It's Friday, what better day to turn our minds to that most glorious of combinations - battered fish and salted fried potatoes. We've scoured the land to find the masters of the art, starting with this rundown of the five best traditional chippies.
5 Fish & Chips at 149, Bridlington
To look at 149, a clean and efficient chippy, set in a parade of shops on an unremarkable road in the seaside town of Bridlington, you would not expect gastronomic glory. What you get, though, is something pretty close. Behind closed doors, hours before it opens, owners Tracy Poskitt and Matthew Silk are skinning and boning their line-caught haddock; then they prep the beef-dripping batter and chip the locally grown Maris Piper potatoes.
The result, come frying time, is masterful: knobbles of coppery coloured batter with savoury, umami-ish depth and pearly fish falling into perfect flakes. The mushy peas are properly done. Breadcakes are fresh. Tea is steaming. This is a chip shop as it should be. 149 Marton Road, Bridlington, East Yorkshire (fishandchipsat149.co.uk)
4 Cobo Fish & Chip Bar, Guernsey
Tucked around the corner of a hardly picturesque Total petrol station, this nicotine-yellow, corrugated iron shack is not about to win any beauty competitions. Then again, the locals don't queue up to admire its aesthetics: the Channel Islands have the best, freshest fish in the UK. When it’s landed at Cobo Bay, the daily catch's journey from sea to fryer is all of 10 meters, depending on tides. Once you've competed with the neoprene-clad surfers, sun-kissed teens and sand-covered kids to get your freshly cooked, crisply-battered plaice or haddock, hop over the sea wall, and, sitting with your back against the still-warm stones, watch the sun set right in the centre of this pristine cove. BYO Chablis or Champagne also recommended. Cobo, Castel, Guernsey (+44 1481 254 276)
3 Anstruther Fish Bar, Anstruther
Owner Robert Smith comes from a family of Scottish trawlermen. With colour-blindness preventing him from joining the family business, he left his brother to skipper the family boat Argonaut 4 and bought up Anstruther Fish Bar with his wife Alison instead. Unsurprisingly, his Fife shop gets the cream of the catch, so specials change depending on what’s come off the quayside. Assuming you don’t get distracted by the battered haggis (yes, really), then haddock and chips is the award-winning option. The shop gets extremely busy (it fries over 250kg of haddock on a good day), but for a nice bit of fish, it’s well worth the queue. 42-44 Shore Street, Anstruther, Fife (anstrutherfishbar.co.uk)
2 The Golden Galleon, Aldeburgh
Opinion divides over which is better, Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop or its sibling restaurant, The Golden Galleon (with its rather impressive mermaid figurehead atop the entrance). <Esquire> columnist Giles Coren and TV’s Dermot O’Leary both rate the latter, and we’re inclined to agree. The ingredients — east coast fish (“brought up to the shop by the local fishermen, straight out of the sea,” says O’Leary) and Suffolk potatoes — are prime. The food’s cooked to order, and the sea wall on which to eat your fish and chips (essential for full enjoyment) is a mere pebble’s throw away. 137 High Street, Aldeburgh, Suffolk (aldeburghfishandchips.co.uk)
And the winner is...
1 Colmans, South Shields
A not-quite-sunny day at the seaside, salt and grease on licked fingers, dense, steaming parcels of chips laced with vinegar — Colmans is the coastal town chippy you remember from childhood, and it’s brilliant. Run by Richard and Frances, the fourth generation of Colmans to fry fish at South Shields, it’s all white-tiled walls and chalk boards showing the catch of the day. For such an unassuming and old-school venue, Colmans has managed to score an impressive fanbase — Bill Bryson, Alison Steadman and Lord Mandelson have all eaten in, while David Miliband knew a photo opportunity when he saw one: he served behind the counter.
Though there’s plenty of room to sit inside — those customers eligible for the £5.99 pensioner’s special take full advantage — we recommend you get yours to go. Then wander down to the huge sandy beach at Sandhaven where the North Sea crashes/laps in. The National Fish & Chip Awards rated Colmans the best in the UK this year, but then their customers have been saying that since 1926. 182-186 Ocean Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear (colmansfishandchips.com)