherspoon’s has a rather impressive ‘gin palace’), how do you make a decision without resorting to answering “uh, what would you recommend”?
Allow me to introduce Ginventory, an aesthetically pleasing and very easy to use app from Belgium that provides ratings and descriptions of over 5,000 gins, pairing them with over 400 tonics and 200 potential garnishes. I tested it out with a bottle of Bloom Gin that has been sitting on my desk since Christmas and, lo and behold, I’m told I should be drinking it with Fentimans tonic water or rose lemonade, and garnished with a strawberry or violet. Not sure if the 'Spoons on Bakers Street can satisfy this demand, but it’s a fun app and useful for the serious G&T drinker.
For the ethical eater: Too Good To Go (nationwide)
For anyone wishing to do their bit to tackle the 10 million tonnes of food that goes to waste each year, Too Good To Go is a fantastic way of getting a cheap meal that would otherwise go in the bin.
Too Good To Go have partnered up with 1,381 food stores around the country to take their surplus and waste food and pass it on to the consumer at a discount price. Simply log on, type in your area and browse what food is up for grabs. You might get a mixed bag of pastries available to collect at midday, or a selection of sandwiches bound for the dustbin at 5pm from your local deli – pickup times are decided by the food outlet, but if you can’t make one of the time slots, there will likely be something else available for collecting at the time you’re after.