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Best of three: Posh fish and chips

It is the nearest we have ever got to a national dish. That's good and that's bad. So how did these three random fish and chip restaurant dishes in Liverpool compare?

Published on January 14th 2010.


Best of three: Posh fish and chips

SERVED well, fish and chips is a pleasurable assault to every one of your senses; served poorly (and that's how you often feel afterwards) it's an affront.

Timing, skill and even science are everything, and lack of all this stuff often leads to fish and chips being a big let down.

You must, therefore, choose your fish-and-chip experience very carefully. Look for the freshest catch of the day, cooked and served in a protective coating of blisteringly hot, crisp batter and landed on a plate surrounded by the crunchiest, puffiest Maris Pipers, Edwards or other floury tats. Ideally hand peeled and cut there and then.

Peas? Tartare sauce? Bread and butter? It's up to you. But with plenty of salt, vinegar and lemon to lash on top - and marvel as it hisses into the air - you can't go wrong.

Oh, but you can. Here's some we tried out earlier.

Crispy Sea Bass in Tempura Batter with Chunky Chips and Mint Pea Confit, £13.95, Circo, Albert Dock, Liverpool 3.

Matter of the batter: Extremely light and crispy, this is proper tempura batter, just how you'd find it in downtown Yokohama.
The catch: Fresh-as-a-daisy-bass fillets which were a treat. This was the smallest portion of fish by some way. No bad thing for the figure conscious, or if the whole notion of fish and chips normally grosses you out.
The spuds: Otherwise know as “pont neuf”, these came in a Jenga arrangement and unfortunately let the side of the sterling fish down by quite some way. Too floppy. Too soggy.
Extras: Mint Pea Confit is just mushy peas talking in a Boris Johnson accent, but, nevertheless, all green and pleasant enough.
Scores on the doors: 6/10. The chips were down, the fish was flying.
AS

RUNNER UP: Fish & Chips in Cains Batter with Mushy Peas, £12.95, 60 Hope Street, Liverpool 1.

The matter of batter: This is real beer batter, cooked to crispy perfection.
The catch: Huge, first rate cod, beautifully steamed inside its overcoat.
The spuds: Chips were just like the chippy outside school: The sweet-ish soggy ones just at the temperature that doesn’t burn the mouth. You may know that feeling, the one when you are standing on the other side of the counter hoping you aren't getting the victims straight out of the fryer, which seem a little crispy on the inside as well as out? They haven’t time for a little steam. It’s like that great bottle of Rhone, it needs to gulp a little air first. Chips need that steam.
Extras: The tartare sauce had been made that morning, onsite, with crunchy capers adding a great sharpness to the mayonnaise. The peas were the new-age chefs' mashed fresh ones. You can’t beat the tinned ones I am afraid. And they try and perk ‘em up with a bit of mint. MINT HAS NO F*****G PLACE ON A PLATE OF FISH, CHIPS AND MUSHY PEAS! Ban it.
Scores on the doors: 7.5/10. Bangin'
Gordo

WINNER, BY A WHISKER: Fish & chips & peas. £8.50 (lunch), £12.95 (evening), Room Restaurant, Castle Street, Liverpool 2.

Matter of the batter: Sometimes they use Staropramen beer, sometimes heady Belgian Duvel. Either way, this number was so crisp and airy that it audibly crunched, like a boot on fresh snow, upon contact with the knife.
The catch: They only use sustainable fish species in Room kitchens. Good for them. So instead of cod, codling or haddock, you get medium sized catfish or pollock. But don't be put off. Both are at least as appealing.
The spuds: Slim, skin on, crisp, dry and uniform in shape, they were hard to fault.
Extras: Tart and chunky tartare sauce, fresh on the site that day, and a mass of non-minty mushy peas, ditto.
NB: We inadvertently tested this dish twice. The first tester attended a sober lunch with a small child and had not a bad word to say about it.
A week later, members of the Confidential team revisited, after accidentally being invited to a city council Christmas do, and, propped up by innumerable "stiffeners", finished the night by ordering it all round. Unanimous verdict? A triumph, whoever you were. But we certainly remembered the meal, and for all the right reasons.
Scores on the doors: 7.75/10. for being cheap as chips in the daytime, and for the sustainable fish. But only just. A shoulder to shoulder pleasure.
AAG, CC, Gordo and AS

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31 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Bertie AcoughJanuary 4th 2008.

As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by the autocensor that correctly identified I had not been arsed to sign up (etc), I wondered if the speaker ^ would explain further about these so-called 'guys' pudding.I remember as a person younger by some months, being acquainted by a weightlifter chap reeking of whey.He enthused over his secret weapon to being so 'big'. Apparently he ate a couple of goblins puddings (no relation to guy puddings, so a bit of a seamed segue upon us, praise be) every evening before dinner to 'bulk up'. Goblins puddings, he recounted, were sold in Tesco's (I didn't have the heart to butt in and suggest they were, instead, sold in small cylindrical aluminyum cans) and took him back to the glory days of the popularisation of goblins' now sickly big cousin, the steak and kidney variant.I don't think you can beat a large plate of pudding, although I know a lot of people start small military revolutions over which is better - the savoury or sweet pudding.I know which camp I'm in, and I'm not camp.

Sir Howard WayJanuary 4th 2008.

Wolly Wong's didn't even have paper to wrap your chips, just those horrid polystyrene box things that scals eat from.

Bertrie AgainOgainJanuary 4th 2008.

Mr Brown-Street, how did it make you feel, having to trough down gelato from a central sanctum? Are you intimate enough with your dining amigos to scoop in ninefold?I'm not so sure I'd entrust my friendly bacteria to their hostile burblings, you never know if they stuck a spoon in for a second time, thus rendering the now melting ice cream slightly rank.I don't know how I'd put up with that, I'm afraid. I think I'd ask for the ramekin to be returned to kitchen where the sous chef with a nose-picking habit could make the whole situation worse, albeit behind closed doors.You had me for a while, when you said numbering nine. Until I realised there were eight of you, or four very hungry bellies (or two VERY hungry tums, etc).

Peter HollandJanuary 4th 2008.

Eh?

Hooray HenriJanuary 4th 2008.

George and Angela, College Road, Crosby, is my favourite place for fish and chips - and if you drive quickly to the sea-front car park at Hall Road you can eat them while watching Gormley's iron men.

Stanley StreetJanuary 4th 2008.

Lemon on a plate of fish and chips? If you are shandy-sipping southern nancy-boy perhaps! And Cod? In the North the traditional fish with chips is Haddock! Saveloys are another weird Southern aberration too.

Graham BandageJanuary 4th 2008.

I bought a meat pie from the Lobster Pot. Just a meat pie, no chips. And they put salt and vinegar on it, which, to be honest, spoiled it a bit. I don't mind a touch of salt and vinegar straying on to my meat pie when I've bought one with chips. That's fair game. But Mr Holland has already adequately seasoned his pastry products. It never occurred to me to say "No salt and vinegar, please," in the same way that it would not have occurred to me to say "No Nutella on my meat pie, thanks". I've learnt my lesson now.

William Brown-StreetJanuary 4th 2008.

Post Script to comments about the Bar and Grill above:. Actually the pudding, a large plate bearing a selection of puddings was very good, but another thing that ruined it was being constantly called “guys” by the waitress.

Graham BandageJanuary 4th 2008.

Chuck Norris: It was Wolly Wong's.Chuck Norris Green: Yes it is. And I recall Harry Ramsden's closed because the land it was on was bought to site a ginormous skyscraper which then got the knock-back. I didn't care by that point, though, because Ramsden's had stopped using beef dripping because they didn't want to put off vegetarians. Frankly, vegetarians shouldn't be going anywhere near a chippy anyway. Last time I looked fish were part of the animal kingdom. And meat pies. Well the meat part, anyway. You're probably okay with the pastry, if you're a vegetarian, as long as it hasn't touched the meat. Oh, and as long as they haven't used lard. God, it's a minefield being a vegetarian, isn't it? Not sure about saveloys, though. What is a saveloy? It looks like a sausage, but if that's the case why isn't it called a sausage? It's not even as if it sounds more exotic.

bigfootJanuary 4th 2008.

The best in Wirral is the Marigold restaurant in Banks Road West Kirby.Be warned it is popular and closes at 8pm.

A. E. ScousemanJanuary 4th 2008.

If this 'Room' place is so good, why does it have a sign so strongly resembling a set of brass knuckles? Was it a practical joke played on the restaurant by some spotty young "dezoyner" or a fair warning that like so many of these heavily-advertised, trendy, new places that one has to expect to rub elbows with bellowing yobs?

skinflintJanuary 4th 2008.

Isn't there anywhere you can get decent fish and chips for a fiver in town?

Chip ahoyJanuary 4th 2008.

My favourite is the Crosby Stir Fry for the best chips ever. And then you can quickly drive down to the iron men but must remember to stop before the water gets too deep. Nothing worse than soggy chips.

John Lennon AirportJanuary 4th 2008.

60 Hope Street almost won best fish and chips in the UK last year but were pipped to the post by Heathcote's at Longridge. Now I've never been there, but I've had the fish and chips at the Liverpool branch and they were ghastly. And I was surrounded by chumps

Billy BunterJanuary 4th 2008.

Don't go to the Soul Cafe for fish and chips. It's that school dinner canteen fish and chips that Youngs frozen food make and horrible peas out of a tin. I was reading my paper when it was served it, and the waitress thought the paper was theirs and put it back in the rack. Fair enough, easy mistake, you might think, except when I went to leave, and retrieved it from the rack, I got chased down the road by some boiler from there who aggressively accused me of nicking it. When I pointed out it was mine, she just said "well how was I to know?" and stomped off. I won't be going back.

David CameronJanuary 4th 2008.

Far git had better watch it.

A. E. ScousemanJanuary 4th 2008.

Wolly Wong's wasn't a proper chippy at all. It was a yankee-style fast-food joint that happened to sell chips rather than minced offal. They even made the poor staff wear baseball caps!

Graham BandageJanuary 4th 2008.

Those mushy peas from Room look like proper ones, soaked with a tablet (I always wondered about those tablets - could they make anything mushy or was it only peas?) The mushy peas you get in chippies these days are rubbish - they're all huge boulder-sized pea and no mush. I don't think they can be bothered to make proper mushy peas anymore, they're too interested in donner kebabs and the like. I tell you, any chippy which makes proper mushy peas can count on my future custom - as long as it's fairly close to my house, mind. There's nothing worse than a cold chip - and I include global warming and poverty in that.

Chuck NorrisJanuary 4th 2008.

We lost one of the best city centre chippies when the paradise project started. Everyone moaned about Quiggins gonig, but there was a boss chippy next door to it and I can't remember the name. And what happened to Harry Ramsdens. It was always heaving and I loved the fish and chips, cooked in beef dripping. But gone to make way for an Italian restaurant. So no, I don't know where you can get decent fish and chips in town for under a fiver, but I wish I did.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2008.

The Lobster Pot. 10,000 pigeons can't be wrong.

Chuck Norris GreenJanuary 4th 2008.

Does anyone know if that chip shop in Roes Lane is still doing the business? It used to be the best in Liverpool or something.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2008.

I would like to take atomic kitten for fish and chips in sefton park and watch them drop their chips

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2008.

What's wrong with The Lobster pot? It's good, it's honest. 10,000 pigeons can't be wrong.

R. A. MateJanuary 4th 2008.

Sadly you have to leave Liverpool for decent fish and chips these days. Birkenhead has the purist apprach of 'Johnny's' and 'Giorgio's' where freshness is taken seriously, but for that savoury beef dripping touch you have to slip over the border into Yorkshire.If you want to sit and eat restaurant-style fish and chips without all the shouting chumps you get ruining the atmosphere in Heathcotes I recommend the Neptune Café in Beaumaris. Yum yum, pig’s bum!

William Brown-StreetJanuary 4th 2008.

Bertie old boy, the pudding was one of those show-off ‘taster’ dishes; a big plate bearing four tiny desserts for each of us plus a central ramekin of ice cream, totalling nine. Had it not been for the bellowing yobs, being addressed as “guys” and the furniture (devised to look good on a design rather than be comfortable or convenient for the diners) I’d have given the place 9/10. Ah, whatever happened to ‘Goblin Beefburgers’? There were even ‘I like Goblin Beefburgers’ button badges when I were a nipper…

William Brown-StreetJanuary 4th 2008.

At the request of my good lady wife we attended that Bar and Grill place on Brunswick Street where we ordered their fish and chips and a bottle of The Widow of course. Alas we were seated at a small table for two in a long row of such tables, I sat on the outside where I was several times jostled by people going to the lavatory, and occasionally even the waitresses because there was insufficient space between the row of diners’ chairs at the tables and some over-large, vulgar booths against the wall that attracted tie-less, shouting yobs who encroached into the aisle, blocking everyone’s passage. It was so annoying I can’t remember what the food was like. It wasn’t cheap though.

DarrenJanuary 4th 2008.

Do you mean the BBC's Peter Holland? Has gone into pie making? Is he working in the Lobster Pot? Am I on the right website here?

CatfishJanuary 4th 2008.

I heard Room was a load of Pollocks. I'll deffo give it a go in future. Got to be better than the Lobster Pot.

Michael MyersJanuary 4th 2008.

To John Lennon Airport. You should try restaurant bar and grill fish and chips just across the road from heathcotes. There might be chumps in there as well, but at least there's plenty of other nice things to look at

Fat gitJanuary 4th 2008.

I have been on incapacity benefit for the past 15 years but I wouldn't mind some of those fish and chips from 60 Hope St. Just the size for my substantial girth. Trouble is, too much can make you constipated. I regularly pick people up from Hope Street in my taxi, some of them very famous like that bird out of Atomic Kitten. I would like to take them for fish and chips too, at the Lobster Pot preferably, because there is a rank outside.

TwangyJanuary 4th 2008.

What has Peter Holland got to do with this?

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