After reading my lack of sampling authentic British cuisine when in Liverpool, I suppose you must be feeling sorry for me. In fact, when I tried to read back what I wrote, I felt sorry for myself too. Three and a half months, and I only had one fish and chips, and one steak. How pitiful is that..
To make myself feel better, and to make you feel better for me too, I shall write about what else I have eaten when in the UK, OUTSIDE of Liverpool when I did part with a considerable amount of money.
1. Millie’s Cookies
Prior to coming to the UK, the cookies that I was accustomed to were Chipsmore and Famous Amos. Basically tough and crunchy cookies. The first time I had Millie’s Cookies in Cheshire Oaks (Premium Outlet shopping area), my mind was blown away! Crispy on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside, it was nothing like what I have ever experienced, and it was the best cookie I have ever had! I’ve had it a few more times throughout my stay in the UK, it was really money worth spending!
The PB&J cookies that I baked earlier were actually something similar to this instead of American cookies.
2. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Selfridges Birmingham
In 2007, there was no Krispy Kreme in Malaysia. In fact, there was no specialty doughnuts store in Malaysia at all, so I had no idea what a specialty doughnuts store is. When I took the train from Liverpool to Wolverhampton (alone) to visit a high school friend of mine, she brought me to Birmingham and one of the important attraction on her agenda was to see the Krispy Kreme shop in the Bullring Shopping Centre.
I was perplexed. I took a 2 hours train ride to visit her, and she wanted me to see a doughnut shop? WTF?? I remember feeling not too impressed while following her lead inside that crazy maze of a shopping mall until we arrived at our destination.
And then I saw the doughnut machine..
And then all my initial misgivings evaporated. It was replaced with unparalleled awe. Again, I was mind-blown. A huge doughnut making machine that resembled a production line. The batter goes in on one side, and glaze coated doughnuts come out on the other end. It was super awesome when you watched it for the first time. Even more impressive was that at any stage of the doughnuts production process, there are people monitoring for imperfection. Any doughnuts that were even slightly misshapen or had uneven coating were immediately discarded, into the bin. What a strict quality control they have!
And they don’t just have plain doughnuts, sugar coated doughnuts and chocolate coated doughnuts. They have a million different shapes and toppings for their doughnuts! We were spoilt for choices! We tried a few choices, and all of them were delicious!
3. Haggis, Scotland
The very first long distance road trip that we undertook was to Scotland. After all, 12 out of 10 seniors triple reminded us that we MUST rent a car and make the drive up north, and that our trip to the UK would not be complete if we skipped this.
They also told us to try something called haggis. They said it is the most famous traditional dish of Scotland.
So we did. We had ours in a restaurant in Portree, the biggest town in the Isle of Skye. Haggis is basically minced lamb (or is it sheep?) innards cooked with alcohol and other seasonings.
It was alright.. until after we left the restaurant. We were running late and had to leave immediately to reach Inverness before midnight, but some of us decided that it was a great idea to just chill in the car park and have a dance session. I think I was not drunk, but I realized some of my mates were. Drunk from eating minced innards. Spectacular..
4. Chinese Food in Manchester
We went to Manchester for the first time to watch a friendly match between Manchester United and Inter Milan at Old Trafford. Since it was our first time visiting (we didn’t know there would be a 2nd time), we also took the opportunity to explore the city and to sample some dim sum in Manchester’s Chinatown. According to the seniors, there is a place called Tai Wu 太湖 that sells the best dim sum in the whole of the United Kingdom.
The food was rather good. At least they tasted authentic rather than westernized. I’m not so sure about the title of best dim sum in the whole of the United Kingdom though. After all, this was the only place we had dim sum in the UK. I did not have the luxury to compare it with any other dim sum places in London or Birmingham.
On our first visit to Manchester, while searching for Tai Wu, we noticed two interesting places along the streets that prompted us to come back a week later. One was MOSI, the Museum Of Science and Industry. The other one was a Chinese styled buffet place called the Buffet City.
What particularly attracted us was the price and the selections they have. When we saw the words £5 Eat-All-You-Can, we were awestruck. Even after conversion, it was just RM35. And RM35 is a cheap price for a buffet! And then we remembered that Liverpool had a bunch of £5 Chinese buffet outlets too, and they were all pathetic! Those buffet places in Liverpool, they might call themselves a buffet, but there were basically 4 or 5 dishes for selection: fried noodles, white rice, a vegetable dish, a chicken dish, and sometimes one other random dish.
So when we saw it on our first visit to Manchester, a few of my friends went inside to survey this Buffet City. They came back out saying that there are lots of choices and that it is a proper buffet. So we knew that we simply HAD to come here again for lunch.
And so we did. And boy was I glad that we did. It was one of the happiest meal that we had in the UK! We basically just stuffed ourselves silly in the 2 hours time limit. Yeah, buffets in England typically have 1 hour or 2 hours time limit for eating depending on the restaurant.
6. The Floating Coffee Company, Birmingham Canalside
I came to this cafe twice. Two times. This is the only restaurant in the whole of England that made me do that.
The first time I came was on the same trip where I discovered Krispy Kreme, and thanks to the same friend. I didn’t even know the name of this place, back then I just called this the Boat Cafe by Birmingham’s Canalside. I found out the name much later through Google. All I know was that we walked from the Bullring Shopping Centre, passed by Victoria Square, saw a museum and art gallery (again, I told you the Brits have a thing about museums and art galleries), go through the ICC Birmingham (International Conference Centre or something), came out on the other side and found ourselves staring at a lovely pedestrian bridge across a lovely canal.
Just beneath the bridge was a boat. And my friend declared: “We’ll have our lunch here!“. Lunch in a boat, awesome!
Before my solo trip, nobody among my uni mates actually knew anything about Birmingham, nobody actually cared about Birmingham, and nobody wanted to visit Birmingham. When I got back to Liverpool and showed them the pictures, they loved it so much that they decided that they must visit Birmingham too. And they decided that I will be their tour guide.
So the second time I came was with some of my friends in Liverpool. I was glad that some of them saw some sense and thought it was a good idea to visit a lovely canal and have lunch inside a boat as opposed to visiting another town with museums and cathedrals. And I was glad that I remembered the way to the canal and the boat.
The boat was small and lovely. It wasn’t too wobbly unless some big sized man is walking inside the boat. You get to feel the novelty of dining in a boat, with a nice view of the canal. And the waitress is lovely.
Actually I don’t remember the waitress at all. I just saw this photo that my photographer friend took. She is lovely, isn’t she?
Anyway, the food. I was introduced to something new to me again, and I introduced this new thing to my friends. Birmingham is where I first tasted the Jacket Potato Skin. I think you can find this now in some of those western cuisine restaurants in Malaysia. If you don’t know what that is, it is basically baked potato cut into halves, the flesh scooped out and replaced with some other fillings and cheese, and then baked again.
This thing is seriously, properly delicious! In fact, I think I’m going to try to make this at home this weekend or next. I’m drooling after writing this post.
7. Malaysia Hall Canteen, London
There are actually quite a number of Malaysian/Asian restaurants in London. But, if it is authentic Malaysian cuisine you seek, then all those restaurants deserve to be ignored. That is my opinion anyway.
The only place in London where you can find authentic, down-to-earth Malaysian cuisine is the canteen of Malaysia Hall. This is where you can find rendang that tastes like rendang, chicken curry that tastes like chicken curry, and roti canai that tastes like roti canai. And they are cheap. Relatively cheaper than the restaurants anyway. For example, when a serving of British localized satay or roti canai was £7 in the restaurants, you can get authentic Malaysian versions here for £1.50.
We only visited London after our semester in Liverpool, and after our Europe Tour, so it was like a few days before coming home to Malaysia. But, it has been almost 4 months, and the food here was cheap, so for sure we had to come and get some nasi campur, roti canai and teh tarik.
They are supposed to only cater for Malaysians, or non-Malaysians accompanied by Malaysians. But I read in reviews that it is easy to sneak in and they don’t really care. They need to sell the food anyway. And the place is hard enough to find as it is. You basically take the Underground to Queensway or Bayswater (I forgot which line), then head over to the adjacent street, Inverness Terrace. The place is along this street, but there won’t be any signboards. You need to look out for the Malaysia flag. And the canteen is at the basement. Upstairs is the Malaysia Hall, where newly arrived students can get cheap accommodation for £7 per day (that was 2007, it is probably more expensive now), for two days max. This one is strictly for Malaysians only.
I think I’m going to stop here. These are about it in terms of interesting food that I had in the UK, outside of Liverpool. And I think I’m going to stop with my UK stories. I’ve written quite a lot continuously, I think. It has been fun, but it also puts me in tears as I sifted through the old photos. I think I’m going to write about something else or some other place for a while.
But let me end this post on a positive note..