I was lucky enough to secure a booking at The Fish & Chip Shop City soft launch this week*. This pleased me greatly as it really isn’t your average wrapped-in-paper-eaten-on-the-hoof sort of establishment. This is Fancy Fish & Chips brought to you by Des McDonald who spent his career either Cheffing or CEO-ing at The Ritz, The Ivy, J Sheekey, Scotts, Soho House, Annabels – I could continue but I have a word count. I brought my Yorkshire-born husband with me as, fortuitously, he considers himself some sort of fish and chip expert… But, God, he’s fussy. He chuntered all the way there, lamenting the lack of beef dripping used in London, murmuring about ‘posh’ fish and chips. Perhaps he’d stop moaning when he his mouth was full of fish…
The restaurant looks picture-perfect. They’ve crafted a considered, faux-mid-century-style room out of some rather bland 21st century office space, with the kind of gorgeous open kitchen that we’re all trying desperately to recreate in our own homes. Duck-egg blue & burgundy vintage tile, ubiquitous enamelware, French linen napkins, salvaged industrial signage – you know the drill.
Despite the ‘softness’ of the launch, staff were perfectly efficient and we were soon enjoying a glass of English fizz and contemplating starters. We shared a plate of beautifully seared tuna topped with tiny dots of Japanese horseradish and strewn with fairy wisps of micro-herb and edible flowers. Yang to the tuna’s Yin were the substantial London Particular fritters – chunky pea and ham croquettes with a mustardy little dip. They were hefty for a starter – they could easily halve the size of them without worrying – but we manfully devoured the lot anyway, enjoying the very sweet peas and chunks of savoury ham hock in their crispy shell. Obviously my husband had fish and chips. A little jollier now (appeased by the peas?) he chose Haddock explaining this is the connoisseur’s choice – apparently only idiots choose cod, their heads turned by its bright white and flaky flesh versus meatier, tastier, but slightly greyer, haddock apparently. Either way it was very good indeed, the fish was a succulent, chunky slab encased in a burnished house of thin, Camden beer-batter with a good fish-to-batter ratio apparently…. And despite the lack of beef dripping, he swallowed his pride along with his chips and gave a very appreciative head-nod. High praise indeed.
I had the shrimp burger which was pretty special – chunky discernable pieces of juicy prawn with a perfectly-judged spicy tartare sauce in good brioche bun. We shared mushy peas which were a sort-of-gourmet version of the real thing – bright fresh-pea green but with that distinctive mushy pea texture. Faultless chips (apparently hand-cut and double-fried in rapeseed oil) and a nice old-school salad with homemade salad cream – I loved the really thin slivers of spring onion and the sweet, seedless yellow tomatoes. There were some interesting puddings – I desperately wanted to try the East End custard doughnut but I just didn’t have the room. Instead we split a couple of scoops of sorbet – a rather bitter gin and tonic and a sherbety-sweet Amalfi lemon – together making a kind-of frozen gin and Bitter Lemon.
When the bill arrives, we’re very kindly given a couple of 20% off cards to use at either Fish & Chip Shop or the Camden Q-Grill. If you go (and I recommend you do), you’ll notice the branding is quite ‘By Des McDonald’–heavy. It’s the first thing you see on the menu, the business cards, wine list etc. But maybe when the food this good (good enough to even subdue a peevish husband), you just want to have your name all over it?
The Fish & Chip Shop City, Dashwood House, 69 Old Broad Street, London EC2M 1QS
*Review written November 2014.