It’s one of the UK’s favourite dishes and it always tastes better with a big portion of sea air.
It would be grossly unfair to the many fabulous chippies located inland in this country to say that all the best places for fish and chips in the UK are down by the sea. There are many brilliant practitioners of the noble craft of deep frying all over the United Kingdom. But in the matter of our national dish, there’s no doubt that context matters; that the virtuous interplay of battered white fish and fried potatoes simply tastes better eaten at the seaside, ideally from within an unwrapped present of white paper, rendered translucent in places by a smear of hot oil from the gift within.
Forget tables. Forget chairs. You need to be on the beach itself or, at a push, perched on a sea wall, with a view out over British waters the colour of a day-old bruise, rippling away to the horizon under gunmetal skies.
You unwrap and immediately receive a gust of hot, captured air that smells of all the good things in life. The very warmth of it feels like a reassuring challenge to the chill winds coming off the sea. Your supper is looking after you.
Then there’s the sweet dance of your food with the honking air here by the waters. Some chefs working at the very cutting edge of gastronomy have experimented with complex air sprays to augment the experience of their dishes: a spritz of something smelling of pine and juniper to conjure the waft of the forest for a venison dish, say, or a burst of artificial bonfire, to boost a slab of barbecue. Hilariously, mother nature, has long had this one covered. The smell of salt on the air down by the beach, along with the occasional burst of freshly stocked fishing boat, gives you all the sensory cues you need. It simply makes your fish and chips taste better.
And there’s something else. At times there have been concerns that fish and chips was a seriously hefty dish engineered for a time when more of us were engaged in calorie-burning manual labour, even though with its combination of protein, carbs and fats it is nutritionally balanced. Certainly, a fish supper taken on the couch at home can feel like a lovely indulgence that will ease you into a food coma’s sweet embrace. Eaten by the sea, however, where the winds roar and the sands give way beneath your feet, there is no room for words like indulgence. This is food as necessity. It’s a matter of survival. Or at least that’s what you can tell yourself, as you expend even more energy fighting off stroppy gulls, determined that you should tithe to them a chip. Or seven. It’s all part of the experience. There are good reasons why fish and chips was not rationed during both world wars. It was never just a dish; a clever combination of deep-fried battered fish and deep-fried chipped potatoes. It’s a matter of morale, of comfort, of identity. And the very best place to eat it is down by the sea.
The Lifeboat House, Coverack, Cornwall – Set in a pretty Cornish fishing harbour on the Lizard Peninsula, you can enjoy your freshly battered fish perched on the harbour wall with a breath-taking view over the lifeboat slipway across the bay and beyond (thelifeboathouse.co.uk).
Coastline, Blyth, Northumberland – A sign tells you what spud varieties are being fried, alongside properly northern portions of mushy peas, gravy and curry sauce (coastlinefishandchips.co.uk).
Beach Buoys, Margate, Kent – Thoroughly Margate in its creative ways with battered pickles and banana blossom and tofu; crab-loaded fries and squid ink mayo live happily alongside classic cod and chips (beachbuoys.co.uk).
Maggie’s Café, Hastings, Sussex – Housed in the old net stores, Maggie’s gets fish straight from the boats, the original café has been joined by adjacent Maggie’s at the Boat with fishy street food options (maggiesfishandchips.co.uk).
Middle Street Fish Bar, Deal, Kent – Holding firm to chippy tradition even as Deal gentrifies around it; big portions and mugs of tea, but the back room has had a lick of paint recently (tripadvisor.co.uk).
Bardsley’s, Brighton, East Sussex – A walk from the seafront, but Brighton’s cognoscenti come for chips and sustainably caught cod; all fish can be grilled and poached as well (bardsleys-fishandchips.co.uk).
Fish ’n’ Fritz, Weymouth, Dorset – Just off the harbour, this chippy with a small restaurant attached is regularly garlanded with awards, both for food and service (fishnfritz.co.uk).
Mersea Island Fish Bar, Essex – Cross the causeway for top fish ’n’ chips, rollmops and jellied eels alongside a shop selling Mersea’s famed oysters (merseaislandfishbar.co.uk).
Adam’s Fish and Chips, St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly – Adam catches the pollack; brother James grows the potatoes; wife Fiona is in charge of the café that Adam also found time to build (adamsfishandchips.co.uk).
Atkinson’s, Morecambe, Lancaster – Just off Morecambe’s prom, a vast portion of sustainably sourced haddock and chips comes in at under a tenner. Spuds are Lancashire grown and it’s all served in biodegradable boxes (atkinsonsfishandchips.co.uk).
Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Ship, Suffolk – This chippy on the High Street has reigned supreme since 1967. Best accompanied with a pint of Adnams Ghost Ship and splash out on their pineapple fritter (50p) for dessert (aldeburghfishandchips.co.uk).
Colmans, South Shields, Tyne & Wear – Part of Sandhaven history since the 1920s. Scampi is doused with a secret-recipe batter, served with homemade tartare sauce (colmansfishandchips.co.uk).
The Magpie Café, Yorkshire – For good reason this Whitby landmark has a queues down the street whatever the weather or season – their chip butty is perfection at a princely £2.95 (magpiecafe.co.uk).
Britannia on the Beach, Devon – In the minute village of Beesands, the Hutchings family have turned their bait store into a restaurant and it gets rave reviews (britanniaatthebeach.co.uk).
Morton’s, Ballycastle, County Antrim – You can perch by the harbour and see Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre while eating fish brought in by the shop’s own boat (mortonsfishballycastle.com).
East Pier Smokehouse, St Monans, Fife – Tempura batter on prawns, cullen skink and lobster on a good stopping-off point on the Fife Coastal Walk (eastpier.co.uk).
The Bay, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire – A longstanding takeaway with pleasing modern touches -specially made beer and an app to keep customers updated on which boats have landed the day’s catch (thebayfishandchips.co.uk).
Frankie’s, Brae, Shetland – Britain’s northernmost chippy showcases its island’s superb seafood including langoustine tails; chips come with the option of Orkney cheese (frankiesfishandchips.com).
D Fecci & Sons, Tenby, Pembrokeshire – Coeliacs can eat without fear here, thanks to a rice-flour batter, separate fryers and utensils, gluten-free sauces and vinegars (aroundtenby.co.uk).
Enochs, Llandudno – In Conwy’s capital of seaside cute, everything is fried in a high-oleic sunflower oil; the catch is MSC certified and all packaging is compostable and 25p goes to the RNLI with every fishcake sale.
(Article source: The Guardian)