Living in South Korea inevitably creates a sense of homesickness at points and recently I have been looking at my beloved grey hometown through particularly rose-tinted spectacles. You might expect that this would take the form of missing people and such, but actually it invariably involves me missing fish and chips. Anyone who knows me well will understand. So I thought I would provide an informal guide to the chippys of Blackpool that I know and love. I know I’ve already referred to Proust somewhere here before, but I’ll do it again anyway. Proust had his madeleine: I have my fish and chips.
‘Whelan’s Fish Restaurant’ – The Rolls Royce
Whelans of Lytham
It’s actually in Lytham, but let’s not get political. The fish is impeccable, the tartare sauce is the best tartare sauce I have had in my entire life and Gordon Ramsay says it’s good. I’d just like to say a few more words about the tartare sauce. It really is quite exceptional. It’s chunky, you get a real crunch from the gherkins and capers and other chopped ingredients that go into it and frankly it’s worth visiting Whelan’s just to try it. Most fish and chip shops serve a tartare sauce that demeans the name, a kind of flavoured mayonaisse. Not Whelan’s. One day great books will be written about the tartare sauce at Whelan’s and there’s a good chance that I might write them.
‘Yorkshire Fisheries’ – The Safest Pair of Hands in Blackpool (for their age)
Yorkshire Fisheries has slowly but surely proved its worth to me over years of solid performances. There’s nothing overly exceptional about the place: the fish is good, the chips are good, the mushy peas are good, the service is good and it is quick. The thing is that all these things are always good. Many times a chippy has provided a good sequence of results, only to falter, invariably through the quality of the fish. Even the mighty Whelans sometimes serves up a fish that is not quite as stellar as the tartare sauce that accompanies it, but Yorkshire Fisheries never lets you down. If you are in Blackpool Town Centre you would be insane to go anywhere else.
‘The Cottage’ – The Prodigal Son
Perhaps the most famous chippy in Blackpool (apart from Harry Ramsden’s, which I have never actually visited), I have had mixed experiences with The Cottage. There was a time when fish and chips for tea MEANT ‘The Cottage’. However, a series of poor meals and a feeling that they had a bloated sense of self-worth meant years in the wilderness as far as we were concerned: it was the pariah of the Blackpool chippy scene. I think they got a bit too big for their boots, what with their photo encrusted walls of mediocre celebrities and Conservative politicians ‘slumming it’ after party conferences. Consequently, The Trawler on Highfield Road won the hearts, minds and stomachs of the Castro family for a good few years, before the Yorkshireman who always greeted you with “Evenin’ cap’n” (belted out in a thick Yorkshire accent from the side of his mouth) sadly retired.
In true naval fashion, The Trawler went down with him. That guy was the real deal: a salty old dog in a roll-neck jumper.
So when I returned to The Cottage several years later, it was evident that a transformation had taken place. Gone was the ubiquitous woman with the vinegary face, replaced by a fat man who ran an extremely tight ship. The previous quaint interior of the frying area had been replaced by a professional metallic decor and the service was similarly mechanical. This might sound unpleasant, but the quality of the fish and chips was a true return to form, and so The Cottage is once again up there with the best.
‘Eddy’s Fish and Chips’ – The Local Hero
Eddy’s Fish and Chips has only been around for a year or so, but it has already established itself as the number one teatime option on those days when you just can’t be bothered cooking. Although the quality of the fish and chips is excellent, a good deal of Eddy’s success is down to the unusual charm of Eddy himself. Eddy is a thin Armenian man with a thinning side parting and a sly, ironic expression. He always works with one other female assistant, a role that no woman seems to be able to stomach for more than a week or two. He is evidently somewhat insufferable to the average Blackpool female. He gleefully calls men who are at least 60 years old and in various states of decrepitude “young man” and is generally a very odd creature. Here’s an exchange with a customer that I once observed:
Oafish Blackpudlian Man: (looking stupidly up at the board of options) “What’s the halibut then, is that a fish?”
Eddy: (darkly looking up at the man with narrowed eyes and speaking with a thick Armenian accent) “IT’S A DIRTY WHITE RRRAT”
Diplomatic Female Assistant: (mercifully stepping in as the Oafish Blackpudlian Man looks confused) “Yes it’s a fish love.”
Sometime I feel that Eddy really belongs somewhere else, which is why it’s so great that he’s in Blackpool serving fish and chips to people that have probably never even heard of Armenia. Or halibut.
This post is brought to you by the song that I have been playing on repeat to fuel my fish and chips nostalgia. I know it’s about Borth but anyway…
EDIT: After the first link proved not to play on here due to copyright issues or some other nonsense I was forced to look for another available version of “Everyday is like Sunday”. It proved impossible until I stumbled across this video that inexplicably blends Grand Theft Auto with the song.
It makes me happy when someone loves two completely different things so much that they just HAVE to put them together and make a big effort in so doing. Seems to encapsulate a lot of what makes us human, these silly videos.