Whether you’re a Londoner going to the United States or an American coming to London, chances are your eating habits will change considerably. Here’s what to expect in terms of prices and portions in both London and the USA.
After having travelled across the US for two months, my New Year resolution inevitably has to be: lose the extra tons I have gained after too many hamburgers, milkshakes, alligator sausages, fries and the like. Disclaimer: I am not fat. According to Americans, I “just look healthy”. According to my dad, I might have become the Italian answer to Nicki Minaj.
Eating out in the US – cheap meals catering for ten people
As a European foodie travelling across the US, when I first arrived I thought I had entered a food Wonderland. With $20 (about £13) I could get from two to three courses. One meal would actually fill my stomach! For, like, two weeks. Having lived on restaurant food in the US for about two months, now I have gotten a bit too used to American portions. My food habits have been completely ruined. Now, to me, a satisfying portion means the equivalent of a meal for a crew of eight hungry European sea men. Everything in America is bigger. Cities are bigger. Buildings are bigger. Damn, the continent itself is much bigger than Europe. It’s only fair then that their plates and portions must be bigger. Because the whole concept of American food sort of spits on the whole tapas thing: a European plate would probably crumble to dust if it were to bear the weight of an American portion.
Sometimes, on a guilt trip, I would resort to order two starters or two sides to make a normal European portion. Other times, I tried to order a salad. This monster fruit, chicken, cheese and leaves salad inside a tortilla bigger than a cardboard box is what happened instead on a beach in Florida.
What’s more, some states in America – especially in the South – are known for their hospitality. This means that, if you’ve managed to avoid stuffing your face like there’s no tomorrow, they come to your aid with kindness you just can’t say no to. While eating alone at a restaurant in New Orleans, I was told by the waitress that it’s the place’s policy to treat “lone eaters” with free dessert. This bread chocolate pudding showered with hot chocolate and caramel was the result.
Eating out in London – reasonable portions on the pricey side
If you’re a US citizen coming to London for the first time, you might think restaurants are plotting to starve you while trying to empty your pockets. According to this Londonist article suggesting cheap eats in the United Kingdom’s capital, a reasonably priced meal in London has to be under £20 (about $31) and should include a starter and a main course or a selection of small plates.
If you’ve eaten in America, having a burger in London might seem like a joke to you. Priced at around £8 ($12), burgers outside fast food chains in the capital are considerably smaller than in the US and can sometimes come without fries.
A European-sized stomach is unlikely to be left wanting for more in most London restaurants. Eating in the capital offers plenty of choice, a bustling atmosphere and the incredible chance to leave a restaurant without feeling too guilty for binging on food. A stomach addicted to American portions will be hungry. Very hungry.
In short, the US seem to win on the price and quality (or quantity, in this case) ratio for meals. But does cheap mean feast on everything you’re given? I’m trying to convince myself it shouldn’t. It’s kinda hard though.
Pictures: Carolina Are