What makes good fish and chips and where do you get them? There’s a Toptable feature out at the moment where a few people who occasionally put their thoughts on the internet (like me) have offered suggestions of places to look. Here’s a link to the full article.
The search for great fish and chip shop fish and chips is actually a personal ongoing project. There are many restaurants and gastro pubs where you can get beautifully steamed fish in perfect light yet crispy batter, served with awesome (probably ‘triple cooked’ chips) (Lutyens, for example). But I’m in search of the best over the counter stuff; the original British fast food. I’m thinking large pieces of cod or haddock, fried in front of you and unceremoniously chucked on top of a couple of scoops of soft and stumpy chips, before being covered in salt and vineger, wrapped in paper and stinking out your car, your kitchen, or maybe just a park bench or concrete wall.
I think my suggestions for Toptable are decent (my thoughts on Faulkner’s are below and Kennedy’s and the Golden Hind will follow at some point). But I’m pretty sure there are equally good options in London and I am certain there must be many that are way better all along our coastline. I’d be grateful for suggestions on where to go next – if you know somewhere with good fish and chips AND a better name than ‘A Salt and Battery’ in New York, then let me know and I’ll drop everything and head there immediately. Probably.
In the meantime, if you’re looking for an authentic experience in London, you can’t go too wrong with Faulkner’s on the Kingsland Road in Dalston. This is a proper fish and chip shop. No frills. The lace curtains are stained with grease and maybe cigarette smoke of years gone by. The traditional service counter features pukka pies, curry sauce and rank looking pink saveloys if you want them. A picture of an old fisherman and the charity RNLI box helpfully bring you back to the fish.
I went there a few months ago in the middle of winter and ordered a couple of portions of haddock and cod, some chips and mushy peas. I think you can eat there, but this option is not that appetising and was never the plan anyway. Instead, our paper packets were rushed to my brother’s flat nearby.
The cycle back probably meant the batter wasn’t as crispy as it might have been, but it wasn’t too greasy, was nicely coloured and flavoured and about the right thickness. The cod in particular was good and the portions of both types of fish were very generous…
… not as generous as the chip portions, mind – I understand whole Icelandic fishing villages survive on the same amount of carbohydrate for a couple of months at a time.
I prefer crisper chips. But, ultimately, these are exactly what you should expect – soft and stodgy, but also moreish and a sponge for salt and plenty of vinegar. You will want plenty of Heinz tomato ketchup on the side, though.
Mushy peas are a must and the ones at Faulkner’s are authentic and gloopy. A guilty pleasure – the gastro pub style ramekin of ‘garden pea and mint puree’ wouldn’t be right in these circumstances.
All in all, Faulkners does exactly what it sets out to do: traditional, fast and cheap fish and chip shop fish and chips. It’s not pretty, dainty or in any way refined, but sometimes that’s exactly what is needed.
Faulkners in 3 words
East London fryers
Cheap as chips
424-426 Kingsland Road, Dalston, E8 4AA – 020 7254 6152
Voting is now open for the Observer Food Monthly Awards. Just sayin’.