Although in the back of your mind you know you could cook dinner at home for a week for the same money as one meal at a restaurant with change to spare, there's something nice about getting yourself tidied up and being waited on for a change. It also makes a change to not have to do the washing up.
Only once have I experienced the whole 'haute cuisine' thing, and an amazing experience it was too.
Although I was initially worried that I'd still be hungry by the end because the servings were so small, but two hours later after I'd seen off five courses, each a taste sensation in its own right with a glass of wine to complement it, I was very glad that we were staying in the hotel where we were eating. We dragged ourselves back to the hotel room stuffed, decidedly squiffy and ready for bed.
The average meal out doesn't come close to this unless you're wealthy, but you don't really expect it to.
The other week we went to a Turkish restaurant in Saffron Walden which was pretty good. As my only previous experience of Turkish cuisine had been a large donor kebab after a couple of pints, I wasn't sure what to expect, but as it turned out it was all very tasty.
Some people get all snobby about Wetherspoons pubs, but I think they're pretty good.
They don't pretend to be anything they're not. You don't go in expecting Michelin star fayre. You go to a Wetherspoons for a plate of down-to-earth food at an affordable price. Where else can you get lasagne with chips, salad and a pint for about six quid?
Some pubs seem to get ideas above their station though.
Yesterday we stopped at a local pub by the river on the way home from Cambridge because we were all hungry but quite frankly couldn't be arsed to cook anything.
The wife tried to be good and only had the omelette, but even that was disappointing - the omelette lacked any sort of finesse and the 'salad' comprised two slices of tomato and a small patch of watercress. My seafood platter was passable, and the boy's gammon steak was rather overdone.
We all decided against dessert because to be honest £5.75 for a slice of lemon meringue pie or similar seemed a bit steep.
What that place provided was ordinary pub grub at restaurant prices. We used to like it there, but we won't be going back. I don't like being ripped off, and judging by the small number of patrons on a Saturday lunchtime, I think word must be getting around.
The cost of dining out is going up and up, so we're more likely to treat ourselves to something nice at home these days. We may have to cook it and do the washing up, but all three of us can have a treat we really like for less than it would be for one meal at a restaurant, especially when you factor in the drinks.
Supermarkets have cottoned on to this and you regularly find some sort of 'meal deal' where you can get two main courses, two desserts and a bottle of wine for a tenner.
If you resent the cost of eating out and you're on a budget, it's a no-brainer.
Obviously it's no substitute for the warm fuzzy feeling you get from a good meal at a restaurant where they actually care about providing good food and service, or even spending a couple of hours in the kitchen preparing something nice yourself, but its value can't be disputed.
We'll still enjoy a meal out from time to time of course, but I think it will become limited to special occasions rather than just on a whim.