Cheap eats: Eating out in Australia

Plate, knife, fork and spoonOne of the things I love about Australia is that you can have a really good meal out without breaking the bank, even in big cities such as Sydney. You can easily get a decent meal for AUD $30 (£12) a head, including wine, and superb meals are available for AUD $100 a head should you feel like splashing out.

This is in marked contrast to the UK, where eating out can set you back a week’s wages. Well OK, I exaggerate, although there is a place in Reading, my old hometown in the UK, that costs over £100 (AUD $250) a head. Fantastic food, mind. And there was the time I spent 20 quid (AUD $50) for the worst meal of my life in the Beefeater outside Paddington Station in London. (The best bit was the waiter cleaning the table next to mine, flicking bits of cabbage off the table onto my plate as he went. I guess that’ll teach me to eat in a restaurant next to Paddington Station. But I digress.)

I’m not sure why eating out in Australia is relatively cheap, but I guess it’s a combination of lower rents and cheaper sales tax than the UK – 10% GST vs. 17.5% VAT. Actually it’s more expensive now than it was when I first visited Australia in 1999, as Australia had no GST back then. Those were the days.

Maybe raw ingredients are cheaper here. Maybe business taxes are lower. Or maybe Australians simply demand affordable eating out as their birthright. (If so, good for them I say.)

BYO (bring your own) alcohol licences probably help a lot. They’re a great idea. Basically, a BYO restaurant carries a BYO licence instead of a full licence to serve alcohol, and you just bring along your own wine or beer. The licence is cheaper for them – which translates to cheaper food for you – and also means you can choose from the much wider (and often cheaper) range of booze from your local bottle shop (off-licence if you’re a Pom), rather than relying on the range that the restaurant has to offer.

Whatever the reasons are, such affordable dining out makes me glad – and proud – to live in Australia. We definitely eat out more than we did in the UK, although less so these days thanks to little Isaac! Having said that, we had a fantastic meal at Emilia’s, our local veggie restaurant, last Thursday; one of Cat’s mates generously offered to babysit the little’un. If you’re ever looking for somewhere to eat out on the Northern Beaches, I can heartily recommend them. (Cheap, too!)

5 Responses to “Cheap eats: Eating out in Australia”

  1. recent visitor Says:

    You forgot to mention the quaint habit of putting an extra 10% on the bill on a weekend (and 15% on a public holiday). This also applies to motels who charged us a ‘special rate’ of AUD163 per night over a Bank Holiday weekend as we were Pom visitors (the normal rate of AUD83 a night and AUD210 to Aussie guests). We were told that this is the norm as it then covers the extra wages for staff. We are hosting some Ausie motel oweners ina couple of months time and when we take them shopping we’re going to charge them twice the marked price. That’ll teach ’em.

  2. Matt Says:

    I’m sure I remember Sunday surcharges when eating out in the UK. Though they seem more common here in Aus.

  3. Jennie Says:

    I didn’t realise you were from Reading! Snap!
    Did you ever try The Everest Tandoori? Best.Curry.Ever. And it was never that expensive. I am forever trying to find a half decent Indian restaurant over here (Hills district area… although I am 100 per cent willing to trek out to North Sydney/Victoria/Hobart/Wherever to get a proper vindaloo).

  4. Jennie Says:

    One last: I also hate “Cakeage” fees. Encountered these yet?

  5. Matt Says:

    @Jennie: Another fellow Reading-dweller makes the move! Excellent! 🙂

    Never went to the Everest (Tilehurst I believe?) – I lived in East Reading where there were quite a few good options. Can’t remember all the names now! There was a great takeaway at Cemetery Junction.

    We used to have a fantastic Indian at the end of our road in Sydney’s Northern Beaches (Dee Why Indian) though it’s not as good now as it used to be.

    Zaaffran in Darling Harbour (Sydney again) is excellent, though a tad expensive:

    If you’re ever in the Blue Mountains then the Arjuna is very good quality, although the food isn’t spicy enough for my liking (like a lot of Aussie curry houses in fact!):

    Hadn’t heard of cakeage, but I have now! Ridiculous…

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