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Pret a manger- Fast food, with a smile? And decent food? [moved from Food Media and News]

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  1. I try to avoid chains if there are other nearby choices, but have grabbed meals at PAM when convenience/speed was needed.

    And my opinion of them is completely neutral.

    I don't recall them being overtly friendly, nor indifferent. Likewise, their food offerings are somewhat varied/different than most chains, but I can't recall being wowed by anything. In other words, I trust that their tuna sandwich is probably fresh and like that its on a decent roll, but wouldn't go out of my way to eat it. But sometimes you don't have the time or energy to go out of your way, so they're probably filling a niche by being in more places.

    1. I've been eating Pret food since the 1990s when they started spreading across the UK. I find them a perfectly good place to go for a cheap and tasty lunch. The food is most certainly a step up from Subway and others of that ilk (a huge step up). There have been threads where people quibbled over the freshness or quality of Pret sandwiches but my personal experience has always been good.

      Pret is a lifesaver in central London where restaurants are expensive and to be able to pop in and pick up a chicken curry sandwich on whole wheat with bacon for three quid is a very, very good deal. The pastries are usually quite nice as well and their coffee just as good as any of the big coffee chains but slightly cheaper.

      As a business model - catering for people who need a quick lunch but want something better than fast food chains and tastier and better quality than Subway, it's exceedingly successful.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Roland Parker

        I'm really surprised that the quality of the sandwiches at Pret would be better than most sandwich chains considering everything is pre packaged and sitting in the fridge. Whenever I see pre packaged sandwiches I immediately think of the ones you see at 7-11 or am/pm.

        Even if they are made daily I would think them sitting around would make the bread soggy from the mayo/spread they put on.

        1. re: mliew

          The proof is in the tasting. They don't just make them in the morning and let them sit out, they replenish all day. Their quality is very good.

      2. Much more interesting food in London than they have over here.

        19 Replies
        1. re: chicgail

          In general or in Pret a Manger specifically?

          1. re: Phaedrus

            Pret's menu offerings are a little more dumbed-down for US locations but still very good. Here's an example of how the sandwiches differ:

            UK

            http://www.pret.com/menu/sandwiches

            US

            http://www.pret.com/us/menu/sandwiches

            Whenever we travel through Heathrow we always make a point of stopping at Pret for some sandwiches "for the road." Invariably better than airline food.

            1. re: ferret

              I see that most of the good seafood choices are missing from the US menu. Typical! I came to love the crayfish and rocket sandwich.

              1. re: mnosyne

                The crayfish and rocket sandwich is one of the first things I eat when I arive in London.

              2. re: Phaedrus

                Good Grief. English food is still mostly all awful. Sorry to have been unclear. I was was talking about Pret a Manger in London vs. the US. Ferret's comments show the difference. I, too, buy airplane food from Pret at Heathrow.

                1. re: chicgail

                  London certainly has as interesting food as we have here - more types of South Asian food as just one example. I had better meals at comparable price points in London than I did in Paris last year. There's lots of not-so-good food too, but the same can be said of the US.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    The official cuisine of the UK is: Indian.

                    Seriously, I stayed in Yorkshire and Glasgow for an extended period of time and while there are nasty bits, mostly in dive pubs and some take away places, the food standards are actually pretty good. People are pretty militant about their traditional foods now.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      "People are pretty militant about their traditional foods now."

                      Indeed, we are.

                      "English food is still mostly awful" - ROFLMAO.

                      And, hey, on the subject of sandwiches ......whilst we might be inflicting Pret on America, Americans have inflicted Subway on us. Please take it back.

                      1. re: Harters

                        LOL!

                        We did get the best of that trade, didn't we?

                      2. re: Phaedrus

                        thank you Phaedrus for saying British standards are pretty good, although I am a Brit living in the US I am so fed up with Americans telling each other how awful British food is. Sure nobody can defend Chilis, Applebees, McD's, Denny's, Subway and all those other awful US chains?

                        I would love to see Pret branch out across the US. I wish it was possible to get sliced bread sandwiches in America rather than those oversized overstuffed subs that are ubiquitous and not always at all good with nasty processed cheeses and cold cuts.

                        1. re: smartie

                          I had probably the best lamb in the world in the Yorkshire countryside, outside of Harrogate. And I also had curry in Bradford, serious sit down curry and not just post drinking curry. I had real Scottish food in Glasgow, with fresh salmon, and gorgeous vegetables. So, yeah, food in the UK was superb as far as I was concerned.

                          1. re: Phaedrus

                            I'm sure great food exists in England, I just wish I had experienced some of it. I did tons of research, got recommendations as I always do when I'm going somewhere, and had nothing that was wonderful, memorable or repeatable. So this is based only on my personal experience. The food we ate kept us alive and not hungry. Period. Pret a Manger was actually the high spot.

                            1. re: chicgail

                              Maybe for the next trip, you should find different folk to give you recommendations. Of course, British food isn't like American food and the expectations of visitors to both countries can often be disappointing.

                              Have to say that if a run-of-the-mill sandwich chain was the high spot of your eating experience, I dread to think of what places had been recommended to you.

                              1. re: Harters

                                I'm just stunned when I hear someone say the food in London is bad. We spent a month in London and ate so well-- incredibly beautiful produce, dairy, bread, meat. Even our lunches at the National Gallery were excellent: regional cuisine, well executed. And by the way, they make the best scrambled eggs I've ever had!

                                1. re: mnosyne

                                  You can find good food anywhere you travel - you're pretty much on a limited itinerary so you seek out good food. When you live somewhere and realize you can't apply a vacation budget to every meal your choices tend to be more limited. I've had any number of blah meals in London as well as some very good ones.

                              2. re: chicgail

                                My advantage was that I was sent over to work with one of our offices in the UK and with a university professor. And them knowing what a food snob I am, took me to the places that I would enjoy. I did walk about a bit and found some places. Harrogate was a bit hoity toity, it is a tourist attraction so the food was on the higher end of the scale, not to say it was all good. I was staying by the university in Glasgow so I got some pretty adventurous food around there.

                            2. re: smartie

                              Personally, I find it tiresome the way so many refer to America as if it were some monolithic entity and chain restaurants as synonym for American cuisine.

                              Meanwhile, I appreciate Harters's championing of Brit cuisine, and indeed there are some amazing places here. But his experience points to his wealth... most of the places he visits are simply too rich for me, and the fact is, at the basic, more affordable level, there's a lot of tasteless food and the overall experience leaves me pining. (That said, I now live in a fairly remote village-- my attitude shifts considerably when in London but then I have access to more than the filled rolls goopy with mayonnaise, greasy flavourless pasties, fried anything, heavy pies, and the like. But bravo for accomplishments in the ready-made sandwich field.)

                              But again, it behoves you to remember that the U.S. is enormous, and for many who are from there or who have lived there for a considerable amount of time, some regions are as foreign to them as they are to the European visitor.

                              1. re: Lizard

                                Oh, don't get me wrong. I'd be the first to say that there is no comparision between the food offerings at the cheapest end the market. American wins hands down every single time. I would always prefer to have dinner in a back street diner in Hicksville, South Dakota than my local village pub - it will be better food and, certainly, better value

                                However, the reference to my "wealth" is simply laughable. I'm retired and on a pension (and, when working, earned less than national average wages). I usually eat at places that are mid-range in the British market - the casual bistro sort of place. And, yes, I would say with equal certainty they offer better food and better value for money than the equivalent American casual bistro type places that i have experienced in 30+ years visiting the country. Oh, yes, I'm also happy to put some money aside from my monthly pension so we can afford the occasional Michelin starred meal ( for "occasions" of course).

                                By way of the maths - my notes (and reviews - all I think on Chowhound's UK/Ireland board) indicate we've eaten in some 39 places in the UK this year - all but 7 were bistro type places, pubs or local "ethnic" places. And hardly a poor dish amongst the lo

                    2. I really like Pret a Manger. There are none near me, but I had a few meals there on a couple of trips to Manhattan. I had a couple of tasty, fresh sandwiches as well as a delicious salad with a blue cheese, walnuts, cranberries and arugula. Fabulous for food that you can grab and go, and better than I've had at any sit-down chain.

                      1. i must confess, now I am especially curious to try it. I have no opinion or knowledge of English/UK food except for the notion I have of it either being rather bad meat and potato sort of thing or curry sort of thing ( as a poster previous mentioned). That said, my friends in London seem to eat quite well, both high-end and casual, and have no complaints when they go out.
                        Will more of these PAMs be opening in NY?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: MRS

                          I was in London working and I was staying at Claridges Hotel with a low per diem which sucks obviously. The PAM down the road saved me big time. They had enough different types of foods that I would load up in the am, load up my emptied mini-bar and be cool till the next day at least. The had a hummas wrap that was great, and a duck (yes duck) wrap that was most excellent!!!! And great salad's too; thet were not giving them away but were very reasonable.

                        2. I went to a Pret-a-Manger outlet (in the UK in Central London) to grab a quick lunch on my graduation day. I was wearing my robe and hood so stood out quite a bit in the crowd. One of the ladies behind the counter congratulated me and offered me a coffee on the house to 'celebrate your big day'. Another friend used to write her dissertation in Pret, going there every day, and was one day offered her usual coffee on the house. So personally I do characterise them as a 'friendly' chain...

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: limoen

                            I hail from Vancouver, BC, which is considered to be somewhere that is very health conscious. I spent two weeks in London this summer and, frankly, the food options in Vancouver do not even shake a stick at what London has to offer. And (not to offend, just a disclaimer), we pretty much have all the same not-so-healthy options that the US has, though some in different forms. What we don't have is great options like Pret, and Eat, and so on. I literally ate at Pret most days when we were out and about and still think about the divine avocado and langostine salad, and thai chicken soup, that I frequently had. The food was constantly being restocked, which gave me the impression that it was often restocked and prepared throughout the day, and I felt the consistency was amazing. If only we had choices like it in Canada and North America.... I think we might all be a bit healthier for it.

                          2. I think their sandwiches are ok, kinda boring.

                            But, I like Pret's oatmeal and usually get it once a week. Good coffee too.