A holiday is obviously incomplete till you sample the local cuisine. For Indians who have grown up on British literature, more so. So when an English friend offers to meet over cream tea and scones, I jump at the chance. I am 14 once more, as Enid Blyton references in Famous Five novels come alive.
After the excitement of meeting after so many years has settled we eagerly make our way past the Guildhall, St Martin’s shopping area and The Globe, one of the oldest pubs in Leicester, to 17 Lowesby Lane.
Mrs Bridges is right out of a Jane Austen novel with its small courtyard, wall frieze and ceramics.
Wood framed pictures hang from the walls and recipe books are stacked on a side table. We find an upstairs window seat with a view of the courtyard, where people are sitting despite the chill in the air. The tea is brought to us in large blue and white bone china pots; loose sugar and milk on the side, and the scones are laid out on a double decker silver stand, topped with a generous layer of cream and bright red strawberries. Thick and crunchy, with the deliciously rich cream, they are heavenly. Next on the wish list are Fish and Chips, immortalised by Bertie Wooster and PG Wodehouse.
This time I look in Birmingham, the Asian ghetto. Eureka, it’s there, you only need to separate the Asian ones (more masala) from the English ones (bland). I decide on English and find a fairly well recommended place in Edgbaston. Now, I have to choose between cod and haddock.
Difficult, since I don’t know one from the other. The guy at the counter comes to my help and gives me a regular (I still don’t know whether it is cod or haddock). A large fried fish, with a generous helping of thick potato fries sprinkled with salt and vinegar is at my table. Oily, is the first thing that comes to mind. And the last, as well. Fish ‘n’ chips is not my cup of tea, I discover. Bertie is welcome to his.
Spoils of lake district
Lake District driving finds me in the historic market town of Penrith, Eden Valley, surrounded by mountains, lakes, castles and a wealth of history. Soon I am knocking at the doors of Lanie and Mel Hancox, who run Brandelhow guest house, recipient of the AA Highly Commended Award for Guest Accommodation and the Visit Britain Silver Award that puts it in the top 10 per cent of four star hotels. The house is done with family made tapestries and corn dollies. Breakfast menus have been designed and developed using local ingredients.
Even the flour used in their homemade bread is milled at Carr’s mill in Silloth. After a restful night spent at their lovely room done in white and beige, I wake up to chose between a full English breakfast and Hunters Breakfast. The latter reads kidneys cooked in tomato, mushroom and bacon sauce served with poached egg and potato cakes coated in breadcrumbs and flavoured with lemon. I opt for English and start with homemade prunes in syrup and some strawberry yoghurt. Soon after, a plate of full English is placed in front of me — Cumberland sausage, fried egg, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes with some crisp toast and home made jam. It is the best I’ve ever had. I smack my lips and end with a hot cup of coffee. Jacket potatoes will have to be saved for the next trip.