I love fish, and I love chips. But fish and chips from the chippy can be a disappointment, and while I am watching my weight I hate the idea of wasting points on not very nice fish and chips. Because I am greedy, and I’d eat the whole lot even if it was a bit rubbish.
At our old flat, we used to go to Michael’s High Class fish bar on Holloway Road (our lovely French friend Leonie is pictured, where we introduced her to fish and chips at Michaels!). The name always made me chuckle – the idea of a “high class” fish and chip shop. However, recently (or at least it seems to me) there seems to be a fashion for developing real (sorry Michael’s) high class fish and chip shops, and I happened to try two of them this week.
Well, it would be Muswell Hill wouldn’t it? We were on the way home from a trip to Dover last week and the seaside air tempted Andrew’s tastebuds for fish and chips. The ones we have tried by us in Bounds Green are not great, so I wasn’t keen on the idea. Why ruin my diet for greasy battered fish and undercooked, pale chips? But, Andrew knows how to get around my poor excuse for willpower, and he launched a two-pronged attack: not only could we try the posh chippy in Muswell Hill, but I could also buy some fish for poor, sick Henry the cat. Cher-ching – sold.
So at 8pm on a Saturday night we rocked up to Toffs: there is a restaurant section which has waiter-service, but we just ordered from the takeaway bar. Our usual favourites were sitting and waiting for us (but not for long – judging by how busy the place is, I don’t think food is sitting around) which meant we were in and out in less than 5 minutes. Cod and chips, sausage in batter and chips, mushy peas, homemade tartar sauce and an extra cod for poor Henry set us back over twenty quid. That’s probably double the cost of Michael’s, but we soon discovered it was worth it.
They also serve plaice and rock, so there’s a good variety of fish available.
The food survived a 10 minute drive in the car back home, and everything was exactly as it should be: firstly, wrapped in newspaper, which I far prefer to polystyrene. The fish batter was lovely and crisp – not greasy at all, and the fish inside was beautifully steamed without a single bone left in it. Not only was I impressed, but Henry, Alfie and Betty also enjoyed their fish supper.
The chips were thick cut and nicely golden, with a great mix of soggy and crispy chips (I love both, but the soggy ones in a slice of white bread with tomato sauce is just yummy).
The sausage in batter was nice (according to Andrew) but too small. If you are used to jumbo sausages you’d need two.
The homemade tartare sauce was delicious – tart but creamy, with lumps of gherkin mixed inside. The mushy peas were chip shop specials – probably from a tin but Batchelors make them perfectly so who cares?!
I have no doubt we’ll go to Toffs again for fish and chips – the fact that it’s a bit of a drive means we won’t be tempted too often, but it will certainly be worth the journey.
My second fish and chip adventure of the week was to The Fish and Chip shop in Angel. It’s up towards the Highbury end of Upper Street and has recently been opened by the ex-head chef of The Ivy. It’s popular, so I suggest you reserve your table in advance.
This time I decided to go for the less traditional cod in parsley sauce with new potatoes, although all the old favourites are on the menu. My friend Emma had battered cod and chips, and I did nick one of her chips which was AMAZING! Heavily salted though, so if you are not a fan then ask them to take it easy with the salt shaker.
My cod was perfectly cooked and served on a bed of spinach with thick parsley sauce (extra came in a little jug). The new potatoes were a bit too buttery for my liking, and didn’t taste freshly cooked, but I should have had chips really, so I’m not complaining!
The interior of the place is gorgeous – very old fashioned (but brand new, of course!) and fashionable … it’s a long and narrow room, and you do have to squeeze yourself into the booths a bit, but overall it was comfortable and the staff were friendly and attentive. It’s not cheap though (£25 each for a main course, side and soft drink each), and if I had to choose between the two, Toffs would win hands down.
However, the best battered fish has to be my mum’s version, which she taught me to make last year (I am gutted I don’t have a photo to share, because when she made it, it looked exactly like the fish you would get in a posh gastropub).
Mother’s fish and daughter’s chips
Cod fillets, plain flour, pinch of salt, milk and cold water, potatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper
Allow one old potato per person – cut into wedges with the skin on. Parboil in salted water for just a few minutes and drain. Put on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden, turning over halfway through. When the chips are almost cooked, make the fish as follows (in mum’s words): Couple of spoonfuls of plain flour, pinch of salt. Beat out lumps with very little milk. Add cold water slowly to make batter consistency. Dip in fish and deep fry in hot oil!
And one final fish and chip thought – next time we go back to Treorchy, I am definitely going to try their local chippy, A fish called Rhondda! Last time we went to another chippy and I had rissoles for the first time. I am yet to be convinced!