Exercise 1

A. Listen to extracts from a book called How to Eat Out by restaurant critic Giles Coren, giving advice about how to get the best out of restaurant meals. Complete the tips.

 Always order the _______.

 Never eat the _______.

 Have the vegetarian option – but not in a _______ restaurant.

 Never sit at a table _______.

 Insist on _______ water.

 How to _______ – and get a result.

 Be nice to the _______.

B. Listen again. Why does he mention the following?

●   ordering steak in a restaurant

●   an ex-girlfriend of his

●   meat-eating chefs

●   smokers

●   bottled water

●   free main courses

●   waitresses and foreign staff



1 fish   2 bread   3 vegetarian   4 outside

5 tap   6 complain   7 staff


ordering steak in a restaurant

It is a waste as you can easily buy one, cook it yourself, and it will be good.

an ex-girlfriend of his

She always eats all the bread on the table and then is too full to finish her main course.

meat-eating chefs

They cook the best vegetarian food.


They ruin your meal if you sit outside.

bottled water

It is free money for a restaurant.

free main courses

If you complain nicely and politely, about e.g., fish that isn’t fresh, you will probably get another main course for free.

waitresses and foreign staff

Don’t flirt with waitresses and don’t ask foreign staff where they’re from.


How to eat out

Tip 1   Always order the fish.

Really good fresh fish is very hard to find, very hard to store and keep fresh – you’ve got to really cook it as soon as you buy it or there’s no point. It’s often fiddly to prepare and very smelly to cook. It’s what restaurants are FOR! It just amazes me that people will go into a restaurant and order the steak. A thing you can buy almost anywhere, keep for weeks, and cook however you like without doing anything to it and it’ll always basically be OK.

Tip 2   Never eat the bread.

An ex-girlfriend of mine eats nothing all day. She claims she doesn’t get hungry. So, whenever we meet for dinner, she is utterly starving and gobbles up the entire bread basket and three pats of butter without pausing for breath. Then halfway through her main course she starts poking about and saying, “I don’t know why they give you such large portions, I’ll never eat all this!” I just don’t know why people eat the bread. You shouldn’t be that hungry. Ever. Bread is not a first course. It’s a breakfast food, an accompaniment to certain terrines. But in an expensive place with a TV chef and a whole range of exciting things to chew on for the next couple of hours, why would anyone want to fill up with bread? I always tell them, as soon as I arrive, to bring no bread. But sometimes they do and you must tell them to take it away.

Tip 3   Have the vegetarian option – but not in a vegetarian restaurant.

As a rule the best vegetarian food is cooked by meat-eating chefs who know how to cook, rather than by bearded hippies. For this reason, if you want good vegetarian food, go to a normal, that is, omnivorous, restaurant. There may not be much choice, but personally I would much rather restaurants focused on doing one or two things brilliantly than offered a whole load of stuff that was just about OK.

Tip 4   Never sit at a table outside.

Why on earth would you want to eat outside? I suppose in a hot country where there’s no air conditioning, it might be nice to sit outside in the shade overlooking the sea. But on a busy London street? Crazy. Go indoors. Also, in most restaurants the outside tables are ruined by smokers. If you want to eat outside in London, take sandwiches and eat them in one of the wonderful parks.

Tip 5   Insist on tap water.

We have invested years and years and vast amounts of money into an ingenious system which cleans water and delivers it very cheaply to our homes and workplaces through a tap. And yet last year we bought three billion liters of bottled water. That’s just free money for the restaurant, so don’t order mineral water! Ask for a jug of tap.

Tip 6   How to complain – and get a result.

Complain nicely, politely, apologetically. But firmly, and at the very moment of disappointment. “I’m awfully sorry to make a fuss,” you might say, “but this fish really isn’t as fresh as I’d hoped. I really can’t eat this. What else might I have as a replacement that can come quickly?” There’s simply no way you can lose with that. The end result is likely to be free main courses, a jolly time, and an amicable departure.

Tip 7   Be nice to the staff.

Just be nice to them, that’s all. You should always be nice to everybody, obviously, but if you’re not, make being nice to staff in restaurants your only exception. Don’t flirt with waitresses, and don’t ask foreign staff where they’re from. Just smile, and say please and thank you, and look at them when you’re ordering. And then shut up and eat.

Exercise 2

A. Listen to three people describing cooking disasters. Were any of them able to eat what they cooked?

B. Listen again and complete the chart.

1   Who were they cooking for?

Speaker 1

Speaker 2

Speaker 3






2   What were they making?

Speaker 1

Speaker 2

Speaker 3






3   What went wrong?

Speaker 1

Speaker 2

Speaker 3






4   What happened in the end?

Speaker 1

Speaker 2

Speaker 3










Speaker 1:

 She was cooking for her boyfriend and a friend.

 She was making spaghetti bolognese.

 She used chili peppers instead of green peppers.

 She threw the food in the trash.

Speaker 2:

1   He was cooking for friends.

2   He was roasting/cooking a piece of meat.

3   He put the broiler on instead of the oven.

4   He called for takeout.

Speaker 3:

1   She was cooking for her family.

2   She was preparing antipasti (bruschetta).

3   She used too much garlic.

4   She threw the food away.


Speaker 1   Just after I left drama school, I was making dinner for my boyfriend and another guy who we were working with in the theater, and I was going to make spaghetti Bolognese, and I wanted some green peppers. And I didn’t realize that there was a difference between green peppers and green chili peppers, and so I made the spaghetti bolognese, and I couldn’t quite understand why my, underneath my nails was burning so terribly, but I just kept washing my hands and ignored it. And then we sat down to eat and Jeff, the friend who’d come, took one mouthful of the spaghetti bolognese before either of us did and fell out of his chair onto the floor. And I ended up throwing the whole thing into the trash; it was the most horrendous experience ever.

Speaker 2   Sure … one particular one when I’d just bought a new oven, and I’d invited some friends over and I was going to roast a piece of meat, and I put it in my new oven, and turned it on and left it for an hour to cook. And when I opened the oven door, I realized that I’d put the broiler on, not the oven, so that the top of the meat was completely charred, and underneath it was completely raw, so the meal was completely ruined. So I had to call for takeout.

Speaker 3   Well, it didn’t really involve cooking as such, but it was certainly a bad preparing-food experience. My family, we went to Italy, and everybody in my family enjoyed the antipasti, the bruschetta, so I thought when I came home that I would re-invent this, you know it’s very simple, basically it’s little pieces of bread with tomato sauce on top and garlic. And I’d asked an Italian waiter and my Italian isn’t very good, so I thought that I’d interpreted well what he’d said. However, you’re supposed to rub the garlic on the bread, the sort of slightly toasted bread, just a little on one side. However, I went crazy and was rubbing for a minute on both sides of the bread, and I put the tomato sauce on and handed it to my family, and they all spat it out, it was inedible. I think we threw it away.

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