18 May 2014

Where Can I Buy... Ramune (Birmingham, UK) [review by @NLi10]

Recently a colleague at work asked me if I could get hold of either the Japanese or the Indian Codd bottles (a glass bottle with a marble stopper in the neck).  I remarked that it was easy enough to pick up the Japanese version and that to save him buying it off the internet I'd pop in to town and get one.

This highlighted two things, the first of which is that most people out there are not aware of the best places to get import snacks initially - especially at short notice.  The second thing it highlighted is that I tend to just pick things up when I see them - finding a specific kind of product is a lot harder than expected.

While I didn't try everywhere in Birmingham I did try my usual places and next time I do this I'll pop in to a few different places.

First up I started in the BullRing - which is our largest shopping centre and attracts people from all over the region.

Yankee Candy Cave - no

This is a relatively new concession stand which specialises in American imports.  They do have a wide range of drinks and sweets to tempt in the passers by, but no ramune today.

We also have a large department store in the BullRing that has a food hall, but it's import things are always more expensive than everywhere else.

Selfridges, Bullring - no

They have a tendency to move things around a lot here to encourage browsing but I couldn't see any ramune style drinks.  They did have a few imports but it was mainly 'health' drinks like black water and aloe drinks - all more expensive than in the other shops visited.

They do have a nice large fridge full of Fentimans which is handy to know (and as they are now advertising n UK TV I'm hoping a few more places will branch out and join them).

Next up I wandered out of the back of the shopping centre to the restaurants and had a quick check in Mount Fuji (one of our favourite local restaurants).  Now I'm SURE I've had ramune here before, but they hadn't got any on display in their little shop section and the restaurant was far too busy to push in and ask for one to take away.  I will confirm this next time but I think they may have stopped doing it.

As this is meant to replicate someone trying to find the drink the first time and it wasn't on the window menu or shop display I'm presuming no.

Mt. Fuji - probably not

I expected to walk into the Arcadian centre (Birmingham's open air China town) and grab a bottle from each store.  Neither Day In supermarket, nor the cute little tea shop had them in their store sections.  Again - i'd happily go into all the restaurants and ask if I had no luck in any shop, but I felt that Sat lunch time was not the best time to do this.  None of the smaller paper shops from the area had any, and notn of the younger cafe style restaurants had it listed in the window.

I was beginning to be a little frustrated at this...

Then I spotted a newer place I'd not been in - Vanguard.  From the stock I'm assuming that this is more of a South Korean place, but while it's still very much an oriental grocers it has a younger element and carries a lot of snacks I hadn't seen before (or for a good while) - the Meiji MeltyKiss box was from here - and they actually had the 1.5l bottles of Pocari Sweat that I'd only managed to get once before!

They also had what looked like ramune, but was in a plastic bottle.  As it was the right shape and I could demonstrate the flavour of the drink with this I got both flavours anyway, but to my surprise even these had a marble stopper! Review of the drink to follow but for now

Vanguard Supermarket - 2 flavours 85p each - 250ml

Less worried about returning to the office with nothing at all I then proceeded to carry on with my route stopping in a few more grocers and paper shops on the way.  I'd stopped reading the menus at this point but I'm sure that at least one of the Japanese restaurants would have had some, maybe even the really cool Chinese place that I keep meaning to review too.

Another reason for speeding up my search was to get to Cyber Candy before it shut.

Disspaointingly there were no ramune bottles in the big fridge of odd things (like Duff branded soda drinks, and a million other character things).  I asked the guy behind the till and he pointed to the bottom shelf next to the fridge where there were 3 different flavours.  

CyberCandy - 3 flavours £2.99 - 200ml

As you will probably notice these are both smaller and more expensive than the other version.  They are made in Japan, shipped to America, and then imported back to the UK.  This seems horribly inefficient and all adds to the price.  I'd be more upset paying this in a normal store, but with CyberCandy you pay for the fact that they carry such a mad range of things.  Plus it'd be more expensive in Selfridges.

As I made my way to the bus stops I popped in Mr Simms (which is much cheaper for imports but has a very restricted range) and the grocery shop opposite my favourite games store and they didn't have any of these either. As I had more than enough for the review and for work.  A success of sorts, but I'd expected to find a lot more variety and brands on my trip.

The ramune itself will be reviewed soon.

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