The other day I read a comment asking me if I would write a post about food in Liverpool. I want to, but this is actually rather difficult for me.
You see, when I went to Liverpool, it was not for vacation, but for completing my studies, get my degree. You know most Malaysian students (actually, more like most Southeast Asian students) who go to England for studies would face one major concern: money. And I went at the worst possible time for a Malaysian. It was 2007, when the conversion rate was not RM5 to £1, but RM7 to £1. To put it simply, money was scarce.
As a result, we cooked a lot. By a lot, I mean really a lot. I don’t think we have ever eaten out more than 5 times throughout our semester.
On our first day to school, we quickly discovered how expensive it really was to eat out, even if eating out means eating in the university’s cafeteria. When I think about it now, I suppose £3 for a fast food burger and £4 for a serving of lasagna is probably reasonable as far as England goes, but back then, all we could think of was RM21 and RM28 respectively. That day, we had the cheapest option on the menu: £1 for a plate of chips with gravy. I guess the lunch ladies were not too thrilled with us, hundreds of students all going for the £1 chips while ignoring the more expensive options.
They would soon realize that they won’t even be making £1 per person from us much longer.
As early as day 2 of school, we started packing our own lunch to school. Now, £1 might seem very little in England, but when we pack our own lunch, we would be able to eat quite well. In fact, our regular lunch sandwiches (3 slices of bread with a generous coating of butter, an egg, some tuna and baked beans. and some other stuff) costed less than that. When our lectures happened to be at the Byrom Street campus, we would take the 5 minutes walk back to our accommodation in Marybone to get ourselves a hot meal, and then make our way back to campus. Sometimes, we might decide to take a short nap after lunch and the short nap would end up being a 4 hours nap and we would miss the second half of lectures.
In fact, there was once when we did something which we called the Kettle Fiesta. You see, sandwich is nice, but sometimes we need a hot lunch. If we pack our lunch, it would be hot in the morning but by lunch time it would have been cold.
So one day, we made plans. The next morning, 10 (or 15) of us woke up early to prepare our lunch. We cooked instant noodles without the seasoning powder, and then drained the water. We then packed the noodles with whatever toppings we want, fried egg or sausage or hash brown or whatever. One of us smuggled a kettle from our accommodation to school.
By lunch time, our noodles were cold, as usual. We got the kettle out, boiled water and poured the hot water onto our packed noodles, together with the seasoning powder. Now we can have hot lunch 😀 .
Even when we go on road trips, we would be sure to stuff our cars full with bread, biscuits, tinned tuna, baked beans and snacks. The stuff that most budget travel bloggers (like eTramping) recommended: pack your own sandwich, buy your dinner in supermarkets, etc.. yeah, we did all those stuff. We typically has a budget of £80-£100 per person for each road trip, with a big part of that going to car rentals and fuel. Spending £8 or £10 to eat in restaurants every meal were not an option for us.
Let’s see, maybe I can talk about the few times that we did eat out..
We did have fish and chips once. I can’t even remember where we had this, I just remember we did because of the picture. Well, you’ve got to have this, don’t you? After all, fish and chips is sort of the England’s national dish. You can’t say you’ve been to England and then NOT have fish and chips before. You just can’t. It’s like saying you’ve been to Malaysia and not have nasi lemak, or that you’ve been to Poland and not have pierogi. That’s just… sacrilegious.
We also discovered the wonders of Costa Coffee. Back then in 2007, there were no quaint little cafes in Malaysia. The coffee scene was dominated by Starbucks, Coffee Bean and to a certain extent Dome. Of course we were excited to see a coffee chain new to us. What’s more, Costa Coffee is a UK chain rather than an American chain.
We were studying in Liverpool, so it is only natural that the university organized an Anfield tour for us. Anfield, Liverpool F.C’s home ground. We were served lunch in their in-house dining room, sharing the same tables that Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso have once used/were using. The food was horrible, but then, it is hardly about the food, is it?
Oh yes, maybe I can talk about the Chinese food. There are a few Chinese restaurants and Chinese takeaways in Liverpool, but the best Chinese food (and cheapest) we had in Liverpool can be found in the in-house restaurant of Stanley Casino on Renshaw Street. I think it is understandable, their largest patronage group are Chinese people, they have to keep the food cheap and authentic to keep the customers coming. Eat, drink and be merry on the blackjack table. This casino is actually owned by our very own Genting. I think they underwent a round of renovation quite recently and changed their name to Genting Casino.
On our last week in Liverpool, we finally went to experience a proper British pub food. It was near the end of our stint, we had a bit of cash left, so we decided to splash out a bit. We went to Lloyd’s Bar located in the city center. The food was great, and the atmosphere was great. It was fascinating, eating steak while watching white people get drunk at the bar counter.
And.. and.. I don’t have any more pictures to show. See, I told you, we dined out not more than 5 times in Liverpool. That was how pathetic we were..
I guess this has not been a very good foodie guide for Liverpool. Sorry about that..