On our recent trip to England and Scotland we tried to sample local specialties, because that is what Martha would do. When she travels, she seeks out local specialties and good things that can only be found in the place she is visiting. I thought I would share some of the things we enjoyed with you.
Afternoon tea (generally called Cream Tea in the UK) was at the top of my list of must-haves. Prices in the UK tend to be outrageous and a full cream tea at Harrods or the Ritz will run you at least 40 pounds per person (about $60). And that’s for something that isn’t even a real meal! I found a great alternative. We had tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens. Tea here is a reasonable 14 pounds.
First, the tea. We ordered the standard type of tea and did not deviate (later in Scotland I had some Scottish breakfast tea I liked).
The first course with the tea was cucumber sandwiches, which were served on poppy seed bread. They were good, but as I recall, the bread had lots of butter (we encountered this a lot – an egg salad sandwich
had butter on the bread somewhere else). The sandwiches came with a small sausage roll and a little chicken salad roll, with pineapple on a skewer.
Next up was the scone with clotted cream and
jam. To die for.
After we finished sucking that down, the dessert came. Some of us has Belgian chocolate cake with clotted cream (possibly the best cake I have ever, ever had in my life) while
others had an orange cream cake which was also very, very good. As you can see, we got a little enthusiastic about this and sampled it before we took the photo!
That was one of our most memorable meals. What about pub food, you might be asking? Well we had that too, even though we aren’t drinkers and were not interested in having ale at the pubs. One of the first nights, we had fish and chips at a pub and it was good, but a bit too greasy for my tastes. I don’t eat a lot of fried food and it was a
bit much for me to handle!
We had another pub meal in London at Porter’s. The fisherman’s pie was good. The steak pie was also good. Teen Martha had a lamb and apricot pie which she enjoyed. The salad dressing in London was abominable though. Almost every salad we had was served with a horrible
vinegary dressing that was practically inedible. A little oil would go a long way in helping it!
At Porter’s we also had dessert – “pudding” as the Brits call it. We had a fab chocolate pudding (which was like a warm chocolate melted center cake) and the traditional sticky toffee pudding. Both were quite good and had us licking the
plates (once again giving Americans a bad name).
Also in London we had a full English breakfast, which consisted of thick bacon (not crisp), sausages, eggs, mushrooms, and tomato. We struggled to find normal breakfast food that was beyond a croissant. Pancakes were impossible to find. I couldn’t even find oatmeal on the menu, even in Scotland.
We found that in general, the food improved as we got to Scotland. One of our first meals involved cullen skink, which sounds awful, but is actually a very nice soup made of haddock and potatoes, kind of like a fish chowder. We had a bowl of this at a pub in Edinburgh and enjoyed it a lot. At that same pub we sampled an Arbroath smokie fish cake, a salmon fish cake, and a smoked salmon and prawn sandwich. These were ok, but the skink was the hands down winner at that meal. At another restaurant, Teen Martha had potted shrimp, which grossed her out. I had some grilled smoked salmon, but it proved too salty to eat.
By this point in our journey, we had become tired of chips (fries) and peas served with every meal. We had whole peas, mashed peas, and smashed peas. Don’t these people eat any other vegetables, we wondered?
Well that question was answered at a wonderful pub in Aberfoyle, Scotland.
Mr. MarthaAndMe ordered the steak pie, I had the chicken mushroom pie, and Teen Martha had the Ploughman’s Lunch (Dude Martha had his usual fish and chips which I think he ate
almost every day). Every single thing was wonderful. The photos do not do this meal justice at all. The steak pie was like a wonderful, tender stew. The chicken mushroom
pie was like a fabulous pot pie. The ploughman’s lunch had me in ecstasy over the local cheese, delicious bread and wonderful salad.
A few other memorable items include a fabulous roast chicken with mushroom sauce I had in a tiny spot in Pitlochry Scotland. It tasted like something I would make at home which I desperately needed after about 12 days of restaurant food. At the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore, Scotland, which we went to because it was recommended by our wonderful fly fishing guide Jamie from Rothiemurchus Fishery (whom we failed to tip because we didn’t think of it in advance and had nothing smaller than a 20 pound bill on us – again, giving Americans a bad name), I had the best item of the entire trip. I am still dreaming of this at night. And I didn’t take a photo (smacking myself). It was called a quiche, but really it was like a savory Napoleon. Picture this – sweet potato, caramelized onion and spinach layered with what must have been a very small amount of egg. It had a crust, but was cut into a rectangle and had crust on one short side. It was served with a salad with a nice dijon dressing and cole slaw. I am going to attempt to replicate it because it was the stuff that dreams are made of.
Some other things of interest – we sampled some ginger beer, not realizing it has a small alcohol content. I don’t quite understand ginger beer. Is it meant to be beer or a soft drink? It was always listed under soft drinks on the menu, not alcoholic drinks. Dude Martha enjoyed Irn Bru, an orange soda that is sickeningly sweet and tastes of bubble gum.
Mr. MarthaAndMe may move to England because they seem to like white chocolate there and it is his favorite. Every rest stop (called “services”) on the thruway (“carriageway”) carried white chocolate ice cream on a stick. He was in heaven.
Almost every restaurant has lasagna on the menu, but they tend to have a cream sauce and not much cheese. Not typical lasagna like you find here.
All in all, the food was much better than expected. I regret not having a Cornish pasty (which a dear departed friend used to serve at his restaurant in New Orleans) and I was hoping for at least an oatcake in Scotland. The shortbread was superb everywhere I tried it. The only reason we can still fit into our pants is because we burned off so many calories by walking all day, every day.