Fish and chips on the seafront is a staple meal of any seaside holiday, but with more than 10,000 chip shops to choose from, is there a knack to choosing the tastiest meal?
We asked Andy Gray of the National Fish & Chip awards (https://www.fishandchipawards.com/) for his tips on picking the perfect portion, and to tell us about the award-winning seaside fish and chip shops from this year’s event (to see the list, scroll down to the bottom of this page).
You can listen to the interview by clicking below.
Q: Tell us about the National Fish & Chip awards.
“Obviously the awards reward excellent businesses but another reason for running the annual awards is that they champion all that is great about UK fish and chips; the great stories, the history and the traditions, especially in some of those coastal communities where the fishing industry is still of importance. There’s that connection with what we call the net-to-plate story; the opportunity to let consumers know about the processes involved from fishermen catching the fish through to it reaching our plates.
“Telling this story to the consumer is crucial because we find increasingly that people in the UK are not necessarily so appreciative or knowledgeable as to where much of their food comes from – fishing is also regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs for someone to do and it’s a hard life that they undertake to produce the food for our plates.”
Q: What makes the perfect plate of fish and chips?
“It really is a very simple meal. We take fish, we take potatoes and we take some flour for the batter, and we have a cooking medium, whether that’s vegetable oil or, as is still the case in many parts of the UK, a traditional beef dripping.
“In essence it can be regarded as the last wild sourced food that we eat en masse and it’s unadulterated, and we can’t really say that about many other takeaway foods that we eat that will have lots of other added ingredients.
“But fish and chips, maybe with a portion of mushy peas, is a nutritionally balanced meal that can be enjoyed regularly if part of a balanced diet.
“Fish, a great form of low fat protein and full of many essential nutrients and minerals, some carbohydrate in the form of potatoes, the flour for the batter, and the cooking medium – and in essence, the cooking process steams the fish that is encased in its coating of batter.
“When we are buying fish and chips from a fish and chip shop, the efficiency of the cooking range is extremely effective and the temperatures are at such a point so as to ensure that there is little oil absorption into the food.
“Ideally we should be looking for white, flaky, succulent fish, and the surrounding batter should be of a light golden hue with a good level of crispy crunch.
“Ideally there shouldn’t be any ‘eyes’ evident in the chips, so the respective shop owner should have taken care and attention when preparing the potatoes to ensure that the chips are of a clean nature, a uniform size, and the finished cooked chips should have a slight crunch to their exterior and a light fluffy interior.
“Then, perhaps, a portion of mushy peas or some other accompaniments depending on peoples preferences.”
Q: How can we be sure of choosing a quality fish and chip shop?
“To enjoy fish and chips at its finest, they should be cooked freshly to order. It takes roughly eight to 10 minutes to produce a portion of fish and chips, so a queue outside a shop is a good sign that shop is taking care, effort and showing a bit of love and attention to preparing food for you, so don’t ever hesitate to choose a shop with a queue.”
Q: Do fish & chip habits vary across the country?
“Many of us think, ‘fish and chips, oh must be the same all over the UK.’ However, how we eat and enjoy fish and chips can vary quite differently across the UK – for example, in Scotland, haddock is the fish of choice for fish and chips, and that’s also the species of choice for many parts of northern England, Lancashire, Yorkshire and some parts of the Midlands, whereas much of the rest of the UK has a preference for cod. Those are the two main fish species that we eat, but many good fish and chip shops will also be offering their customers a wider range of species, for example lemon sole, gurnard, hake, pollack. One of my favourites is actually plaice and chips.”
Q: Where are the best seaside fish and chip shops?
“The annual awards always have a very strong showing from businesses based on the coast. Amongst successful businesses in the 2016 awards are a number of seaside shops across the UK.
“A great example of an excellent seaside shop is a very famous shop in Babbacombe on the edge of Torquay down on the Devon coast, called Hanbury’s, literally a stone throw from the water and a great place to enjoy fantastic fish and chips.
“On the Norfolk coast, in Cromer (where much of the great crab in the UK is sourced from) is No. 1 Cromer – an excellent fish and chip eatery.
“Whitby is another destination that consumers readily associate fish and chips with. Trenchers has a great format, with a sit-in restaurant area but it also caters for takeaway customers.
“Down in Cornwall, in the far south west, the winner of the Best Newcomer Award this year is a shop called Catch, based in East Looe.
“In East Yorkshire just on the edge of Hull, there’s Papas Fish and Chips. Their new operation in Hull is said to be the largest fish and chip restaurant in the UK, so it’s an interesting place to visit with great tasting fish and chips.
“And in Scotland, the home of golf is St Andrews in Fife, with beautiful beaches and surrounding coastline, golf courses galore and a fantastic fish and chip shop by the name of Cromars – with both a sit-in restaurant and a takeaway facility it is a great place to enjoy the very finest fish and chips.”
Fancy trying one of the UK’s best seaside chip shops? Here’s a list of some coastal winners from the 2016 National Fish & Chip awards in 2016 – you can book a break close to any of them by visiting www.breakfreeholidays.co.uk.
Some of the UK’s best seaside chippies
- Cromars, St Andrews in Fife (cromars.co.uk)
- Papa’s Fish and Chips, Willerby in Hull (papasfishandchips.com)
- Trenchers Restaurant, Whitby (trenchersrestaurant.co.uk)
- Hodgson’s Chippy in Lancaster (hodgsonschippy.com)
- Hikary’s Fish Bar, Neath in Port Talbot (hikarysfishbar.com)
- Chuckles Chippy, Poole
- Harbourside Fish & Chips, Plymouth (barbicanfishandchips.co.uk)
- Kingfisher Fish & Chips, Plymouth (kingfisherfishandchips.co.uk)
- Hanbury’s Famous Fish and Chips, Torquay (hanburys.net)
- Catch, East Looe in Cornwall (catchlooe.co.uk)
- No. 1 Cromer, Cromer in Norfolk (no1cromer.com)
Picture credit: images supplied by Seafish