I like egg custards. The Ancient Greeks believed that the best egg custard was the one you’ve just eaten. Inscriptions found at Yaxchilan, meanwhile, clearly indicate that the Mayans considered the best egg custard to be the one you are about to eat. I subscribe to neither of these systems, and believe instead in the power of empiricism.
There are three (and only three) components to a standard UK egg custard:
1. The pastry: that noble and unheralded support layer, quietly carrying out its duties with pride and grace.
2. The custard: that champion heavyweight that we’ve all come to see, that we remember watching on Grandstand as a kid, but that’s still knocking ’em out cold in town halls and leisure centres throughout provincial Britain.
3. The nutmeg: that cheeky young scamp from faraway lands that occasionally appears at your window, mouthing unintelligible words while you attempt to watch the news.
I once had in mind to write a comprehensive guide to the country’s egg custards. Not just a survey of my favourites, or the ones near me, but a rigorous analysis of every commercially available custard in the land. Even given the homogenisation of most UK High Streets, though, it’s a huge and dietarily thankless undertaking, and I have reluctantly added this to the list of things that are just not going to happen, along with learning to play guitar, getting into the album charts, tidying my office etc etc. This move brings both sadness and relief. Having said that, I still have a rough idea of my favourites. In the same way that we like to choose some personal cultural standards to wheel out when asked, instead of having to consider them from scratch each time (favourite album, film, that sort of thing), I have a best egg custard. Best 5, in fact. I am compelled to write all this now because the current number 1 was discovered this very week – I could have wept when I first bit into it – and discovering a new favourite anything is a big deal for some. Here they are:
5. Pound Bakery, Wrexham
4. Ashley’s Butchers, Whitwell
3. Milk Bar, Llanrwst
2. Sandbank Bakery, Towyn
1. Bosun’s Locker, New Quay
Supermarket egg custards are sometimes pretty good. M&S are the best, I think. The flipside of all this is the worst. I’m generally fairly well disposed towards Morrisons, as supermarkets go, but their egg custards have never, after multiple attempts, been anything other than joyless.