Dear Local Chippy,
I read an article today, discussing how chip shops are undergoing a revolution. I’m fine with that, I really am. I’m all up for making sure fish is sustainably caught and freshly cooked (though I think you’re already doing that, to be honest). Even if I’m more of a battered sausage girl myself.
But don’t go going too cool on us, will you? Not like all those burger joints where you have to queue for hours to get into. Don’t forget that the burger is American: it’s overconfident, it knows it can be big and bold and flashy. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, not if you can pull it off. But you, fish & chips, are the British national dish. You can’t quite get away with it. You’re just too humble, almost to the point of self-deprecation, always in disbelief that you are quite so loved.
You are, should always be, those small takeaways with white-tiled walls. Where we queue for our dinner and wait for it to be doled out in paper growing increasingly transparent from grease, careful to not look the other people waiting in the eye. You are the shop I leave with my mouth watering and my hair smelling of vinegar.
I like how you serve my mushy peas in a Styrofoam cup and I like it when you give me piles of the crispy, orange-brown chip ends you hardly ever get in a pub or restaurant (or not enough, anyway). I like how your batter is as thick as the meat it covers and how it crunches when I bite it. I like how you drown my chips in oil and vinegar and grease that drips down my fingers as I eat.
I like that your food works as well in front of the telly on a cold Friday night as it does on a British beach in summer. Even if the latter does involve fending off seagulls with a wooden fork.
I like how you don’t need sexy-sounding names, like those cool burger places. Your names are fun instead, like ‘Paul’s Plaice’ and ‘Frying Nemo’ and ‘Codfather’.
I know you’re not all as good as one another. I know some chip shops don’t quite have the batter recipe right, or don’t deep-fry the chips quite long enough (or maybe it’s too long?) so they’re too soggy, too chewy, not-quite-the-right flavour. I know it’s not easy doing what you do well.
Chippy, I know we’re both too British to be comfortable with me expressing too many emotions about why I like you. So I’ll just say that you’re doing well just as you are. Don’t go changing too much.
See you soon,
Visiting Bristol this summer and fancy trying the British national dish? My personal favourites are Farrow’s Fish & Chips in Totterdown and Crispies. But others I’ve seen recommended are Fishminister in Southville, Bishopston Fish Bar in Horfield, Argus Fish Bar in Bedminster. Bristolians – where are your favourites?
Fish & Chips: Alamy/Simon Belcher via The Guardian