As a kid the only way I’d be caught dead eating fish was if it was Van de Kamp’s frozen fish sticks dowsed in ketchup. And then, when the concept of fish tacos was starting to catch on in the late 80s and early 90s, my mother introduced us to Rubio’s Fish Tacos and that’s when my love affair with fried fish began. Hello fish and chips!
When done well, I feel like fish and chips can be fantastic. Just as sophisticated as anything else you’ll find on the menu in fact. Fried fish and French fries have had their resurgence with the gastropub craze, but not all fish n’ chips are created equal.
The best fish n’ chips I’ve ever had (and I’ve done my fair share of taste tests) is in London. Hands down, the fish n’ chips from The Sea Shell in Lisson Grove is where you have to go. I’d been to this place nearly 20 years ago on a visit to London and it was just as good as I remembered. My aunt and uncle took my brother and I there when we were kids and told us it was “real fish n’ chips”. You might be asking what makes it “real” and well, it’s the overall quality.
The fact that you can select the type of fish you want is a testament to the high quality fish they use. Cod, haddock, plaice, salmon, seabass, skate….you name it. You can get it grilled or fried with the bone in or out. If you go for fried, you can choose matzo meal or panko breading as an alternative to their light batter. They fry all the fish and fries in groundnut oil, which is what I think makes it less heavy than most fried fish. Everything is made fresh to order and the fries are thick cut potatoes that actually look and taste like potato. And if you don’t want fries, you can get a baked potato, new potatoes, mashed potatoes, or a side salad. Nothing tastes greasy. The tartar sauce is bright and tangy with fresh lemon juice and julienned cucumber.
A lot of people think of fish n’ chips and think bar food, but The Sea Shell in Lisson Grove is a tablecloth restaurant experience. And there’s something to say for genetics, because apparently this was my grandmother Edith’s favorite place for fish n’ chips.
I chose the haddock fried in batter.
Jonathan got the scampi which was the finest Scottish Langoustines fried in crusty bread crumbs.