Upper Street has raised its game this year with a string of new trendy restaurants. It has to be said, it needed to. There was always plenty of good bars and pubs, but far too many fast-food burrito joints or over-priced average meals to be had. This year Smokehouse (just off Upper Street), John Salt and today’s stop The Fish and Chip Shop are just a few that have opened and there are more on the way, making Upper Street the place to go now.
Today it was a very hungover Saturday, so anything small or healthy was immediately ruled out. Our slow-functioning minds meant that we drifted from Angel tube almost to the top of Upper Street, grumbling about how hungry we were, but being too indecisive to choose any of the places on show. And so we stumbled across red and blue front of The Fish and Chip Shop. It was a exactly what we needed.
This is a very Upper Street version of the classic chippy. If you’re expecting grease stained white walls, a smell of vinegar and plastic tables to crouch over, then you’ll be in for a surprise. This is a chippy with a Yuppie’s makeover- dark wood, leather booths, cool artwork and a cocktail list. This follows in the trend in recent years of what is essentially take-away food given a good sprucing up. First came the burger joints, then there was champagne and hotdogs at Bubbledogs, and now rather than Irn Bru washing down your salty chips, it’s an elderflower and Prosecco cocktail. Next it will be kebabs with caviar. But despite this considerable makeover, the largely Yuppie crowd and the classic trendy bearded London waiters, it still managed to have a traditional chippy feel.
We were shown to a booth, and handed the brown paper menus that is made up of simply cooked, unpretentious and what turned out to be really tasty food. For starters you’ll see things like a prawn cocktail and crab on toast. Then there’s a selection of butties, main dishes and good old fish and chips.
A sharing portion of London particular fritters (£9) was an excellent way to kick things off. Five lightly battered crushed pea and mint fritters with chunks of ham hock, and a mustard dip. They were no mushy peas, but as far as substitutes go, this was right up there with the best.
Then came the main event- Camden Hells battered haddock (£9.50). A good-sized (it looks a lot smaller in the photo) crispy battered fish cleanly presented with a slice of lemon. It was soon to be lathered in chunky tartar sauce and a big blob of ketchup. The beer had done it’s job because the batter was perfect- thin and crispy, closer to a thick tempura than the greasy batter I’ve become accustomed to.
With it we went for a chip butty with curry sauce, good value at £4. Like all good butties the bread was covered in butter that had melted from the heat of the chips. The chips were great, but were let down by the curry sauce. It was too thin and tangy, rather than the gloopy deep coloured sauce that my palate has grown used to.
The waiters were excellent. They seemed to sense that we were hungover and in desperate need of food and weren’t in the mood to wait around. They were informative, chatty and passionate about working there. From our seat we could see the pass, and it was good to see that each waiter took care to check how each dish looked, sligtly tweaking it, or polishing away any finger prints before seving it. This is definitely something I’ve never experienced in a chippy before.
The Fish and Chip Shop won’t set your taste-buds alight, but it ticks every box in delivering good quality fish and chips for a reasonable price. Although we didn’t drink, we ate enough to fill anybody, and the bill was just over £20 a head with service. These days you’d struggle to get good fish and chips from a take-away for much less than £7, so at £12.50 you can’t argue. It’s a perfect place for an informal meal, or for a lazy afternoon where you can eat your way through a hangover. I’ll definitely be going back.
189 Upper Street, Islington, N1 1RQ