British food takes Manhattan
by Katy Salter | 29 October 2012 | 3 commentsTweet
The butcher, the baker and the chip shop owner - meet the expats bringing the best of British food to the Big Apple.
The butcher – Peter Myers
It’s a long way from Cumbria to Manhattan, but step into Myers of Keswick and you’ll be transported to a traditional Lake District butchers and general store. The counter is home to Cornish pasties, sausages, Scotch eggs and pork pies, and the shelves are lined with Heinz Baked Beans and Hob Nobs. Founder Peter Myers is a third-generation butcher from Keswick, who moved to New York 40 years ago. He originally ran a bar, Bells of Hell, before opening his store in Greenwich Village.
‘95% of our customers are expats,’ says Peter. ‘We get a curious New Yorker in about once a day – normally someone who’s been on holiday to Britain and had a Digestive and a cup of tea in their hotel. They come in for British ‘cookies’.’ Myers of Keswick’s bestseller is Heinz Baked Beans (British customers claim the American ones ‘don’t taste the same’), followed by Branston Pickle, Ribena, Digestives and Cadbury Flakes.
But it’s Myers’ traditional sausages which are ‘my speciality’ says Peter. ‘We bring the rusk over from the UK. Our secret recipe for Cumberland sausage was given to my grandfather when he bought his butcher’s shop in Keswick in 1913.’ The sausages are a huge hit – Myers and his daughter Jennifer, who now runs the family business, supply top New York restaurants like Balthazar and Pastis with sausages, and deliver them to expats as far away as Florida and California.
Myers of Keswick, 634 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014, USA
The tea-room owner – Nicky Perry
‘We’re English for a living,’ says Nicky Perry of her mini empire in Manhattan. Nicky and husband Sean own Tea and Sympathy, a tearoom and English restaurant in Greenwich Village. They also own the grocery store next door, Carry on Tea and Sympathy, and chip shop Assault and Battery. With Sean’s black cab sitting outside, and the interiors covered in nostalgic memorabilia, from regal teapots to signed photos of the EastEnders cast, this small block is New York’s own little Britain. ‘I don’t miss much about the UK,’ says Nicky ‘but I do miss M&S food. It’s the first place I go when I land at the airport – I love the lemon curd yoghurt and ham and mustard sandwiches.’ But neither can hold a candle to Nicky’s famous fluffy scones, served with proper clotted cream and jam. Her cream teas and other classic British dishes have won Tea and Sympathy legions of loyal regulars and celeb fans like Jake Gyllenhaal and Mila Kunis.
‘Americans think British food is mush and overcooked meat, and that just isn’t true’ says Nicky, who grew up in London and moved to New York in the early 80s. Rave reviews for Tea and Sympathy and Assault and Battery have helped changed those perceptions, as have the 1000s of cuppas poured by Tea and Sympathy’s British waitresses over the years. ‘I’ve single-handedly turned New Yorkers on to good tea,’ says Nicky, who hopes her new range of Tea and Sympathy teas will encourage even more Americans to enjoy the pleasures of a proper brew.
Tea and Sympathy, 108 Greenwich Avenue, New York NY 10011, USA.
The chip-shop owner – Chris Sell
When homesick ex-pats in Brooklyn need a fish and chips fix, they head to Chip Shop. ‘Every time I went home to England, my second stop after the pub was the fish and chip shop,’ says owner and chef Chris Sell, who opened Chip Shop in Park Slope 12 years ago. ‘People told me I was crazy to open [a chip shop] here, but we ran out of food on our first day.’ Sell estimates that 30% of his regulars are British expats and the other 70% are American. Classic fish and chips, made with cod or haddock, is the most popular order for both groups. Sausage, chips and beans rank as second choice for the Brits, while Americans tend to indulge in the shepherd’s pie.
Chris’s flair for publicity has helped spread the word about Chip Shop’s two Brooklyn branches in a city stuffed with restaurants. He drives around New York in a Union-Jack Robin Reliant and ‘became known for deep-frying a Twinkie.’ Playing around with the infamous Scottish deep-fried Mars bar idea, Chris has since deep-fried everything from an Atkins diet bar (‘a few people did order it, amazingly enough’) to ‘turkey meatballs wrapped in mac ‘n’ cheese then fried.’
‘I go home once a year, and I’ll always be an Englishman first, but I do think of myself as a New Yorker now,’ says Chris, who is planning a third Chip Shop in Manhattan – down the block from the British consulate.
Chip Shop, 383 Fifth Ave, Brooklyn NY 11215 and 129 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn NY 11201
Have you encountered British shops while living or working abroad and hankered for a taste of home? Let us know in the comments box below.
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