By Stephanie Chao, the Eye on Taiwan staff writer
Nestled in the heart of Taipei’s culinary and creative foods scene, “Britshake” (英國奶奶) has come a long way from a small cart selling milkshakes and baked potatoes at Gongguan Night Market to owing their restaurants.
Britshake is the brainchild of Amy Rattigan from the U.K. As a child who roamed her mother’s kitchen and learned to cook at her side and graduated top in her class at Lincoln College’s Hospitality and Catering Department, Rattigan aims to create the stereotype of what outsiders have held towards British cuisine: That it’s pretty dull.
Most importantly, one can enjoy perfectly cooked British cuisine that won’t break the bank or get unhealthy guilty pleasure. “The best of British cooking comes from each household’s kitchen, made and prepared by the mother,” Doris Wu, their branding consultant, said.
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Most of Britshake’s food selections are handmade; for example, their popular scones that are available for takeout at their Danshui branch, which is also their first restaurant.
A tasty love story
For Rattigan, coming to Taiwan to open a restaurant was part of her journey and relationship with her husband, Deng Zhi-yi.
Having met each other in Beijing while they were backpacking, they exchanged correspondence for half a year before dating. Dang traveled to the U.K. to be with Rattigan and while both had stayed in each other’s countries, in the end, Rattigan decided to follow Deng back to his home country.
Rattigan, like many foreigners in Taiwan, taught English in the beginning, but eventually found it was uninspiring for her. Deng, a salesperson who had always nursed an entrepreneurial spirit and dreamed of starting his own business, found potential in the catering business after seeing his wife’s passion for cooking.
As they say, the rest is history, but the road to opening up two restaurants was not an easy one. Wu said the couple had saved up and opened up their own cart to sell milkshakes — a popular cold beverage in the U.K. during the summer — and baked potatoes in Gongguan Night Market.
They called it “Britshake” because of how they shortened “milkshake” in Mandarin Chinese to “nai nai” (奶奶) or milk, but it has caused some confusion for diners and the media as they have more often pictured a British grandma behind the kitchen counter.
Milkshakes, when considering quality and food safety, can be hard to be profitable in the long run with higher cost, so after they have gradually built up a good reputation and reigned in customers’ taste buds, Wu admitted that they were not very profitable in the beginning.
Eying Xinyi’s lucrative market
They opened their first restaurant in Danshui Old Street, where after a leisurely stroll through the bustling streets visitors can end by enjoying the British dishes, like their iconic and signature “Fish and Chips served with homemade Tartar Sauce and Mushy Peas,” cottage pie, milkshakes or baked potatoes.
For those who lean towards getting together with friends for a simple brunch or enjoy a very British afternoon tea set, they can go to their second branch on Yenji Street in Daan District.
Decorated in a simple “industrial-style” decor and lively, colorful cartoonish designs, the Yenji Street branch offers their signature British-styled brunch for families or business gatherings to enjoy. In their basement is a spacious area for hosting large gatherings or events.
In time for Mother’s Day, they’re also collaborating with a local florist by hosting floral design classes, where you can learn how to make your own bouquet and enjoy British afternoon tea sets.
All of this is still in their experimental stages, however, Wu said, though they have set their eyes on eventually entering Xinyi District, where it is regarded as the epic center of entertainment in Taiwan’s capital.
What to eat
We enjoyed Pork and Apple Cider stew with Yorkshire Pudding. I’ve heard great things about Yorkshire Pudding, and it was a pleasure to finally be able to taste it.
With its chewy texture, the Yorkshire Pudding can mop up the pork stew, making it a great combination that’s not too greasy, but with enough flavor that would encourage a bite after a bite. The pork was brought to a tender texture that encompasses red wine and applesauce in its meat.
I ordered their Fortnum & Mason Fortmason tea, which is a particular brand of tea that is less seen in Taiwan but known to be enjoyed by the British Royal Family themselves. The tea has a tangerine tang to it and is highly recommended to be enjoyed with their British brunch selections, according to Wu.
Also on the table were their signature Fish and Chips with Tartar Sauce and Mushy Peas. Their chips haven’t left any impressions on me but their fried fish has a more chewy, less greasy coat. They change their deep-fry oil frequently, so diners can enjoy their deep-fried guilty pleasures with less guilt and more enjoyment.