Allthecooks app screen shot

Software reviews: dish of the day

Whether you fancy cooking or eating out, with GPS and a data connection the world can be your oyster. We look at apps for foodies and homebodies alike.

Allthecooks

Allthecooks Recipes Free with in-app purchases

Need a recipe to impress dinner guests, use up what’s in the fridge, or experiment with new ingredients? Sure, a web search will most likely turn up several options - recipe sharing on the web is huge, after all - but even better would be to get feedback from others who have tried and perhaps varied the recipe. This is where Allthecooks comes in, as both an app and a social network for sharing recipes, cookery ideas, and even photos of your attempts at a recipe.

A huge number of recipes are already available, ranging from very simple to pretty sophisticated, plus you can enter and share your own. Very usefully, the app will translate a recipe’s measurements for those who don’t understand cups and Fahrenheit on the one hand, or grammes and Celsius on the other - only finding ones in the wrong units can be a right pain when searching the web for recipes.

You can search for recipes by ingredients or title, by constraints such as gluten-free, egg-free, vegan and so on, or even by the holiday or festival that you are catering for.

The app can calculate nutritional information for each recipe, and you can also discuss all these topics and more in the Allthecooks forum.

A nice touch is the inclusion of estimated preparation and cooking times, a weekly menu planner, and a shopping list with a pop-up that lists all the ingredients necessary for the current recipe, so you can tick the ones that you do not have in stock to add them to your list. It can also link to smartwatches, so you can open a recipe on your wrist.

HeadCode

OurGroceries Free with ads

There are a lot of shopping list apps around, but most are just notepads on a single device. The best thing about OurGroceries is that it can synchronise your lists across multiple devices - both Android and Apple - as well as its website. Add or delete items on any one of them and the change is immediately replicated to the others, making it ideal for use within a family.

You can have multiple lists - one for the supermarket and another for the DIY store, perhaps - and categorise items so you can see all the bakery department items in one place, say. The Android version adds some customisation, for example the text size.

The one gripe is that not only does it frequently nag you to buy the full and advert-free version, but the latter is expensive (£2.99 for Android, £3.99 per iPhone) if you have to buy a copy for everyone in your household. One way around this, on Android at least, is to buy via a shared Play account that you log all your devices into.

Yelp

Yelp Free with ads

Sometimes it just seems easier to go out for dinner. Whether you’re in a new area or one that you think you know well, Yelp will usually turn up something interesting. At heart it is a reviews app; most of the reviews and photos are of businesses, especially eating and drinking venues, shops and professional services, but its users also review galleries, public parks, and pretty much anything else they want to tell the world about.

For restaurants and the like, as well as the location, type, contact details and any reviews it also lists price ratings and opening times, so you can for instance search for a specific type of cuisine that is both nearby and open now. You can even make table reservations from within the app. Businesses can also claim their listings, which gets them access to traffic reports and allows them to respond to reviews and offer discounts to users who use the app’s check-in feature.

Not only can you use Yelp in dozens of languages and dialects, but it sorts reviews by language so you can choose which one you currently want to see reviews in, which is useful for the multilingual and monolingual alike.

There are a few caveats. One is that while its coverage is world-wide, it only covers certain towns and cities. In some countries this means just the largest three or four, and in a few only the capital city. It also pulls in reviews from business reviews site Qype which Yelp acquired in 2012, so these can be pretty dated.

In addition, it is very much a social app, so if you find Facebook too annoying to use, you might feel the same about Yelp. And as is inevitable with user-generated content, Yelp has suffered from fake reviews, whether positive ones written by the owner’s friends or paid ‘astroturfers’, or negative ones written by competitors. Yelp has automated filters to weed out fakes, and it has also carried out sting operations to catch companies that sponsor reviews, but you still need to read between the lines sometimes.

Zomato

Zomato Food Menu & Reviews Free

Much more focused on places to eat and drink, and more of an aggregation service than a social network, Zomato covers an unusual range of countries in remarkable depth - India, the Czech Republic and Turkey, for example - yet has little or nothing in others. It covers over a dozen towns and cities in the Czech Republic, say, but lists nothing at all for France and Germany.

Part of Zomato’s breadth comes from its recent acquisition and absorption of the popular Urbanspoon app, though teething troubles and app crashes during the overlap period did not endear it to some Urbanspoon fans. Its listings get more depth from reviews, many of which are drawn from food blogs, and from photos, most of which seem to be drawn from image-sharing website Instagram.

As well as searching nearby, you can search for specific cuisines or opt for one of Zomato’s Collections - these are themed recommendations, for example newly-opened venues, street food, places to go for sweet stuff or celebrity chefs. You can also opt to follow other reviewers - typically this means friends or prolific bloggers - and see their new reviews in a Facebook-style message feed.

The individual venue pages are smartly laid out, and include menu scans in many cases. All the other information you might expect is there too - photos, opening hours, a map, and a button to book a car from Uber to get you there. One oddity is that the web version includes a ‘city feed’ of recent reviews, but this is absent from the mobile app.

Only time will tell whether Zomato can grow its coverage and keep its existing listings up to date, but for now it is worth a look for the travelling foodie.

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