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Last updated : Nov 2009
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Food and Drink

Good English cooking is superb and there are many restaurants specialising in old English dishes. The north of the country tends to offer more substantial and traditional food at reasonable prices than the south. Every region will have its own speciality; these include roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, game or venison pies, rack of lamb and fish dishes.

Britain is home of puddings: apple crumble (slices of cooked apple with sweet crumble); spotted dick ( pudding with currants and raisins); and syllabub (a dish consisting of double cream, white wine and lemon juice). The English cream tea is served in tea rooms, particularly in south coast seaside resorts. It generally includes scones, jam, butter, clotted or double cream and tea.

London and the bigger cities offer every type of ethnic food imaginable, Chinese and Indian being very popular and good value for money. Cheddar and Stilton are the most famous of British cheeses.

Tipping is not mandatory and it is up to the individual whether to pay the 10 to 12 per cent service charge often added to bills.

The British pub is nothing short of an institution and even the tinyest village in the remotest corner of the country will have at least one. There are about as many beers in England as there are cheeses in France and the revival of real ale has improved the range and quality available. Look for the sign 'Free House' outside a pub, meaning that beer from more than one brewery is sold there. Bitter and lager are the two most popular beers, but stout, pale ale, brown ale and cider are also drunk. Wine bars and cocktail bars are common in the larger cities and towns, and the latter will often have a 'happy hour' in the early evening.

Under 18 year olds will not be served alcohol and children under 16 are not generally allowed into pubs, though they may sit in the garden.

Licensing hours
vary between towns, but many pubs are open typically 11:00-23:00 hours; the visitor should not be surprised however if they find a pub closing for a time in the afternoon. On Sundays, hours are 12:00-22:30 hours. Private clubs usually have an extension into the early hours.


The large cities, London in particular, have a range to choose from: theatre (open-air in the summer), ballet, opera, concerts, films, restaurants, nightclubs and discos, pubs. The weekly magazine Time Out publishes a guide to events in the capital.


Woollen and woven products such as Harris Tweeds are famous. China and porcelain Wedgwood, Crown Derby, Royal Doulton and Royal Worcester are good gifts, as are luxury food and chocolates. Antiques are to be found countrywide. In London, Charing Cross Road is famous for bookshops, and there are street markets: Petticoat Lane for clothes and Bermondsey for antiques, to name a few.

Tax Free Shopping

Many shops now operate a tax-free shopping scheme for overseas visitors. The store will provide a form to be completed at the time of purchase. Upon arrival at Customs, present the goods and forms (within 3 months) to the Customs Officer, who will stamp the vouchers certifying that the goods are being exported, and that you will be entitled to a refund of Value Added Tax (VAT). For further information, contact the British Tourist Office.

Shopping hours

In most cities, Monday-Saturday 09:00-17:30 hours; in London's West End and other large shopping centres, shops stay open until 20:00.
Many local shops stay open to 19:00 or 20:00 hours and some even later; many of these are open on Sundays. Larger shops will open Sunday 10:00-16:00 hours. Some towns may have early closing one day a week, usually Wednesdays or Thursdays.

Special Events

For a complete list, contact the English Tourist Board.

Clothing: A tie, trousers and shoes as opposed to jeans and trainers are usually necessary for entry to some nightclubs and restaurants, otherwise casual wear is acceptable.

Use of public places: Topless sunbathing is permitted on certain beaches and tolerated in some parks. Smoking areas will usually be clearly marked. Cigarettes should not be sold to children under 16 years of age.


In hotels, a service charge of 10 to 12 per cent is usual, which can be added to the bill. 10 to 15 per cent is usual for restaurants and it is often added to the bill, in which case a further tip is not required.

Useful travel links
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