Coming up with a name can be one of the most difficult parts about opening a new restaurant. But with a name like this, how can anyone forget it?
A Des McDonald solo venture (having left the Caprice Group in 2012) the new venue, which recently opened on one of London’s busiest streets in Islington, sees Lee Bull – former head chef of The Ivy, Daphnes and Scott’s – at the helm.
First impressions: as you walk in you can’t help but notice the floor plan has a very old-fashioned feel, with two separate dining areas and two different bars to sit at (luckily we booked so we knew our place).
My party of six took their seats on the old red leather swivel stools at the back near the kitchen. I know there is a vintage feel to the place, but having a rusted screw coming up through the leather seating into my rear end for the whole night was a little unpleasant.
At the table we were presented with a neatly folded menu on brown paper that, along with the low-hung exposed bulb chandelier reminded me of Polpo.
Thankfully, I was given the reins on what starters and sides to order while the rest of the party decided on the mains. For the table I ordered a half dozen Dorset rock oysters, Isle of Man crab on toast with avocado, pickled wally and pickled onions, grilled tiger prawns with lemon and chili, and a small serve of potatoes. Yes, it was a fair portion of the menu.
The oysters were fresh and succulent with their natural salty taste. But the prized favourite of all starters and mentioned by everyone was the grilled tiger prawns with lemon and chili – they had a sweet, juicy taste, meaty crunch and the flavours so perfect that people ended up sucking the juices off the heads of the prawns.
The Isle of Man crab on toast was also popular. Generous crab meat spread on a large slice of toasted brown bread, topped with a lavish layer of white meat, slices of avocado with a drizzle of lemon juice and chili dressing to top it off.
Most of us ordered the haddock or cod and chips – the beer batter was crisp, golden and delicious. There have been mixed blog reviews about the quality of the fish, but I was glad to say mine was perfectly cooked and, as the menu states, tasted like it had come ‘straight from the boat to the kitchen’. Underneath the batter, it was lovely and flaky and very enjoyable. It was also great to read that the batter is created using local Camden Hells beer!
The mushy peas were also a bit unexpected, extremely minty. I’m not one to order mushy peas but with a request I did. The problem I find is that you have to eat them quickly or they just go cold.
The gherkin was a gherkin – I can’t say much more but getting three was a bit over the top. Wouldn’t mind seeing them combine a gherkin with their onion to mix it up so you don’t get bored of the same flavor.
My mum, visiting all the way from the Gold Coast, ordered the grilled lemon sole. One of the most expensive things on the menu, unfortunately for her it was a touch overcooked and a bit of a disappointment, although she mentioned that the tarragon butter was lovely.
For ‘pudding’, I ordered both the knickerbocker glory and strawberries and shortbread with vanilla ice cream to share.
Overall, I don’t think I’ll be back too quickly – only because the serving size you get is rather small for the price you pay. If it’s just fish and chips you want, then there are many other establishments that are less expensive, but if you’re happy to pay a little extra and get a few good extra dishes then it is worth taking a seat. What made it a great night was our waitress who was very attentive to all our needs. Thanks.
Over to you – where would you head for a cheap fish and chip supper (newspaper wrapping optional) in the city?
The Fish & Chip Shop
189 Upper Street