I have lived around the corner for 4 and a half years and I have no idea what the bit of street with the Teagather Cafe on is actually called… I call it by my chosen name, Top of Hardman Street, but I don’t think that’s on any map. It’s next to the little Kimos, sort of, and it’s on the side of South Bedford Street.. I think it may be Myrtle Street but then I might have also made it up!
The trouble, I have discovered, with writing this blog, and it is by no means a hardship, is going to the same place more than once. I feel a dread of ‘but I’ve already written about there..’ creep and I wonder if I can put a new spin on it or just try and get the person I’m with to change their mind to somewhere else! There are so many restaurants in this city that I’ve never been to or that I’ve been to plenty of times pre-blog but I have become a bit of a stickler for new experiences. The Teagather Cafe isn’t a new experience but I haven’t been since I started this and so when my ‘new/old/sometime’ flatmate, Lee, returned from London to Liverpool and announced his need to have a Chinese fix, I leapt at the chance to go round the corner for a Chinese. (To be fair, I don’t think I’ve ever not leapt at the chance to eat Chinese, especially when someone else is paying!)
The Teagather Cafe is in prime student area and is full of people with piles of textbooks and bikes leaning outside. It’s a rough and ready kind of a place with basic furniture and you order at the counter and grab a table, left alone while you wait and eat. Prices are exceptionally good value; mains about £5-7 and starters between £2-4. They serve English breakfasts and toasties during the day and unlike Kimos next door, you get bacon which can sometimes be the difference between life and death. Cheaper to take away than to eat in but only by about 50p. I can never quite get my head around the name, is it the meeting of people together and thus ‘teagather’ or is it a reference to the lengthy chinese tea menu… I’m never sure.
We had hoped to eat in, noodles never taste quite the same on your own plates at home, but we were advised by the girl at the counter that they were closing at 9pm because it was a Sunday. I think they’re open till about 10pm, most weeknights. I was a bit disappointed, I like to sit and slurp noodles watching others do the same, but we bravely decided we could manage the 4 minute walk home and so placed an order for takeaway.
Lee was nursing an almighty hangover, green about the gills was certainly evident, and so he decided he’d order some comfort food for him and I could order for myself. Lee went for Salt & Pepper chips, Prawn Toasts and on my recommendation, Nasi Goreng. I chose Salt & Pepper chicken wings, Wor Tip and Shanghai Fried Noodles. Usually the food is super quick, although always cooked from fresh, but it was quite busy with people obviously realising that Sunday nights are too exhausting to cook. We whiled away the time talking about Lee’s new job and his plans to decorate the shop and before I knew it, I realised that I had promised him all of the logs under the stairs for props, the mind boggles.. (which I just mistyped as bloggles, which I think I like better!)
Finally, our steaming hot bag came through from the little kitchen at the back. The Teagather cafe is very small and the kitchen is blocked off by a small curtain. I like that you can make out the frying, chopping and steaming coming from the back. As we were sat there, a chap kept coming up and down the stairs at the back with boxes of fresh food and from previous visits, you can tell that everything is made freshly and with non-frozen ingredients. At one point, he slipped on a wet spot behind the counter and his legs flew up in the air and he cracked on to the floor, under the sack of rice he was carrying, an audible gasp came from the people around us but he just righted himself and carried on, now that’s a professional. I’d have been in tears and summoning cups of sweetened tea!
We got home and cracked open the pots. I started with the Wor Tip as I could eat these by the bucket. I think sometimes though that the pastry can be a bit thick and the mince too coarse but these were perfect. I drowned them in the vinegar and even better, the walk home had cooled them so I could eat them with chopsticks without that perilous moment of hot steamy ginger liquid scalding your tongue. Jackie and I, in our wild and misspent youths, developed a method of preventing this by biting off the tips and dripping out the juice into the vinegar but this wasn’t needed as they had cooled without being cold!
Next, I dived into the Salt & Pepper wings, another thing that I could live on! Salt & Pepper in any capacity is my crack, with the exception of chips. I don’t get it. The idea is lovely but there’s just not enough crunch. You definitely need the crunch so I eschewed Lee’s chips. He had a grateful look in his glazed eyes! We bartered the exchange of a prawn toast for a wing though and I think he got the best part of the deal. The wings were thick with crunchy batter, not oily or bland but crispy and savoury and the Salt & Pepper had just the right amount of chilli and garlic and spring onion components to make it tasty without being too strong. Heaven! The prawn toast was nice but they’re not natural travellers and I think they’d have been perfect if they hadn’t steamed in a takeaway carton for the length of the walk.
I chose Shanghai Noodles out of a need for pork and a mislaid memory that it was char sui and not roast pork. I had ummed and ahhed over Char Sui with rice, Nasi Goreng or something sweet but I decided the comforting savoury of Shanghai noodles would do the job. I have just communicated with Jackie to find out what kind of noodle they were, she only needs a photo sent by BBM and she can identify a noodle at a thousand miles, they were udon which aren’t my favourite noodles but they were the perfect consistency. I think sometimes they can go a bit soggy. Jackie is my appointed noodle guru; a nooroo, and is often summoned on the telephone in chinese supermarkets to answer questions such as ‘what’s the one we had with beef about 2 years ago?’, she never fails me and must really look forward to those phone calls! Back to the Shanghai noodles, they were in an oysterish sauce with large chunks of spring onion, ginger and pork. It was delicious but I’d wished I’d gone for char sui as that’s my definite favourite.
I had recommended the Nasi Goreng to Lee because he always eats Singapore Noodles and I’m bossy and thought it was time for a change! Also I reasoned, he was hungover and likely to be full quickly and then I didn’t have to choose between his and mine because I could steal some of his! Now there’s a lot of pressure to choosing someone’s meal for them or recommending something. I feel anxious at the thought that they might blame me for a disappointing meal and I couldn’t think of anything worse than a disappointing meal so it was with some trepidation that I watched him open his supper and dig in with a fork (I would have used chopsticks but I think the hand-to-eye co-ordination might have resulted in him going hungry)! Anyway, relief, he pronounced them delicious. Thick, sticky rice filled with chicken, huge prawns, peppers, onions and bound with the curry powder, I risked stealing a bit and it was delicious. Salty from the fish sauce but still the right mixture of salty and slightly smoky from the curry powder.
Absolutely full, we still managed to eat some of my banana bread experiments from earlier in the day and settled in to watch Lee Evans live, who we agreed we both don’t want to like but do find the odd hoot of laughter escaping.
Teagather Cafe, 12 Myrtle Street, Liverpool, L7 7DP. (0151) 703 0222