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Fish and Chips - the best?

Despite much bollocks written regarding Chicken Tikka Masala or Macdonalds pap or greasy painted Domino/Pizza Hut discuses being the most popular carry out meal in the UK, it remains the case that Fish and Chips remains our number one fast food. BUT, and here in Scotland it's a big but, the number of fish friers who still do it properly dwindles by the day. Fresh fish, not frozen. Single fillet, not butterfly. Haddock for me ( cod, I acknowledge, for my English cousins). A batter made from scratch, not from a giant sack of premix. Chips from the right kind of potatoes, peeled and sliced on the premises, soaked to remove the starch and (ideally) double fried - the second fry completed when your fish goes in to cook - ie after you've ordered, not two hours previously and then left to congeal warmly until the batter is like old chicken skin. For me salt and sauce - yes, an Edinburgh boy by birth. Opened straight outside the chip shop, hot and crispy straight from the paper - not steamed in its wrappings while you drive home to eat it tepidly with a glass of chardonnay - the vinegary vapours prickling your nostrils, the salt adding a bit of traction to help the batter and chunks of gleaming white fish slide deliriously down your throat.
All too often however, you dont get this and instead all you get is a calorie laden pile of flaccid cooked frozen fish past its sell by lying on top of soggy wet chips - a waste of all those precious fat calories. If youre going to indulge, then please God let it be worthwhile. So there's the usual suspects. Harry Ramsdens in Guisely, Bryans Modern Fisheries in Leeds, The Anstruther Fish Bar, The Bridgend Cafe in Inverbervie, what used to be the Little Chef in Tyndrum, The Ashvale in Aberdeen - but where are the others? Recommendations warmly received - and not alcohol fuelled memories of two in the morning suppers, where frankly a deep fried toilet roll doused in salt and vinegar would taste fantastic. And please, no jokes about the preposterously mythic deep fried Mars bar.

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  1. The Anstruther Fish Bar is suffering from its success (wins awards every year) in terms of the experience, but the quality of food remains high. There are 2 separate queues for takeaway and restaurant. We waited for an hour to sit down in the restaurant at 6pm on a grey Tuesday after Easter weekend. The queues snake down the street but end up inside squashed at the side of people already eating, very uncomfortable situation if you want to take time to enjoy the meal. Despite the lack of space they ask how many people / high chairs when you're in the queue and everyone was good-natured. The menu is long with various non-fish & chip dishes (curry, macaroni cheese), we ordered battered haddock & chips, battered lemon sole & chips, mushy peas, tea. 35GBP for 4 people. All the fish was fantastic, large pieces, not dry, light, delicious batter. The chips were thick and fresh but nothing spectacular. They care about sustainability etc. but obviously not about the amount of plastic they throw away: thick polystyrene cups for the peas, ketchup in individual sealed portions, many plastic bags for the takeaways. Ultimately it didn't feel worth the wait, the eating was such a small part of the experience. Best to wait till the season is over.

    Anstruther Fish Bar
    Shore St, Fife, Fife KY10 3, GB

    1. Harry Ramsden's at Guisley used to be "The Business" but not since it came over all corporate and is now as crap as the rest the empire.

      You'd have to include the Magpie Cafe at Whitby amongst the best, if you're including "sit downs".

      My own local (ish) favourite is the Derby Chippy in Marple, Cheshire. A "proper" chippy - takeaway only - although they do fry in oil so as not to discourage the veggies. Meets all your conditions, as far as I can tell.

      You could probably come up with a good shortlist from the "Fish & Chip Shop of the Year" competition - particularly the regional finalists. Although some you might need to take with a pinch of salt (and shake of non-brewed condiment). For example, the Northern Ireland finalist is bobbins since a change of ownership, according to my mate whose office is in Ballymena. Almost needless to say, there's been no national winner from the London area since 1988.

      1. Marco's in Arbroath floats my boat! Unsure about the actual cooking techniques but I have never been dissapointed or had stale fish...
        I can only vouch for marco's on the shore (by the harbour, where you can sit and savour) there is a Marco's in the toon also which i've never been to.
        Decent sized fillets, perfect crsipy batter and lovely chips all fresh cooked to order.
        I live nowhere near Arbroath anymore but will take an hour detour and wait in a 40 minute queue for them. Infact i am getting hungry just typing about it...
        They even ave a tiny ice cream bar next door for desset..

        1. The best Fish 'n' Chips i've ever had was in the small fishing town of Mallaig...at the end of 'The Road to the Isles' up in Scotland...place called the 'Cornerstone.' It was so good that I had to ward off flocks of gulls who wanted a bite as I sat by the pier and gorged into the crisp but soft and chunky chips and the divine fish, freshly caught. Could almost taste the sea in it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ullal

            George Street Fish and chips in Oban is a favourite but I could be biased as I have a soft spot for Oban. For me part of the criteria is also the experience, which for me is eating them during a trip, on a bench next to the sea, watching the waning light and fending of gulls. Which is why I haven't stopped at Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum yet even though I've heard its great. Anstruther's Fish Bar is great quality, the batter is so non greasy and light and crispy, but i personally don't want to wait half an hour.

          2. I can't vouch for Scotland (I'm in Bristol) but I look out for F&C places that offer several fish varieties, and always order the 'unpopular' one. This means it's going to be freshly fried - and I can watch them cook it, so will know whether it is fresh or frozen, and the colour of the raw batter will give a clue to the quality (dark yellow = not home made).
            I also like a place that, when I walk in and I say I just want chips, doesn't immediately dish them up - I hate chips that have been waiting around.

            Having said that, nothing burns the mouth quite as badly as the steam from freshly fried plaice in batter!

            1. Les' Fish Bar in Crewe and in Nantwich.eat in it'sconsistently good with loyal loal following. In Chester try The Chip o' Dee in frodshyam Street.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mrs.fraggle

                Les' Fish Bar was the 2000 winner of the Chip Shop of the Year award. The original chippy is at Victoria Street, Crewe and the Nantwich branch at Pepper Street.

                I've never found a decent chippy in Chester but will certainly give the ChipoDee a bash. Thanks.

                1. re: Harters

                  We're finally getting to Chester in early July. Is Les' there or elsewhere, John? I wonder if that should be Les's. I'll have to check my grammar book. Any other ideas for a good dinner - I do remember the Pheasant Inn.

              2. Not necessarily the best, but pretty damn good.


                One of the three north west finalists in the current Fish & Chip Shop of the Year Competition (it didnt get through to the final - that local honour going to Metro in Bury, proving the town can do other than the black pud)

                The vast proportion of the business is takeaway but there are four tables for eating in. So we did - it was bloody cold to be eating lunch in the car.

                Mrs H had cod & chips. Cod is the fish of choice in the Manchester area, probably not least because it comes in a bit cheaper than haddock. This was OK. Not cooked specifically to order but the constant queue for takeaway meant that the batches were not sitting around long.

                I went for haddock and got the better of the deal. Enormous piece of very tasty fish and cooked to order. Batter was as crisp as crisp can be. Came with a slice of lemon - cos it's Wilmslow. Mushy peas were excellent - mushy, yet with good texture and a less than lurid green.

                Chips were excellent chippy chips.

                Not a chippy to travel miles for - but definitely best for several miles around. Had a brief chat with the owner - apparently contestants are judged not just on the food, but cleanliness, service and so on. Big Fish scores highly, IMO.

                Total bill, including our shared bottle of water, £11.10.

                1. Compos Fish and Chip Restaurant and Take Away in Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. Lovely fish and trips.

                  1. I don't know when last you've visted the Ashvale in Aberdeen, but I can honestly say that I've never had a decent quality fish supper there. The fish batter is always so soggy, and this is after eating in at the restaurant on Great Western Road. I can say the same for the chips, as I think they might have had it under a heat lamp, then lobbed it onto a plate before serving us.
                    My best supper is at the Anstruther Fish Bar, a 2 hr drive for us, but well worth it!

                    1. we recently spent 2 weeks in Scotland on a Pub and F 'n C crawl. I must say there were many good spots we visited from Oban, to the Orkneys, to Edinburgh, but Anstruther's had the clear edge... especially the halibut F 'n C! go on off hours you will find a queque. But note that while Anstruuther's has a queque the other chippies down the street are nearly empty.

                      1. I'm going to be in london for a few days. I know that it is definitely not the capitol of fish & chips. But any recommendations?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: bigfellow

                          Try Master's Superfish near Waterloo Station. It always gets good reviews and although a simple place (i.e. no atmosphere), the food is delicious and among the best in London. People seem to think the chips are better there than at the Golden Hind.. also a popular destination (but one I haven't tried yet).

                          1. re: zuriga1

                            Yeah. I adore Masters Superfish. It's absolutely brilliant. Better than the Golden Hind, better than anything else in London.

                            It might not be open though if you're in London soon... I think they mentioned they'll be closed until after the new year but it'll be worth calling to check.

                            1. re: Ibrahim.Salha

                              Thank you both. I'll be in London from Sunday evening to Thursday.

                              1. re: bigfellow

                                I'll keep my fingers crossed for you. My nephew is planning to eat there next week, too, but luckily he'll be back again in 3 weeks so can get there then if necessary. There's so much good food in London... you won't go hungry. :-)

                        2. Ernie Becketts in Cleethorpes nr Grimsby has my heart from being a small boy. It still never ceases to impress me although my trips north are scarcer these days. Chez Fred Fish and Chips in Westbourne Bournemouth, try to blank out the fact Jimmy Saville frequents the place and ignore the countless photos of him on the wall. This place has won some awards, what awards they are I dont know. but their homemade fish cakes are unbeatable

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Baines

                            Chez Fred won the Fish & Chip Shop of the Year award in 1991.

                            But isnt the possibility of bumping into Saville over your chips reason enough not to go? It really isnt worth the risk :-0

                          2. The best I've had in London is Fryer's Delight in Holborn.

                            1. 2010 winner of the Chip Shop of the Year competition is Atlantic Fast Food, from Coatbridge. Runners-up were Finnegans Fish Bar, Porthcawl and Great British Eatery, Birmingham

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Harters

                                The one thing London lacks is decent fish and chips. I grew up near Berwick-upon-Tweed, which is about as much of a provincial one-horse town as you can find. The one redeeming feature was the fact that you could get proper good fish and chips with fish fresh out the sea that morning.

                                It used to be Foulis in Tweedmouth but I think they got taken over a long long while ago and were never the same. The Cannon on Marygate (I think) was excellent though.

                                That said, I was an out of towner village boy, so a proper Berwicker might know better.

                              2. The magpie always gets mentioned when people talk about the best F&C - but I live close enough to take a few trips every year. The magpie is obviously pretty good but the best me and the other half have had are from Mr. Chips, near the harbour bridge. We visited a few weeks ago and had Pang which was gorgeous. We have sat in before as well and I had a selection including cod, haddock and plaice and lemon sole, it really was fantastic.

                                The magpie gets national recognition but Mr Chips gets voted as best fish and chips by the Whitby Gazette. In fact, the only thing I don't like is the creepy clown on their website!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: stuninho

                                  I sent my mother to Mr Chips recently on this recommendation (she usually goes to Hadley's) but she didn't rate it, unfortunately. She was going to Whitby with a friend anyway, so it was just a diversion to another shop. In addition to not liking the food, apparently she got some attitude from the staff for not explicitly asking for the bread and butter, when the menu said the meal would come with bread and butter! Her friend likes it there, though.

                                  I would personally give it a shot when I am next home (not far from Whitby), so, how do you rate it next to Hadley's? I find theirs decent enough, and as good as The Magpie compared to my one visit there.

                                2. Recently went to Aldeburgh fish and chips in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. The cod there was pretty special.. Def worth a visit if you're in the area

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: foreignmuck

                                    That place is legendary. And you get to eat your fish and chips on the beach, which is pretty much ideal, as long as you ignore the circling seagulls.

                                    1. re: foreignmuck

                                      definitely second (third?!) Aldeburgh. I work near there now and any detour is a great treat :)

                                    2. It pains me to mention somewhere from t'other side of the Pennines but I can't avoid it.

                                      Bryan's in Headingley, Leeds. had lunch there today

                                      Everything you want from an eat-in chippy (although it also does "seafood" cos it tries to be a bit posh). Big piece of very tasty haddock, perfectly cooked to the big flakes of fish stage; batter so crisp they must hear you cutting into it in Bradford; bang on chips - good colour - just starting to go a bit crispy but still with a little wobble of flopiness; faultless mushy peas - the perfect balance of some still whole and others , erm, mushy. Bread & butter comes as standard - one round of plastic white, one round of brown (cos they're trying to be a bit posh) - perfect chip butty material. Lemonade to drink (Would you like a pint, sir?).

                                      All of which contrasts sharply with the newly opened chippy in the village - which serves small portions of indeterminate very overcooked "fish" in a batter that, although it was straight out of the fryer, was soft and oozing fat. Chips that had a peculiar cardboardy texture and taste (Mrs H left virtually all of hers). And mushy peas that were just green liquid. No, you're right - I won't be going back.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Harters

                                        It's the right side of the Pennines, I think you'll find, John. Although London is a food mecca compared to Sheffield where I grew up, I do miss proper fishcakes, by which I mean fish sandwiched between two slices of potato, and deep-fried. Yum.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Gawd, they sound good. We don't have stuff like that in posh Cheshire (which as every Yorkshire wo/man knows is just Lancashire with a fur coat and no knickers).

                                          1. re: Harters

                                            Especially if you live in Stockport. ;-)

                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              Especially if you were born in Prestbury!

                                      2. I am not sure about the best fish and chips but I certainly know when you have bad ones! Soggy batter, under cooked chips. For every good chip shop there are a lot of bad ones.

                                        1. Just came back from a visit to London & decided to try Masters. It was great!! Thanks to everyone for the tip. Portion of fish is ginormous -wish we had shared. Fish was super crispy on outside and just beautifully steamed a moist on inside. It is a bit out of the way but worth it.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: sparkareno

                                            Does anyone here like scraps? I must admit its a weakness everytime I order fish and chips

                                            1. re: dryrain

                                              According to Time Out's 101 best things to do in London (sounds pretty authoritative) Fish Club, Poppies and Two Brothers are the best chip shops in London. Personally, I prefer Fish Club - you can eat in, get some decent drinks and they have a wide-ranging menu. Here's the feature:


                                              1. re: dryrain

                                                scraps are a thing of great beauty.......my father used to take me to a small chippie in Leith where we had scraps and peas in vinegar.....sublime. Heart attack material mayhaps. But still sublime.....

                                                1. re: hungryscotsman

                                                  Years ago - many, many years ago - a friend from York introduced me to 'chips and scraps and pea-wet'.
                                                  Pea Wet being the liquid that rises to the top of mushy peas - and it was free, as were scraps.
                                                  I'm not convinced that asking for 'pea wet' in Bristol will get me anything other than a funny look.

                                            2. My 3 favourites are the Great British Eatery (Birmingham), the Clifton Fish Bar (Bristol) and finally, my favourite, the Fish Club (Clapham, London). They all fry when you buy and have proper chips. The last gives you a choice of coatings but the traditional batter is excellent.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Cokeylicious

                                                Just back from a trip to North Yorkshire and had great fish and chips at Capplemans in Pickering - amazingly crisp and light batter surrounding fresh fish, great chips and mushy peas, all with a pot of tea and bread and butter for £7.50. We also had a takeaway from the Magpie in Whitby, which I enjoyed less (but it was hot and we were in a rush) - still very good, especially the haddock, but I guess the weight of expectation made Cappleman's the surprise winner.

                                                1. re: nerdgirl72

                                                  Thanks for that tip, proving you are not a nerdgirl at all! We like to drive through Pickering as the town name is very familiar to us and must be where my husband's family originated in the Stone Age.

                                              2. I had good fish and chips from Eddie Gilberts in Ramsgate. It's a restaurant on the top floor, with a chippie and a wet fish shop underneath. It was cooked fresh to order, and delicious eaten overlooking the sea on a park bench. Somehow that always seems to make the fish and chips taste better.

                                                1. The north west's regular big hitters amongst the sit-down chippies are:

                                                  Metro @ Bury

                                                  Senior & Thornton Fisheries - both @ Thornton.

                                                  Or, for those days, when I don't fancy an hour's drive or, even, a schlep round the M60, then Fosters (Didsbury & Alderley Edge) is very up & coming. Expect it to do big things in the national awards soon.

                                                  Don't forget - north westerners invented the chippy - the first properly documented one being at Mossley in 1863 (although chips had been sold at Oldham's Tommyfield Market at least a coupel of years before). We have a long history of excellent fish & chips - as well as a depressing history of some total shite.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    harters - staying on the fylde, have you tried the st.annes fish restaurant? i think it knocks seniors and thornton for six; their hake and homemade steak pudding are particularly good.

                                                    1. re: marcus james

                                                      Thanks for the tip, Marcus. A good "babys head" would be worth the trip - have to confess it's many years since I last had one. I had an unpleasant gristle encounter in a Hollands one which put me off considerably.

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        Lol at Hollands, yes, nothing like that.

                                                        Not to hijack the thread, but since Rules changed chef and the chap from Hix took charge the food has leapt up a few notches. Totally different size (you could climb it) and price point, but their steak and kidney is exemplary.

                                                        1. re: marcus james

                                                          Rules is probably my favourite place in the capital. I keep promising my partner a meal there but "events" always seem to overtake our eating choices. Next time, maybe.

                                                  2. You can try the diner on Nicolson Street near the corner of Bernard Terrace. My personal favourite is found in Moffat - in a pub which serves about 8 different kinds (cod/haddock/breaded/battered) of it.

                                                    1. I had a stunning fish and chips at Colmans in South Shields the other week - chips were lovely and crisp on the outside, and fluffy inside - a bit reminiscent of triple-cooking, though not sure what they do. Batter was delicate and well-crafted, and fish inside perfectly cooked. Apparently they've just had a refurb. Only downside was the tartare sauce, which I found to have a strong acetone odour.