App store shelves are buckling under the weight of recipe apps—and your mum has probably developed one by now—but few can match the polish of Epicurious. Recipe categories are listed under accessible and self-explanatory categories including “picnic ideas”, “low-fat summer”, and “vegetarian mains”. They account for allergies (“gluten free”) and skill level, too (“I can barely cook”; “I can cook like a pro”). Epicurious is full of smart, integrated features that few apps can match. You can save recipes to a “shopping list”, which gives you the ingredients you need; feedback on recipes left by other app users indicates how popular they are. There’s also a smart timer so you can cook things like steak and eggs just right. A hands-free option exists, too, unless you’re intent on marinating your mobile.
Deliveroo is a takeaway app with a difference: it delivers food from restaurants. Last month, it launched in Edinburgh and Glasgow after setting up shop in London more than two years ago. For the moment, only people living in central areas of both cities will benefit, because only a handful of restaurants have signed up to it so far (and because transit time is limited to preserve the quality of the food). In Glasgow, some of these include: Old Salty’s, Pickled Ginger, and Squid & Whale; S. Luca, Hakataya and Reekie’s Smokehouse are among the Edinburgh restaurants participating. The app itself is elegant and beautifully designed, and uses your location data to search for nearby restaurants. Deliveries cost £2.50, and take an average of 32 minutes to arrive.
OpenTable lets you book a table at a restaurant in real time. You can select a time slot (spread out sensibly in 15-minute intervals), the number of diners (you can pick up to 20; if it can’t accommodate a large booking, the app tells you immediately), and select a day as near or as far in the future as you like. You can also browse the menu, and previous reviews of the restaurant, so you know exactly what you’re getting. Map data on each restaurant helps you locate it easily, and a summary of the venue’s basic details, such as opening hours, parking, average price and payment options are helpful, too. Most restaurants signed up to OpenTable tend to be more casual, mid-market spots. If you want to go somewhere fancier, you might actually have to phone ahead—that’s if you can bear the strain of interpersonal communication.
(£free, £1.49 for full access, http://foodgawker.com/)
Foodgawker is a photo-based recipe app that combines an Instagram-like layout with food porn photography—the sort you flick through in glossy in-flight magazines while eating a cold turkey sandwich. You can share recipes, add annotations, and save your favourites for later. The photography is of a great standard, and essentially encourages you to taste dishes with your eyes. Better still, as attractive as the recipes are, most are fairly simple: it might as simple as baking some Swiss bread, called zopf, lemon blueberry pancakes, or honey and tabasco popcorn. There are plenty of curries, quiches, salads and desserts to explore for anything more challenging.
Yelp isn’t dissimilar to its big rival, TripAdvisor, in that it collates user reviews of bars, restaurants and other venues in an at-a-glance format, but it’s a bit ahead of the curve where its coverage of food and drink is concerned. Unlike TripAdvisor, it discourages the soliciting of reviews, which means that user verdicts tend less towards cronyism or hyperbole (ranging from “omg, amazing!!!” to “omg, worst meal ever!!!”). Its comprehensive database of venues is key to its appeal, so you won’t ever be flying blind where a restaurant's reputation is concerned.