My Food Adventures in Liverpool

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.

Chips and gravy
£1 chips with gravy

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.

£1 sandwich
Less-than-£1 sandwich

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.

Fish and chips
Fish and chips

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.

Costa coffee
Costa coffee

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?

Anfield
Dessert

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..

30 Comments

  1. I’ve been to Liverpool a couple of times and I went to a nice healthy restaurant where I was served a fish with chips and a big bowl of salad. It was so delicious!!

  2. Oh why, oh why did I just read this? Everything looks so good, so delicious! Those French fries with gravy look so good – it has been ages since I had something like that!

    And know all about how expensive it is to eat out. It is the same in Canada as well and my husband constantly talks about how cheap it is to eat out in Taiwan whenever we visit.

    • In England, they’re called chips instead of fries. I think they are the same, but English people will probably insist that they are different. And, if the sight of chips is too much for you to take and breaks your heart, maybe you should not read the one coming up tonight 😀

  3. Actually, your home cooked food look a lot better than the restaurant ones!! The food in England is so expensive that we didn’t eat anything amazing either. I remember we went to a pub, shared one Scotch egg, one fish & chips, and one ale, and it came to $40 US. And we were still hungry.

    • $40 and still hungry! That’s really not good! But then, you only went to London didn’t you? Prices outside London would be much cheaper, sometimes by half.

  4. Yay, Liverpool food post! Yeah, when overseas we will convert and everything is so expensive. Especially now when our Ringgit is sliding. Even in Singapore we will be thinking twice about spending. It is interesting to read your experience and wah, I like that loaded sandwich 🙂 Way better than the chips with gravy for the same price. I suppose that is how so many students are “forced” to take up cooking which is not a bad thing. Anyway, it is not too bad that you and your friends still managed to eat out before leaving Liverpool.

    • You know, I actually saw some friends who did not cook throughout the entire semester. It was always Maggi, sandwich (jam, peanut butter or tinned tuna) or milk and cereals for them. And not all were friendly with their apartment mates so it was more difficult to cook effectively. I guess I was just lucky to be in the company of the right people 🙂 .

  5. My…you even got simple food pics from 2007…it’s like you knew you’d gonna need those pics for your blog some day. I feel for you when I saw what you ate on the 1st day. Hey, who says yours is not a food guide…it’s a food guide on eating on a budget (for incoming students) especially that great idea on how to have (packed) hot instant noodles!

    • Well, to be honest, the pictures were from my old blog which was written in 2008. And they’re not even my pictures. Most of my UK pictures are from friends who are better skilled. I’m just recycling materials and presenting them in a way that is more informative, I guess.

  6. when money not enough, brain turns creative. Those that you show looks good leh. The one in the second pic….now if eat in “Cafe” over here would cost a bomb.

  7. Yep very wise of you to know how to jimat and money is hard to earn.. I would say your meals look very ‘fung foo’, with eggs hotdogs hash browns and all.. Here, a packet of frozen nuggets or hotdogs cost RM11+.. If I cook it for lunch and dinner or chuck it into my soup to be eaten with noodles, it’s only enuff for a few days.. Packing own lunch to work still applies to most people now, using overnight dinner, then reheating next day for lunch..

  8. Your kettle fiesta is so ingenius! I can understand because I cook in UK too although our salary are paid in pounds but still better to cook at home and only eat out once in a blue moon.

  9. well, home-cooked food is the best! hahaha! at least u hav experienced the student life abroad (i mean in Liverpool), that would the best part of life.

  10. When I studied oversea I also found the food outside is very expensive, so then I start cooking at home despite I don’t know much in cooking, but as long as it tastes nice who cares, right?? Hehehe!!

    • For me, it doesn’t even need to be delicious. As long as it is properly cooked and can eat without giving me diarrhea, then it is good to go 😀 .

    • You can find familiar tastes, you just need to look hard and be lucky. And, you know, Malaysian Chinese food is not exactly authentic Chinese food too. To the Chinese people in China, our food is probably as authentic as American Chinese food, or French Chinese food 😀 .

      • I beg to differ, I think our Cantonese style Chinese food here tastes the same as the Cantonese style Chinese food I ate in China although theirs are more oily.

        • Really? I think the dishes and concept are same, Cantonese style, soup and braise and stir fry, but I always thought we use different ingredients..

  11. yeah, i totally agree with the problem about money and many would actually cook at home to save money.. i have heard, especially those who are new would always do the currency conversion and that even freaks them out to buy stuffs.. and some even fried rice for a week’s portion, keep in the fridge and reheat for every meal!!!

    • It’s hard for those that just arrived, especially those on long term studies. We were only for a semester, so we just brought a chunk of money and plan around that, expecting to use up every single pound and penny by the time we go back. Those on 2 or 3 years program, when they arrived, they had limited funds and they were jobless yet, the worry and need to stretch the pound is much more intense than us.

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