Discover Ormskirk EP.01: cafe MANDRAKE’S A Magical Experience

Edge Hill has a great campus but that wouldn’t stop you from looking for other gems in Ormskirk would it?

Good news for you! Today we’ll discover a haven for those fond of the peace, the quiet and the mystique: cafe MANDRAKE’S A Magical Experience.

Mandrakes is very easy to spot when you’re on the university’s free bus to town.
If you’re a Potterhead you definitely don’t want to miss out on this lovely cafe.

1. Few facts about Mandrakes

  • Address: 4 St Helens Rd, Ormskirk (L39 4QR)
  • Opening hours: Tue-Sat: 10am-4:30pm, Sun: 11am-5:00pm, Mon: closed.
  • Price range: £ 1.00-4.50 for drinks, £ 2.80-6.75 for breakfast and lunch, £ 9.50-16.50 for special Afternoon Tea. See full menu down below in section 4.

When was it opened? 9th August 2019

Why was it opened?

At first glance it is clear that Mandrakes is inspired by Harry Potter theme. However, the theme of the café is not just Harry Potter, the owners wanted to create a mystical atmosphere with different elements of magic, wizards and witches. This magical cafe is like a breath of fresh air the owners wanted to bring to Ormskirk, to attract more people into this lovely town, especially when there’s a huge amount of young people coming into town to study at Edge Hill.

The café has been more successful than they ever imagined. They had a soft opening (not much advertising other than the Facebook page) and it was totally packed, queues of people around the corner waiting to get in.

Current manager at Mandrakes is an Edge Hill graduate

We met with manager at Mandrakes, Lizzie, who is an Edge Hill graduate in English and loved her experience so much she progressed to study an MA (master of arts) which she has just finished and will be graduating in December.

Lizzie is a big Harry Potter fan and said the book was a major inspiration for her to pursue her studies in English, which is why it’s no surprise Harry Potter featured in her personal statement.

Staff at Mandrakes would love to be referred to as House Wizards and Witches. And their outfits truly depict that spirit. These wizards and witches though, are very warm, friendly and welcoming, so you needn’t worry at all.

2. How to get to Mandrake’s from Edge Hill

(If you already know, please skip to the next part. Though I think you may like to learn the bus schedule tip I’ll mention in paragraph 2 below)

Walk. (10 minute walk from Edge Hill). Out of Edge Hill’s main entrance just turn right and keep to that only road (called St Helens Road by the way) until you reach the first traffic light. Cross the road at the traffic light and walk for a little more you’ll see Mandrakes right on your left hand side.

Take the bus. You probably already know about the bus (which is run by the University and free for all students and staff) but I want to take this chance to tell you a tip I’ve just learned about the bus schedule (after over two months living here and taking the bus for like 100 times though🤣). Everybody can tell you the bus leaves every 20 minutes, but nobody seems to tell you: at what minute? …because with this cold weather and those winds, waiting for 15+ minutes at the bus stop isn’t a great idea (at least for me). So here’s the tip that saves lives (from the winter winds obviously): There are 3 stops – Edge Hill Main Entrance, Creative Edge, Ormskirk bus station Stand 5. Don’t mind the hour, just look at the minute: The bus leaves Main Entrance at minute 08, 28, 48, leaves Creative Edge at 13, 33, 53, leaves Ormskirk at 05, 25, 45. (So it starts from Ormskirk, after 3 minutes reaches Main Entrance, then moves to Creative Edge).

3. The space at Mandrakes

Reception

Harry Potter merchandise room

This is where you get to see and buy official Harry Potter merchandise. The fireplace is not to be missed!

Cafe area

The best part about the Cafe area isn’t just the space and the drinks, it’s DJ ‘Wand Apprentice’, a staff with special role at Mandrakes. While we’re enjoying our tea and drinks, DJ would come to our table and give us a demonstration of wands (replica) from Harry Potter. The way the demonstration works is: DJ takes the wands out from his box one by one, allow us time to admire the wand and guess which character it belongs to, while at the same time gives some hints to us, then in the end reveals answers and explanations.

We delighted in the guessing game he led us through, got to admire his patience and immense tolerance of us being not decent HP fans at all. (us: me and 2 staff from the International Office, Emma and Brad. Props to you Emma for being the best player, you truly saved our face by correctly guessing the wands of Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore and Voldemort.) We couldn’t guess Luna Lovegood’s despite all of DJ’s hints and efforts.

DJ really wowed us by how knowledgeable and articulate he was on the reasons behind the design of each of the wands.

Feels very cool to hold these wands in our hands after the guessing

“Experience Rooms”

Behind the café are the Experience rooms, very atmospheric and moody lighting. Fascinating thing here is you get to try on fabulous wizard cloaks. (with the help of lovely Lizzie)

  • Train Station “The Flying Mandrake 5672”
  • Wizards’ Meeting Room

I love this room, right from the moment you meet it, it feels like you’re not in the real world any more. Feels like you’re in a movie, or even better, a true magical room.

And of course, don’t forget a picture with Mandrake the magical tree.

4. What’s on the menu

Mandrakes’ Menu

Our orders and reviews

We (me and two staff from the International Office) had quite a fair share of items on the menu at Mandrakes: Festive Afternoon Tea (which we booked in advance on Mandrakes website), Mandrake Pudding Pot, and loaded Hot Chocolate.

I finally learned that Afternoon Tea in the UK doesn’t just mean “tea” at all, you’ve also got sandwiches and other savory (or sweet) additions as well. 😆

Festive Afternoon Tea, consisted of… (“Festive” because Christmas is coming~)

  • Selection of Sandwiches – Cheese & Cranberry & Turkey & Cranberry Sauce
  • Festive Scone with Clotted Cream & Jam
  • Mini Trifle
  • Crisps
  • Christmas Cake
  • Quality Street sweet

If you’re an international student who’s new to all of these food names, don’t hesitate to ask one of the friendly staff for an introduction to this very British tradition.

Mandrake Pudding Pot (Flower Pot containing Chocolate Cake, Mint Ice Cream, Cream, Chocolate Crumb)

Loaded Hot Chocolate with cream and marshmallows

Christmas Cracker: also another Christmas tradition which I’m not familiar with (since where I’m from, Vietnam, we don’t have this tradition, or not that I know of) but learned it today thanks to Brad and Emma!

Our Ratings – Brad gave a 5 out of 5 rating, praised the variety and believed a lot of effort and thought has gone into the afternoon tea choices. We all agreed the food was delicious.

SUMMARY

The best thing about Mandrakes for me is how warm and caring the staff are. Even if you know nothing about Harry Potter, or are all new to these magical wizardry concepts, don’t worry because the staff will walk you through all experience with great consideration.

Oh, did you notice the title of this blog? “EP.01”. And that means yes I will be having more “episodes” for the Discover Ormskirk series (hopefully I’m persistent and hardworking enough). Stay tuned!

In the meantime, definitely give Mandrakes cafe a visit! Don’t forget the Experience Rooms, and take loads of cool pictures for yourself and your friends there!

THANK YOU NOTE

Thank you Emma and Brad from the International Office for taking me to this lovely cafe, for your detailed notes, Emma and your beautiful photos, Brad that helped me write this blog.🧡

🚩Check out other cafes in Ormskirk reviewed by local Edge Hill student

‘New Beginning’: My first week at Edge Hill

What does it feel like to actually be in another country? If you’ve ever been abroad I guess you have some ideas for the answer. But for me, I only knew what it feels like on 11 September 2019, when I officially arrived at Manchester Airport, to begin my first year at Edge Hill University.

Edge Hill entrance! (pardon my first attempt at panorama mode :))

Hello there, I’m Vy from Vietnam and I’m here at Edge Hill to study for a master’s degree in TESOL (that’s a cool acronym for um.. teaching English as a foreign language, essentially).

To answer my own question in the beginning, well, strangely, it feels… familiar? I remember thinking at the airport and on the way to Edge Hill: this peace, these roads, even the airport remind significantly of my hometown in Vietnam. Except it’s colder, a lot colder. (like, 15 degrees here versus 32 degrees home, yeah?)

Now let me get back to the topic and give a breakdown of my first 7 days at Edge Hill thanks to which I can confidently tell people: it’s possible to not miss home and have the best first week imaginable in England.

Day 1. Welcome to (North West) England

Edge Hill welcome sign at airport
Edge Hill’s welcome sign at the airport

The best thing on arrival is you get free pick-up from the airport by Edge Hill’s International Office. To receive this lovely service you need to inform the office of your arrival details. Your destination should be Manchester or Liverpool airports, and ideally the date and time should fall on the window time on the office’s plans. However you can always arrange pickup service with the office regardless of when you land. Read more about it here.

Edge Hill International Office provides free transit from Manchester/Liverpool airports. This is such a lifesaver if you’re like me, new to England, or new to being abroad altogether. Here to your left is me waiting outside the arrival gate of Terminal 2 because at first I could not find the pickup staff. We could only find each other after I emailed Kay (from the office) a photo of where I was standing at the terminal. So a word of advice from my experience: save all the contacts from the International Office (mail, phone number) to get in touch when there’s a problem.

Lovely weather on our arrival
Lovely weather on our arrival

After a breezy 45-minute transit featuring a lovely driver and a cool English playlist, we arrived at Edge Hill (me and about 10 other international students). Now I got to see the so-rumored “Hogwarts entrance” for real instead of on the iPad screen. Weather was nice and they said we were lucky because it’d been raining days before. Also, on a side note, even if you’ve just gone through a 10 plus hour flight, make sure you look presentable because you will have your student ID photo taken and printed right on the spot in that little house on the left of the picture. It’s called the security hut. Or you don’t need to care because you’re like some people who look great all the time.

At the security hut, we would get keys to our halls room. Using the keys can be different from what you already know and therefore can be quite tricky. But I got help by a student guide from the International Office so no worries. Getting a sneak peek at our new home and unloading all the “physical burden” at our new room, we headed off to the International Office with our student guide. This was when we got a welcome meeting from the International Office, got a chance to say hi to other international friends and a pleasant surprise: a welcome bag from the International office. In the welcome bag we got chocolate, potato crisps, easy peeler, card game, information guides on Ormskirk (town where Edge Hill University is situated), the uni’s Arts Center (wonderful live performances coming!), Students Union activities (free trips and workshops coming!).

Day 2. Tour of campus and Ormskirk town

If you arrive at Edge Hill during the day, after the welcome talk the student guides will straight away take you on a walking tour around campus and to the town center. For me I felt too sleepy after the long flight so I decided to take the tours the next day.

Edge Hill is situated in Ormskirk, a small lovely convenient town, not to mention that it’s a historic market town, which means once upon a time princesses and royals came here to shop all the time, or I could be excused for imagining that. Jokes aside, there is an amazing traditional market in town center featuring dozens of stalls selling everything from fresh fruits, meat and fish, to clothes, kitchen appliances, perfume, etc. and of course, convenient food to eat along the way – pies, cakes, wraps, burgers, vegan rolls, ice cream, you name it. It’s not everyday that you get to see such a lively historical cultural wonder. And I mean it literally – the market only runs on Thursday and Saturday, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Lucky for me Ormskirk town tour I took was on Thursday!

Excuse me for taking photos of strawberries only and not the whole market. The heart wants what it wants, hehe

You can find out more about Ormskirk market here.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t talked about the campus well first thank you for actually reading 😄and second, I think I’ll have another post talking about my favorite spots on campus. In the meantime, you can see a professional video of campus by the uni itself and here’s my favorite photo of campus (from the Internet and I added the text). ⬇

Day 3. Friday. Welcome presentation and other important talks

We gathered at the Technology Building to meet Kay from the International Office for a guide to life in England presentation. I loved the presentation and found it extremely helpful. Do not miss out on this even when you’re feeling lazy!

Then came talks by the Student Services team on physical health, mental health, chaplaincy (faith, religion and also non-religion), and the Students Union on their activities, societies and a fun, informative presentation on “consent“, definitely essential knowledge for everyone.

Attending to these talks really make me appreciate the way Edge Hill University (or maybe UK universities in general I guess) approach welcome talks to freshmen/new students. They don’t talk about rules or some other rigid things but instead direct all the attention to students’ health, mental well-being, faith, etc.

Day 4. Saturday. Trip to Conwy Wales

Organising weekend trips is the best proof of how much the University and the International Office cares about you 💛💛😂

Since it’s been quite a long post, I’ll save the details for another blog. In brief, I feel thankful for this free trip. I got to see the majestic Conwy Castles, Suspension Bridge, the pier and many more. Best part, on this trip I got to talk more with my new friend from Korea! She was so sweet!

Day 5. Welcome Sunday (15 Sep 2019)

This was rather a coincidence, because we already had so many welcomes as international students🤣. I think I was lucky to be around at such an eventful period of the Uni. On this day, free cakes, tea and other refreshments are offered inside the main building where the Uni welcome new students and their parents. My friends and I even got free ice cream from the ice cream trucks outside the main building.

If you arrive in other months (other than September) you may get to experience this as well because the Uni has open days around the year.

Special thing I’d always remember about this morning is I got to talk to a chaplain, Harry. He was incredibly nice and lovely to talk to. I hope to see him again but haven’t got the chance to.

Day 6. Monday. Trip to Liverpool

One purpose of this trip is students on a Tier 4 visa got to post office in Liverpool to get their BRP (essentially it’s an identity card for international students on 1 year or longer course). And the other purpose is obvious: to see Liverpool 😍Again, I may write another post on my experience in Liverpool because it’s been a very long post, so sorry.

Day 7. Tuesday. Stay in.

Rest and process the last incredible 6 days :))

Summary

Now that I wrote it all out, it does feel like a travel itinerary by a professional agent, haha. But honestly I didn’t expect I would receive this much from the International Office and the Uni. All the thoughtful preparations and plans for us international students to get our feet on the ground, to feel at home here at Edge Hill.

The best thing on these trips and meetings is I got to make friends with other international students from across the world: Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, USA, China, etc.

Even though it’s been a very long post, I certainly missed a few important things. Please look forward to my next blogs where I’d talk about discovering Ormskirk town, especially comparing different shops in Ormskirk which I now consider my forte, haha, and also about trips to Conwy, Liverpool (as it happens we visited Liverpool twice in a week!) and other free trips to be revealed!

Until next time 💛

Also, I’d like to introduce a very cool video blog by my friend Suji from Korea who’s studying here at Edge Hill as an exchange student until mid December (2019). This video gives you a look into what living in halls is like and shows you around the campus. ⬇