Restaurant English

Here’s how to ask about the menu and more.

Describing the menu

“The dish of the day” / “daily special” = what the restaurant is featuring.

“What’s the dish of the day?”
“It’s the chef’s omelette.”

“set menu” = a menu where the starter, main course and dessert are chosen by the restaurant.

“a la carte” = where you choose what you want to eat from the menu.

Asking for a description of the food

“What is ‘fisherman’s pie’ exactly?”
“Is this dish vegetarian?”
“What’s in spaghetti vongole?”
“Does this dish come with any vegetables?”
“Can you tell me how this dish is prepared?”

Describing food

“It’s a meat dish, garnished with parsley.”
A garnish is something that is served with the food, not mixed in.

“It’s topped with cheese.”
Topped is something that goes on top of the food.

“It’s served with a side salad.”
Side salad is salad served in a bowl or separate plate.

Sauces can be cheesy (made with cheese), savoury (not sweet), creamy (smooth), spicy (made with chilli peppers) or delicate (a subtle, rather than strong taste).

Desserts can be rich (very filling with a strong taste, like chocolate gateau), light (not heavy in taste or texture, like a sorbet), tangy (with a sharp taste of lemon or orange, like a lemon pie), or fruity (made with fruit, like trifle).

Ordering in a restaurant – things waiters say

“Are you ready to order yet?”
“Have you decided what you are having?”
“Would you like anything to drink with your meal?”
“Can I recommend the chef’s special?”

Ordering in a restaurant – things customers say

“We’d like a little longer, please.”
“Could you give us a couple more minutes?”
“We really can’t decide. Can you advise us?”

* See also Food Vocab in the Vocabulary section.