You mean you still haven’t booked a table yet? If you’re in quick need of a restaurant for tonight then digging out your iPhone or Android phone and installing these apps could very well save your Valentine’s Day.
Restaurants apps typically GPS to detect restaurants nearby or whichever location you choose, you can get opening times, pricing information, photographs and even make bookings. With so many apps to choose from it can be hard to find the most useful.
Here’s our verdict on the top Android and iOS restaurant apps.
The Good Food Guide
Launching in 1951 the Good Food Guide has an impressive pedigree; each year it is compiled entirely from scratch and now the entire contents of the book are now found in an app.
A neat, well-thought out design means you can find the exact meal you want. Initially search by location and keywords, then you can narrow the results down even further; sorting by distance, cost, cuisine and cooking score.
Opening times, average price for a la carte and set menus and a Google Map location are all included, but the best feature are the mouthwatering reviews, which are enough to make anyone hungry.
The Good Food Guide is expensive, and it’s certainly not the most exhaustive list of restaurants, but ultimately this well-executed app is a good choice for anyone fond of visiting the best restaurants, bistro and gastro pubs.
Stuck for a restaurant choice? This useful app lets you set location, type of cuisine and price parameters and then use a fruit-machine selector to ‘Shake’ a restaurant suggestion. If you’re feeling adventurous do an ‘I’m feeling lucky’ style search – all types of establishment are covered from cafe to Michelin star.
Each eatery includes photo, map (via browser or Google Maps) and phone number, although you can’t book directly through the app. Most useful are the reviews and pictures by other users, which you can write yourself (once you have signed up to an account).
Urbanspoon’s success depends on users leaving reviews and posting photos, which means while London is packed with numerous restaurants choices in multiple areas, other regions are less populated – Bristol has none and Manchester five. But this is an app that can only keep growing.
AA Restaurant Guide 2011
iPhone, iPad and Android
Essentially a directory for AA recommended restaurants in the UK, this simple app lets you search using your current or other location.
While the app is easy enough to use, the information on offer isn’t that useful compared to other apps. You get a link to the website, email or you can click to call, but otherwise there’s only a brief description – which is as much based around location than the food – and a few dishes. No menus and one photo, which is very poor for a paid app.
AA approval means there’s less choice than other apps too (you are certainly not going to get fast food here) and it lacks food diversity, with an ‘Asian’ filter as opposed to Thai, Japanese and Chinese.
A neat feature is ‘Directions’ providing a Google Maps route from your current location to the restaurant
AA Restaurants will appeal to anyone who wants to spend their weekends driving to a restaurant, safe in the knowledge food will be of a good standard. Ultimately though other apps have more choice and info.
TopTable is well established online as a place to find and book restaurant deals, consequence the app covers a huge range of eateries up and down the UK, although it’s best for urban areas.
Search near your current location to find restaurants or alternatively (if you’re in a new city) try the Table Finder, where you can enter the cuisine, diners and price to get suggestions.
You can view menus (although some are limited) book a table and look at limited photographs and although you don’t get chain restaurants or fast food choice is diverse.
The highlight are exclusive offers of which there are some gems – such as 3-course meal at Galvin at Windows for £29 – and a useful calendar lets you know what times the offers are valid before you book.
The limited ‘My sommelier’ and augmented ‘Table reality’ are nice touches, if not essential. More useful is that with every booking you make and review you write you get points for, which can add up to a free meal, giving a real incentive to use the app again.
Zagat is an internationally renowned restaurant guide, based in the US. It’s neatly designed app, with a selection of parameters to search including a huge list of cuisines, mixing Michelin with chains and neat features like BYO.
Each entry includes a Zagat rating based on Food, Decor, Service and Cost. Some restaurants have menus and some having the facility to book.
Zagat has some unique features such as the ‘Top list feature’ with Best Buys: Pizza and Best Buys: Child-friendly, you can also use the app offline, although it’s an 100Mb download – mostly comprising of US data.
Which lead us into our main complaint. We’ve talked about other apps being London-centric, but this is the worst: with only 10 locations outside the capital and no mention of Manchester, Birmingham or Edinburgh. In addition you need to be a member of Zagat to access reviews, but while it’s which is free, it costs $24.95 a year to read them.
Foodie Londoners will find Zagat useful, but ultimately the price is too steep for an app with so many limitations.
Exactly what it says: provides a no-frills list of restaurants, each with a phone number and map location.
Search using GPS based on your current location, or within a few KM of an alternative location, you can select the type of food, choosing between 11 Americanised choices – so there’s a Donut Shop, but nothing Asian.
Because Restaurant Finder is literally a list of restaurants choice is good even in rural areas, however without opening times, reviews or menus, it’s best used as a guide.
The Mobile Food Guide – Lite
What makes The Mobile Food Guide really useful is that wherever you live in the UK you’ll be able to find a restaurant. From the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall, results are map based, with restaurants around your current position displayed as pins. Local Gems are highlighted in different colours.
Tap each one to get information, as opposed to scrolling up and down a list. Move around the map by dragging the map or selecting a region.
The Mobile Food Guide has more information than paid apps – including name, opening times, a menu, synopsis and links to call or load the web page, as well as make a booking.
We found it a little buggy – it repeatedly asked if we wanted to search for our location, despite us not moving. But for finding good restaurants nearly by for a free app it’s great and because new restaurants are being added to the guide every day, it’s bang-up-to date.
Not got a Tastecard? Well you’re missing out. Pay £69.95 a year to access a huge savings on restaurants around the UK, typically 50% off food or 2 for 1.
Locate Taste Card restaurants in the vicinity using the free app. Each includes a call link, details and other reader reviews (although these are limited at the moment), although it doesn’t include menu information.
Slick and easy to use, the most useful thing about the app are little green icons that tell you when the deal is valid, how many people can use it and whether you need to call first.
Choice is limited to restaurants signed up to the scheme, so it’s an app for Tastecard users only, although with a months trial free, so there’s no excuse for not trying it out.
Pizza Express is an innovator in the restaurant app game, but enabling food payments via the app. Enter the code at the bottom of the bill to pay via PayPal or the app.
TSearch and book local restaurants and view detailed menus. Read all about the app here.
Not an essential app unless you are die hard Pizza Express fan, but certainly worth checking out for novelty factor alone.
Originally posted in September 2011
- AA Restaurant Guide 2011 – Android
- AA Restaurant Guide 2011 – iPad
- AA Restaurant Guide 2011 – iPhone
- Pizza Express
- Restaurant Finder
- Tastecard – Android
- Tastecard – iPhone
- The Good Food Guide
- The Good Food Guide – iPad
- The Mobile Food Guide (Lite) iPad
- The Mobile Food Guide (Lite) iPhone
- The Mobile Food Guide – Android
- Top Table – Android
- Top Table – iPhone
- Urbanspoon – Android
- Urbanspoon – iPhone
- Zagat – Android
- Zagat – iPad
- Zagat – iPhone