Journey to a UK Taco Bell and Foods I Miss

by - January 02, 2014

A few days ago Kevin and I made a trek from our home in NW London to Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock, Essex...which means mostly nothing to me, but I know it’s outside the M25 and that means more than just a tube ride away. So Kevin got a Zipcar for the occasion, and it made for a nice little road trip.

I’m sure it seems odd. What could this shopping centre outside London offer that we can’t find in Central London? Taco Bell.

Me outside the Taco Bell Stand

There are only three Taco Bell’s in the UK according to their website...the one we visited, another one in Essex (in a town called Basildon) and one in Manchester. This is a mind boggling fact to me considering that London is littered with KFCs and Pizza Huts, the latter of which is sometimes in the same building as Taco Bell back home in the States!

Anyway, we got there and it was just a little stand in a mall food court. Nothing fancy. They had a lot of familiar menu items, but certainly in a very limited capacity. No chalupas for me. One addition I noticed was Mexican fries...I don’t think any Taco Bells I’ve been to back home have fries.

Mexican Fries

We each got a box meal. Kevin’s came with a burrito, taco, fries, and churros. Mine was a Crunchwrap Supreme, taco, and nachos.

Funny Packaging

Kevin's Meal

My Meal

Overall the food was good. Pretty much just like home from what I can remember. Although there might have been a few more tomatoes in the tacos.

Soft Taco

Enjoying a Taco

Kevin Having a Burrito

The fries were different but not bad. But the nachos. What a fail. I’m not sure if they are supposed to come with sauce, but mine didn’t. Kevin got chocolate sauce for his churros and salsa, but we aren’t sure if that was for the nachos he ordered or the fries he was given. I did see one person with a little cup of nacho cheese as we were finishing, so maybe it’s separate or maybe it was just busy and got skipped out of my box. If I ever find my way to Taco Bell again I’ll be sure to ask because gooey nacho cheese from home is one of the things I miss! (And in hindsight would probably go really well with the fries).

More like Doritos than Nachos

The visit got me really thinking about foods I miss. Some of them I just can’t get over here at all and the rest generally cost too much from the speciality importers to have more than once in a blue moon. I’m sure eventually I’ll find substitutes or just learn to be content with having them as treats when I go home for a visit.

But for now, what I’m missing is still pretty fresh in my mind, so here’s a list:

Velveeta - And Velveeta Shells and Cheese! I’ve seen a couple recipes to make your own, but I’m not actually sure if I could get the taste right with the cheeses we have here. Because I’m pretty sure there’s no actual real cheese in Velveeta anyway!

Rotel - Though I think I could probably find a fair homemade substitute as it’s tomatoes and chilies. However, as the only things I make with Rotel also contain Velveeta I’m in no rush to recreate it until I sort myself out with the right cheese first!

Graham Crackers - Digestives just aren’t the same no matter how many cheesecake recipes I see that say to use them as a crust. Also, I have a theory that s’mores would be really good with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and would like to try it out sometime.

Wavy Lay’s - Though I think I’ve found their UK version. Walker’s and Lay’s are the same company...and they have Walker’s Crinkles Crisps which seem to me to be the same thing. I’m looking forward to trying them with some sour cream and chive dip to really test it.

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chips - They sell chocolate chips here and they make cookies just fine, but they are in tiny bags and it takes several to make a chocolatey batch of cookies!

Pillsbury Crescent Rolls - We may have found a substitute in the JusRoll Croissants...they don’t look as flakey as a normal croissant so they might just fit the bill. Looking forward to trying it out, when I do I’ll report back!

Good Nachos - It seems like everywhere here just throws some shredded mature cheddar on some Doritos and voila nachos….not the gooey nacho cheese I love from home. As you can see above I was even disappointed in the Taco Bell Nacho’s lack of cheese and addition of excessive seasoning.

Crab Rangoon - This seems to only be an American Chinese appetizer...despite having an extensive choice in Chinese restaurants and even huge Chinese food superstores, none have crab rangoon. But again, something I think I will try making on my own...but a baked version (for ease and health).

Good Dill Pickles - I’ve found some Mrs. Elswood slices that are close but just not quite right. I did however find some good pickle relish at the Chinese food store, Wing Yip.

JIF Peanut Butter - Tesco now has a fairly good American section, and they even have JIF...but it’s only extra crunchy! Unfortunately, I prefer creamy.

Any fun or seasonal flavored M&Ms - While I was in Vegas in September I found Pumpkin Spice M&Ms...Mom always sends peanut butter ones for Kevin...I know they’ve made peppermint ones or other fun flavors and colors for holidays. As far as I know unless I go pay exorbitant prices at M&M world in Leicester Square I can’t even get them with fun colors!

Girl Scout Cookies - Mostly Thin Mints and Tag-A-Longs. Ah how they remind me of my childhood...and how good they are from the freezer!

Imo’s Pizza - This is a pizza chain local to St. Louis for those who aren’t familiar. They serve St. Louis style pizza which a friend from Chicago once called pizza on a cracker. But I really grew to love the thin crusts, sweet sauce, and Provel Cheese (which is a wonderful regional blend). Plus they serve toasted ravioli, another St. Louis favorite. Alas, there is no substitute for Imo’s and will forever be something I have to savor while I’m in St. Louis.

And finally, pretty much all of my mom’s cooking! I’ve gotten a few recipes that I’m working on testing on this side of the pond...but even if I get them right it wouldn’t be quite the same.

Are there any foods you miss either from home or that you’ve discovered on travels?

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  1. As someone who makes a lot of chocolate chip cookies, I can tell you it is MUCH cheaper to buy the baker's chocolate {normally sold as a slab of chocolate} and then using something like an ice cream scoop to break it up in its package. It'll cost you about half what it costs to buy the bags of chips! :o)

    I've been here about seven months and have found substitutes for MOST of our favorite dishes. I do miss my spicy cheese, like Pepper Jack, though. Yum!

  2. Ooh thanks for the tip on chocolate, I'll have to try it next time!

  3. I've never tried taco bell (I'm from the UK). I'm going to Florida in May and going is on my to-do list! I can't wait!! I've tried some pretty good nacho's in my time, but if you have been disappointed in all the ones so far in the UK then I am even more excited to try any I can get my hands on in the US!

    Corinne x

  4. Thanks for commenting! I recommend the Chalupas and the cheesy fiesta potatoes especially! Enjoy visiting Florida!

  5. For dill pickles, head to the Polish section of the supermarket, or a Polish food shop. They are so much better than any of the british ones.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I'll try that out next time I get a craving!

  6. I actually had no idea there were ANY Taco Bells in England! Food always tastes different I find even when the same brand - I guess different supplies.

  7. You've made me grateful that I can have Taco Bell here in the states.. I've never actually thought about what it would be like without one! Wishing I could send you some cheesy fiesta potatoes or one of their loaded potato grillers :) xx