The Great British Fish & Chip Shop
22, King William Walk, SE10
Boy, has the old Cricketers pub seen some action over the past few years. After stints as the Powder Monkey (a gay bar) the Tiki Lounge (all things South Pacific, but without the magic ’London’ between the two words) and the W-Lounge, its latest incarnation is as a jolly British chippy.
You certainly can’t miss the ‘British’ bit – the place is dripping with union flags from the sign to the pole to the fridge. The line between retro-chic and just plain vulgar can be quite slim, and I’m genuinely not sure which side the decor falls. There’s something a bit brash about it, but that could just be the newness of the tiles, and the giant size of the ubiquitous union flags. Upstairs works best, where the union branding is at a minimum, leaving plain dark tables and nicely mis-matched bag chandeliers to do the talking, if they can be heard under the very loud ‘British Rock & Roll’, which, when I was in there sounded suspiciously like bog-standard Euro-Trance.
You certainly know you’re in chip shop territory before you arrive – the pong hangs around the entire King William Walk/Nelson Road junction in a ‘distinctive’ – and not entirely pleasant – manner. Oddly I’ve never noticed such a strong smell from, say, Mr Fast Fry or The Golden Chippy, but then I guess I don’t make a habit of hanging around them there parts very often. Once you’re actually inside the shop, the smell seems to disappear entirely, I don’t know how that happens.
The food is cooked to order, which gets a tick from me, and claims to be entirely from British waters. As long as that doesn’t pull on already over-stocked British waters in the name of ‘local’ too much, that seems good, but I do worry a bit. The most sustainable fish aren’t from around here, though there is always the trade-off in food miles. It’s a tough choice. In other matters, eco-issues are at least nodded to. The cartons in which the food arrives are made from bio-degradable, yet heat-holding card, a big improvement on polystyrene. It would have been nice to see washable ‘proper’ cutlery instead of plastic jobbies, and sustainable fish options, such as pollack, to finish the eco-concept.
The service is friendly and fast, given the whole cooked-to-order thing, and there is plenty of choice, from the usual cod and plaice through to fish cakes and scampi, plus battered shellfish, not something I’d come across before, really, and there are a couple of ‘lighter options’ for slimmers, though you can pretty much whistle if you don’t eat fish. The only veggie option I saw was the cheese and onion pie, easily the least tasty of the Goddard’s range, though it’s good to see a local brand being served there.
So – is it any good? I’d say it’s average. The fish is absolutely fine - the ‘special’ batter tastes pretty much like any other batter, but it’s crisp and fresh, and the fish inside it is moist. But the chips, which let’s face it, are what most people buy fish and chips for, are pretty bland. They’re ‘fat’ chips, which gets another tick, but they’re anemic-looking and don’t taste of much at all, unless you smother them in sauce (starting at 20p a sachet). You get plenty in a portion, but they’re unexciting to eat, so no one at my table finished theirs.
The one thing about fish and chips is that you rarely have room to eat anything afterwards, but there are desserts – ranging from kiddie-fave icepops through to the slightly out-of-place-feeling ‘rich chocolate mousse pot.’ There is, of course, the chance to have a deep-fried Mars Bar – doesn’t anyone realise that it was invented as a joke?
Drinks run the gamut from the classic chippie staples IrnBru, Cream Soda and Coca-Cola through to – and I kid you not – a £90 bottle of Laurent Perrier Champagne.
All in all, it’s okay. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I’m sure it will do well from the sheer number of tourists visiting that part of the market but for locals I’m not sure that it does anything that Mr Fast Fry and The Golden Chippy haven’t been doing (slightly better) for years.