Fish & Chips in Shrewsbury
We may be landlocked here in Shropshire, but even if we were located at the top of Ben Nevis, you cannot help thinking that someone would open a fish and chip shop for us. These Friday night favourites can be found liberally scattered throughout the county and here in Shrewsbury we have some great examples.
In the centre of town we have Town Fryer on Claremont Street with it's great lunch time deals, Shire Fryer up by the column, the historic Coleham Fish Bar just outside the river loop, and several more.
Survey one hundred people and you will be lucky if you find anyone who does not admit to liking fish and chips. The chicken tikka masala is often quoted as being our national dish, due to the quantity of it that we consume, but if you are looking for a truly British dish, one that people around the world associate with our island, it has to be good old fish and chips [article contined below...]
There is something so satisfying about unwrapping the damp, white paper to reveal steaming hot, fluffy potatoes, soaked in salt and vinegar, and white flakes of fish that taste of the sea, coated in a crisp golden batter. Health considerations aside, it is one of the few meals that I think I could genuinely eat every day. Heartened by National Federation of Fish Fryers posters that suggest fish and chips are a much healthier alternative to many other takeaway dishes, plenty of us nevertheless regard fish and chips as a treat. Once a month on a Friday when we were growing up, but absolutely compulsory on visits to the coast. In the perfect world I would eat them while sitting on a bench on the promenade, the smell of salt water and the cry of seagulls, and the sound of waves crashing on a pebble beach. Luckily, there are plenty of places serving great fish and chips right here in Shrewsbury. All the available options are listed on the right of this page, or you can view them all, and plenty of other types of takeaway, on our interactive food map.
We have established the best place to eat our fish and chips, but let's look at what you can eat. You are at your favourite chippy, standing in the queue, the warm comforting smell of potato and vinegar making you feel really hungry. You've asked for a couple of haddock, and chips are a given. Your eyes are now fixed on the menu; you need to decide what extras to have. We are not in one of those Chinese takeways that offer fish and chips, so spring rolls and hoi sin sauce are not an option. Admittedly the menu in our traditional fish and chip shop is not as complicated as that in an Indian takeaway, but there are still decisions to make. Peas or curry sauce seem to be the most popular additions in Shropshire, with gravy trickling down from the north in growing quantities. Pies, battered sausages, scallops, pickled eggs, brown sauce, tomato sauce, tartar sauce. Not to mention kebabs and burgers. It all sounds good, well, except the pickled eggs; they're just wrong.
A number of years ago I found myself, quite by accident, making a fish and chip pilgrimage through the Midlands and the North of England. I had cause to visit almost every English town of note from the Wirral peninsula to Bridlington, from Shrewsbury up to York, and eating fish and chips in many of them. I was surprised to find there was a significant regional difference in what was on offer at the local chip shop. I was offered soup in the Stoke and scraps in Sheffield. I may have had to add my own salt and vinegar in some towns, and only seen those brilliantly useless wooden forks in a few others, but everywhere I went, there was a queue of hungry people, all looking forward to getting on the outside of a bag of chips.
The popularity of fish and chips shows no sign of abating, with two or three new shops opening in Shrewsbury in the last few months alone, but the future may not be entirely rosy. If you will forgive the oxymoron, fish has become a real hot potato in the last year or two. Barely a week goes by without talk of fish quotas, and the decline of fish stocks in and around UK waters. Whilst there are conflicting tales of fishermen having to sail further out to find fish, and of hauled nets being full of fish that have to be thrown back, the rapidly increasing price of fish shows that something is not quite right. Fish and chips have always been a great value meal, with potatoes cheap and easy to produce, and fish always plentiful. But as the global appetite for traditional whitefish begins to outstrip supply, we either have to change our eating habits, or pay a premium for what we have come to know and love. If a fish and chip shop refused to serve up cod, haddock and plaice, would it be able to survive? Would their customers look elsewhere if they were forced to eat coley, pollock or gurnard? One day they may have no choice, but for now our fishermen are still able and permitted to catch our favourite whitefish, albeit in smaller numbers, so cod and haddock are here to stay.As part of this focus on fish and chips, we spoke to local shop 'Flippin Fish' who run a popular takeaway in the Meole Brace part of Shrewsbury. We asked them a few questions, including what makes a good portion of fish and chips.
What made you want to open a fish and chip shop?
"We opened a fish & chip shop because we thought there was a gap in the market for a good traditional English fish & chip shop. The location was perfect given there was nothing in Meole Brace or the surrounding area."
Tell us about your low fat grilled option? Is there a big market for a healthier version of fish and chips?
"Knowing the number of people that suffer with Gluten related illnesses and having researched the availability of gluten free food. We decided we could provide a much need menu. We offer a variety of gluten free products which are all cooked in separate fryers with dedicated utensils to eliminate any cross contamination. Our healthy options include griddled tuna and salmon served with salad. We have from time to a guest fish such as sword fish."
Do you offer alternatives to cod and haddock, or would you ever consider doing so?
"Yes we do, we offer plaice and also Pollock which is quite popular."
Frying potatoes and fish in batter, you wouldn't think there would be much variation, but some fish and chips taste far better than others. Without giving away any secret recipes, how difficult is it to make fish and chips taste good, and what is involved?
"The key to good fish and chips is quality ingredients and with well maintained oil, along with a desire to provide good quality food."
Which is most popular, peas or curry sauce?
"We find that peas, curry and gravy all sell very well so it hard to say which is the most popular, Friday is of course peas."