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Restaurant review: Kings of Kenny

We fail to review Capaldi's Cafe but what's not to love about a chip shop that even makes its own pies? Angie Sammons goes looking.

Written by . Published on May 30th 2010.

Restaurant review: Kings of Kenny

KEN Testi calls up.

Deaf School have got another gig on the horizon. A tribute to their late singer Eric Shark. What can we do to help spread the word?

People don't do fish and chips as
much as they used to. With good
reason, they are mostly vile

Ken is the one-time co-owner of Eric's the club. He is also Deaf School's fixer. Manager of a group that went off the radar for a generation in order to carve out individual high places in that London music industry.

Nowadays, as one, they come back to play Liverpool, city of their conception, with the same regularity as Arsenal at Anfield.

Much loved as they are, I say, we have done Deaf School a lot. This will require imagination.

But hang about. Didn't the band have a song called Capaldi's Cafe, written by the departed Sam Davies (Eric Shark's real name)? And isn't Capaldi's still going, up in Kensington? And isn't it time we reviewed it?

Yes it is, says Ken, about Kenny, and off he goes with his medicine wagon.

This was meant to be a review of Capaldi's, but isn't.

By the time our missing-in-action restaurant reviewer, AA Grill, and I get around to Capaldi's, which fond memory has looking like a 1950s neon-lit milk bar, Ken's gig (at the Everyman this weekend) is almost full. It doesn't even need a push.

Unlike us. We are late and there is a heated exchange in the car about being late. Thus we arrive at the historic Capaldi's at 1.30pm.

Stony silence as we park outside, on the corner of Romer Road, by the 10 bus stop.

But what's this? A striking looking chap, nattily dressed, is leaving the door at the back of the cafe. What luck, Armando Capaldi himself. Original owner. We beam at him, collective gritted jaws slackening, then accost him with questions, taking his picture before he has chance to say no.

Disappointment: he doesn't own Capaldi's any more, but they kept the name.

Disappointment: Capaldi's Cafe no longer looks like a 1950s milk bar. It now looks like the refectory of a care home.

Disappointment: it is about to shut for the day.

Now, Kensington has had £62 million injected into it in the name of regeneration. No, not the one in London, the one here. So, like the one in London, given all that dosh floating about, it should look like Millionaire's Row. Does it? Does it bugger.

OK, there's a prominent Lidl and a McDonald's but those are the only buildings that look shiny and new. The most grotty have been bulldozed and replaced by inexplicable tranches of grass. Perhaps that's what they meant by ploughing money into the area.

A critic might say that, but we are only food critics, today, and by-now-starving ones.

The pleasant veneer for the somewhat bemused Armando is beginning to crack again. He goes off to see his son, Mario, who runs the New York Bagels shop in India Buildings. We should have gone with him.

Armando CapaldiArmando CapaldiBut we have been tipped off about a special chippy that deserves a visit. We are informed, in fact, that the F&C Fish and Chip shop, on Prescot Road, Fairfield, is the best in Liverpool. So, come five to two, we show up. Its proprietor, Chris German, welcomes us in with a smile, even though he is about to shut too.

You expect to find a quantity surveyor making their own pies, every day, as much as you expect to find one eating them. But this is exactly what Chris embarked on when he left the property industry to embrace a fading, fast-food tradition.

The march of the pizza and kebab shop on neighbourhoods is nothing new and, come the evening, it's Chinese takeaways that keep most chip shops in business.

People don't do fish and chips as much as they used to. With good reason, they are mostly vile.

Sickening grease packs that weigh hefty, wrapped up in paper they take on a steam-filled sogginess, batter flaccid and crusty, chips watery and limp. Yet the aroma remains tantalising and long after indulging greedily, and the laborious climax, the whole package lies depressingly solid and nauseatingly on the gut. The old traditional Friday night treat is a weep-fest.

Chris does good fish and chips. His shop may never have a song written about it, but you leave with a spring in your step. Cod, haddock, plaice, whole tail scampi, it comes from the Kensington wholesale fish market a minute's drive away, gleaming every day.

He dips fine sized slabs of it in his own beer batter made every morning, not the powdered processed stuff that makes you want to join up with the bulimics.

Because he knows what he is doing (he once worked in Heathcote's kitchens) the result is crisp and as dry as Oscar Wilde and puffed out with pride. He serves it with mushy peas, marrowfats that are, of course, soaked in bicarbonate of soda in the back. We say they could do with a little more seasoning, seeing as he asked.

Chris has tables and chairs in his spotless shop, so we can have this and other conversations. We sip not-bad coffee which comes on the house with food.

He was in Fleetwood when he got the idea. At the Granada Fish Shop and Restaurant which has won dozens of awards. They only do one thing here, and they do it well. Chris, excited by the possibilities of Kensington Regeneration, set up his stall thus. But with pies.

Every day it's something different, today's is steak and kidney and “might be tomorrow too”, although chicken and other red meat variations might crop up later this week. The pastry (puff today) is light and soft, the pie filling is good, erring on the side of kidney chunks. Tip, if you want extra gravy (normal chip shop standard) get it on the side.

He also makes his own burgers, incidentally, and even the chop suey rolls. He is travelling the extra mile, having a go.

Chris whose shop is just a couple of doors away from the Labour Wavertree Constituency Office, sent his two grumpy customers away with moods transformed. When the debate comes around to where to eat good fish and chips he will get our vote every time.

Breakdown:7.5/10 food
5/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address:F&C Traditional Fish and Chips
Prescot Road,
Fairfield, L7.
0151 264 8657

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, chippies against the best chippies. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 Faultless

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

Chip Sue-EApril 15th 2010.

the chips in the MayCee aren't very good, and the fish batter was greasy. The usual trap of feeling nauseous afterwards, highlighted here. Good for Chinese dishes though

Kenny Rogers (yes he does)April 15th 2010.

Don't try Capaldi's! That's not what it says to do. This is about the F&C down the road

I've got a scouse purseApril 15th 2010.

The Greek chippy in High Park Street, L8 was voted the best chippy by Echo readers. His fish and chips were lovely and you'd pay £4.50 for any meal that was so big that me and me fella could only eat one between us. Before you all start rushing to the 8, it closed last year when the residents of the Welsh Streets all moved out for the demolition.

AnonymousApril 15th 2010.

That is progress for you. I should try the Lobster Pot in Whitechapel

I've got a scouse purseApril 15th 2010.

I agree, Kensington could be a great place, great big high street like that going to waste, we people deserve better!

West Kirby ChipperApril 15th 2010.

Marigolds in West Kirby used to be really good but they have let standards slip badly the dont change the oil as often I have stopped using them after 3 meals all used poor quality oil, the other ones to try on the Wirral are Marias on Hoylake Road and the Greek one in Irby village next to the Shippons he does the best haddock around.

Conway StreetApril 15th 2010.

'Johnny's' in Birkenhead, trading continuously since 1966. White coats and hats on the staff, they rigidly adhere to a traditional, small and classic chip shop menu.

Darth BlytonApril 15th 2010.

Off the beaten track! Its on Stuart Rd/Bedford Rd, opposite the Stuart Hotel, which is an interestingly faded pub. Dusk till Dawn rules apply in the Stuart though, so you've been warned!

Darth FormbyApril 15th 2010.

Sorry, the place is called 'Byrnes Fish and Chips'

Toxteth TerrorApril 15th 2010.

Chippysearch is right, my hometown of Widnes is the Mecca for chippies. Les's Fish Bar on the main street won Best Chippy in the North West. However, the real gem is Marie Barrows (pronounced 'Barrers' by the locals) which even has its own Facebook Appreciation Society with over 1300 members!www.facebook.com/…/group.php?gid=4952942105&ref=ts…

ChippySearchApril 15th 2010.

Widnes is the home of great chippies. Never ever had a decent bag of chips in Liverpool, ever, Though to be fair I have not as yet) tried Capaldi. I think the chemicals in the Widnes air add a certain piquance to the nation's favourite dish. My favourite used to be called jack gardners. He used to chec k the temperature of the fat by gently spitting into it and the sound of the sizzle told him if it was ok. Imagine what elf 'n safety would make of that these days. Yes give me Widdey Chips anyday.

EditorialApril 15th 2010.

Walton where, Darth?

StephanieApril 15th 2010.

The F & C rocks!

ProfApril 15th 2010.

The article says nobody will write a song about it so I asked my mate Reggie McCough if he would and he told me that he and Mike ThirdGear had done one when they sang with The Scuffles ! So he sent me this below. Apparently Mike's passed it on to some local group his brother was in and they mucked it up.

critchApril 15th 2010.

you should try maicee express on liverpool road, waterloo, best chippy ive ever been to!

Phil McCrackenApril 15th 2010.

This is a classic liverpool confidential.com review - well done Angie. Up to the standard of the famous Adelphi review with, thankfully, better service and food

Darth FormbyApril 15th 2010.

I'm really sorry I didn't try F and C while it was open. .The Maycee in Waterloo is'nt good at all. Chung Fad on South road is much better. Very good made to order chop suey rolls.. The Blue Star is definitely better than average. The One on Stopgate Lane/Walton Hall Ave sells Saveloys. .The Crispy cod (Ldn Rd) is good for fish and chips, but the Greek food is poor and over priced. .The two Lobster Pots in town have got much better and you can buy good Scottish style chipppy haggis in either..The very best chippy I know of in Liverpool, by a very long way, is in Walton. Perfect chips. Always a choice of good quality fish- Cod, Plaice, Haddock. Nothing fancy. In the same family since the 1930's. Limited opening hours. There are no tables so you need a nice day, or a car, so you can eat immediately and not lose the crisp hot freshness of the just right batter. It's busy with very lucky locals who are mostly on first name terms with the owners. If I ever want fish and chips I wait till I can get here.

I've got a scouse purseApril 15th 2010.

P.s I haven't had a decent chip since...

L6 bornApril 15th 2010.

Somebody needs to start asking questions about where that £62 million has gone. Kensington is in a pisspoor state. Does nobody care?

FAT GIRLApril 15th 2010.

You should try the Crispy Cod on London Road or the Abbey Friar at the Triangle in Childwall - both very nice! Dont go to Woolton Village for chips and fish though you will be very disappointed with the chippys there!

AnonymousApril 15th 2010.

Quite a few people in Liverpool appear to do chippy searches in vain. One of my favourites is the Famous Blue Star on Queens Drive. The Lobster Pot isn't bad either.

AnonymousApril 15th 2010.

and now the thought of eating you makes me weak at the knees.

There's a plaice for usApril 15th 2010.

Wylie doing Capaldis Cafe last nite. WAAAAAAAAAAAH. Thanks for the tip off that the gig was on. May do the fish n chips when necessary. PS: Good piece!

AnonymousDecember 16th 2011.

This very popular chippy closed down because the greedy landlord put the rent up so much Chris couldn't keep going. What a shame. Enjoyed reading this, enjoyed the chippy. He's in Penny Lane, I heard?

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