No matter how many Secret Food Tours you’ve notched up – and more are coming on stream – and no matter how many top end restaurants you visit across Britain and Ireland, there will always be a time when you want or need something cheap and cheerful – but you don’t want to eat street food with your fingers.
The secret answer is Wetherspoons. Or Spoons as it is known to its millions of fans. It’s a chain of nearly 400 pubs in Britain and Ireland, including many in central London which offer a meal and a pint for under a tenner.
This is not cutting edge cuisine – no one could pretend that. But Spoons always has a range of interesting beers and ciders so you are not stuck with Fosters or John Smith. Even without the food, the drinks are almost always the cheapest around although the quality is identical.
But you don’t have to drink alcohol. Most Spoons deals come with a soft drink alternative for about £1 less although to anyone who likes beer, the soft drinks are generally standard boring stuff. Oddly enough, mass production beers are often pricier than those from smaller breweries (these are called “guest ales” and change often).
A lot of the food comes down to burgers with chips and other bits and pieces. Outside central London, these start at around £5.50 including a pint of beer and cider. They are better than many fast food chains and no worse than the same thing costing twice as much or more elsewhere.
There are plenty of other meals to choose from – there are online menus and you can order in advance on the Spoons phone apps. There are steak days and Indian food days and all sorts of other promotions. Or you can start early in most with a lavish English breakfast with non-stop tea or coffee for well under the price of a posh sandwich.
I visited Penderel’s Oak in Holborn where I had gammon, egg, salad and chips plus a pint of something interesting for £9.09. You order at the bar – you need the table number – and take your drink but your food is served at your table. There is no service charge or other hidden extras.
Many Spoons are in iconic surroundings – old banks and court houses – but the pricing is the same.
A little known fact is that each one has its own carpet design. The chain’s founder, Tim Martin, can be eccentric – as a supporter of Britain leaving Europe, he has banned champagne, although his sales of Bollinger etc were very low – you don’t go to Wetherspoons for vintage fizz.
And there is free wifi with no one bothering you (the pubs are usually big) so you can sit with your laptop etc all day long for just the price of a coffee.
283-288 High Holborn, Holborn, London WC1V 7HP
phone 020 7242 5669
nearest station Holborn