One of the first things I do whenever I visit my family in England is to treat everyone to fish & chips. Invariably, I am craving them weeks before we go. My parents always warn me that the local "chippy" serves huge portions and not to get too much. I still end up with loads left over, even after we all have heaping plates. The chip shop near my parents' house is not the best, but it's not bad. They're nice people and it's close, so the food stays hot. They also serve mushy peas, the smooshed up processed peas, most often consumed in the North of England, that my Wife has inexplicably developed a taste for.
Since moving to the US, I have often been "tricked" into trying meals posing as fish & chips. My Wife was very excited when a fast food joint close to where we lived changed to a branch of Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips. The food was about as authentic as the premise that Arthur Treacher (an English character actor known for his portrayal of "The perfect English Butler" in movies of the 1930s) had anything to do with fish & chips. Encouragingly, they had malt vinegar, the best authentic condiment, on each table. However, the chips seemed to be made of extruded potato, and quite bizarrely, the meal came with hush puppies (fried cornbread balls) and coleslaw. I have frequently seen my favorite listed on menus, and just about every time I have been disappointed. The best fish and chips I tasted here were at O'Halloran's, the Irish pub I wrote about recently.
Nevertheless, the best fish & chips are British, and a little over a week ago, Chef Simon Rimmer announced the best of the best. Anstruther Fish Bar in Fife, Scotland, beat off about a thousand competitors to win the 2008 title National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year. The shop was frequented by Prince William when he was at university and has also been visited by Robert de Niro, Robert Duvall and Tom Hanks. Organizers Seafish said, "one in every £100 spent on food is in a fish and chip shop" and that chip shop profits are increasing as the economy gets worse. Chippies are caring about sourcing food responsibly too. The winner of the 21st annual award "serves ethically sourced North Sea haddock, Pittenweem prawns and Shetland organic cod from the world’s first sustainable solution to wild cod fisheries."
I'll settle for cod (or the more responsible choice, pollack) and chips at my parents' local chippy. How about you? Do you know a great place to have fish & chips? Please post a comment and let me know.