Marylebone’s much-fêted fish & chip shop has settled into its sideways extension, allowing more punters to enjoy its famous frying. The add-on echoes the original room’s plain interiors (think
tiled floors and wood panelling) and the advice remains the same throughout: if you want to enjoy the main event to the full, swerve the calamari and king prawn starters and refuse the jam
sponge with custard for afters. Cod, haddock, halibut, plaice and rock salmon – plus homemade fishcakes – are all on offer; the beautifully golden batter has been known to discharge rather too
much oil, but the accompanying chips and peas are impeccable. Ever-present crowds generally obscure views of the famous vintage fryer, and queues often stretch out of the door. Service is
brisk, and there’s a BYO policy for those eating in.
“Old school dining at its best” says a devoted admirer of J Sheekey – a fondly admired veteran of the theatreland scene that is not only chic and fashionable but also democratic. With its cheerful buzz, fish “of the highest quality” and “some of the best service ever”, it invites diners to enjoy all the pleasures in a cosseting setting of leather banquettes and antique mirrors, with surrealist paintings and photos of legendary actors on the wood-panelled walls. Trawl through the menu for classics ranging from dressed crab and potted shrimps to magnificent fruits de mer and an inimitable fish pie, plus grilled halibut on the bone, fine Dover sole and lobster thermidor, but also be prepared for some daring detours – perhaps sardines marinated with harissa and pistachio dukkah or charred octopus with exotic green peppers. Fabulous puddings include crème brûlée and banoffee cheesecake, but we head straight for the Bramley apple pie and interesting tarts such as black fig with mascarpone and honey ice cream. To drink, fish-friendly wines include many Coravin selections – in short, J Sheekey is “an absolute must”.
Dishing up nostalgia in all the right places, Golden Union is a contemporary take on a good, honest chippie. It has a typical takeaway counter at the front, where pies, jumbo sausages and golden
pieces of battered fish await selection. Out back, everything’s ‘clean and bright’: a funky café space done out with retro yellow plastic tables and squeezy ketchup bottles shaped like
tomatoes. If you’re after fish & chips, you’ll be spoilt for choice, with cod, haddock, plaice, salmon, pollock, scampi and king prawns all on the menu. Mushy peas and tartar sauce are
homemade for that just-like-mum-used-to-make touch, and there are plenty of trad extras: gravy, curry sauce, baked beans and pickled onions, preferably not all at the same time. ‘For the most
part it does exactly what it says on the tin’, although service can be gruff.
If only all chippies were like this. Sparklingly fresh, sustainably sourced fish are cooked to order here. You can choose traditional fish & chips – with coley, haddock or fishcakes as the star
attraction – but the menu encourages customers to try something different: prawn and chorizo kebabs, perhaps, or squid and cuttlefish with sweet chilli sauce. Crayfish cocktail or oysters might
provide the opening to a meal, and a glass of wine or two (from a limited but well-chosen list) the lubrication. The picture isn’t entirely rosy: diners can get cramped in the small room at the
back, and occasionally there’s a wait to be served (all this cooking to order takes time). Most people opt for takeaways. There’s a roomier branch in Clapham High Street too.
Always a favourite with tourists – especially Americans – who come for the ‘gen-u-wine’ fish & chips they’ve heard so much about, souped up with a big dollop of nostalgia. Surroundings are from
a bygone age – think wood panelling, patterned carpets and paper serviettes – but if that sort of thing appeals, you’re in for a treat. All manner of fishy delights are present and correct,
with dishes as unashamedly retro as the interiors. Dip your toe in the water with prawn cocktail or breaded scampi, before tackling battered skate, plaice, cod or a good-value Dover sole (no
eco-fashionable pollock or gurnard here). Despite the very fair prices, backpackers and bargain-hunters should head next door to the takeaway, where fish & chips ‘to go’ is offered at a
fraction of the cost.
North Sea Fish Restaurant
It has been a while since Faulkners dominated London’s ‘best chippies’ lists. The fish & chips may not be up there, quality-wise, with the new breed of ‘trendy’ chip shops (Poppies, Fish House
and suchlike), or even that of the average corner fish bar, but this local institution remains loved for other reasons. It’s a journey back in time, to a decade when avocado and prawns, French
coffee and bottles of Liebfraumilch seemed the giddy height of sophistication. Tongue-in-cheek trendies, cab drivers and pensioners still gladly support the place, ordering its jellied eels,
fried fish (in matzo meal or batter) and proper ‘school dinner’ desserts such as spotted dick, syrup pudding or jam roly-poly. Like the food, the furnishings hail from a bygone era. Sit beneath
the fake beams and Artex ceiling, gaze through the net curtains, and celebrate the lunar landings with a pint of wallop.
A lunchtime blessing on a shopping precinct between Old Street and Angel, this spruce, upbeat seafood café was established as a family firm back in 1968 and is still run with a sense of pride. The
dining room is kept neat and tidy, with black leather chairs, white tablecloths, vases of fresh flowers and fishing-trade photographs on the walls. There’s no messing about with the menu, either:
you might kick off with fish soup, grilled sardines or mussels in a spicy sauce, before tackling battered cod, haddock or plaice, smoked haddock and oyster mushrooms in pastry or skate wing with
beurre noisette. Meat eaters look to the char-grill and the wine list is stocked with plenty of sub-£20 offerings, while express lunches compete with the adjoining chippie
in the value stakes.
There’s a captain’s-cabin feel to this no-nonsense fish & chippie, which has been serving south London locals for 20 years. If you’re not planning to rush home with a takeaway, settle at one of
the pine tables and order outstanding renditions of battered fish, chips and mushy peas. Cod & haddock are still the most popular choices, but eco-conscious diners can opt for hake or
mahi-mahi, and calorie-counters can have their fish steamed or grilled, served with new potatoes or salad. Curiously, there are some celebrity-endorsed combos like the ‘Cilla Black Experience’
(haddock & chips, prawns, scampi, pickled onions), but why mess with the classic formula? The short wine and beer list matches the food, and includes oak-aged Innis & Gunn ale: ideal
with haddock or lemon sole.
Since its inception back in 2011, Hook has been a byword for super-fresh seafood and sustainability, its fish coming straight to the restaurant from the boats every day. A recent refit of the Camden dining room has also seen a shift in the menu focus. There’s still the fish and chips the place is famous for – catch of the day (cod and seabream on our visit) in a variety of flavoured tempura batters or seasoned panko options – but there’s also a more varied menu for both starters and mains, with inspirations from all over the world. The vegetable tempura, drizzled in honey and served with a ginger dipping sauce, is not to be missed, but aside from the odd meat option, it’s fish all the way. And where there isn’t fish, there’s seaweed, infused into the cream for the mashed (not mushy) peas, flavouring the house-made pickles, and sprinkled over the chips, which are really more like wedges, but hey, your traditional Friday night fish supper this most definitely isn’t.
The traditional East End chippy isn’t dead. It lives on, revived and revamped, in the form of Fish House in gentrified Victoria Park Village. The business has a takeaway on one side and a
sit-down restaurant on the other, allowing it to service locals in search of a quick fish supper as well as the family parties that descend on E9 for an inter-generational weekend lunch. Dark-wood
flooring and white-tiled walls are jazzed up by a startling close-up photo of an octopus. Expertly fried fish – be it cod, haddock, plaice, scampi, rock or skate, with proper chips – can be eaten
in or out, with the requisite extras (pickled eggs, thickly buttered bread, and a banana split for afters: all present and correct). For more dressed-up occasions, there’s a list of
seafood-friendly wines and blackboard specials such as lemon sole with shrimp butter, and scallops with asparagus hollandaise.
The ocean’s bounty arrives fresh every day from Billingsgate at this high-quality chippy. Choose from sea bass, skate, Dover sole, halibut & more, either steamed, grilled or fried, or cast your
net wider to catch Arbroath smokies (hot-smoked haddock in a cream sauce with tomato & cheese), jellied eels or cod’s roe in butter. Although the legendary Manzi brothers retired in 2008 (the
Atwals are now the siblings in charge), bottles of Domaine du Grand Mayne from the Manzis’ French vineyards are still on the wine list, along with fish-friendly whites & a few reds. The big
blue dining room with its tightly packed tables may not be as shipshape as before, but staff remain very welcoming. If you’d rather create your own ambience, order from the takeaway counter next
Two Brothers Fish Restaurant
An upmarket chippy for an upmarket audience, Oliver’s is a glossy little joint decked out in shiny pea-green tiles. At the back is a handful of tables sporting bottles of Sarson’s vinegar, for
those who choose to eat in. Fish is cooked in vegetable oil, with unusually pleasing results. Cod, haddock or plaice is dunked in batter or matzo meal, before being fried to produce a crisp coating
and moist fish inside. Healthy options include grilled salmon in a warm ciabatta roll, and a range of salads. Smaller portions are available for children, who will doubtless crave a deep-fried
Mars bar for afters. Prices are fair; staff are peppy. Given that Oliver’s was set up by the brains behind Millie’s Cookies, a rollout across the capital could be coming soon.
Oliver's Fish & Chips
Forgive the cheesy punning name and get ready for a true Brit experience at one of London’s oldest chippies. The classic combo of crisply battered cod, chips and mushy peas is a deservedly
popular first choice for most customers, though other species (haddock, halibut and of course rock, sole and plaice) make fine alternatives if you’re in the mood. It doesn’t offer the most
consistent frying in town and prices are on the steep side, but a steady stream of locals join the hungry tourists at picnic benches on a shady corner of Endell Street for slap-up lunches washed
down with cans of pop or bottles of beer. Functional tables inside and berths hidden down in the gloomy basement are less appealing, although service is snappy enough.
The Rock & Sole Plaice
Dubbed the “the thinking diners’ chippy”, Kerbisher & Malt delivers its goods with “style” and an eye on the market. Scrubbed-up interiors set the tone with lots of bright tiles, painted frames, exposed wood and panelled walls inspired by old fishing boats, while the daily menu keeps it simple and honest. Fish from sustainable sources is served with “gorgeous” twice-cooked chips, chunky onion rings and mushy peas made of the premises, but the repertoire also takes in whitebait, crispy calamari, fish burgers and a few non-piscine offerings (pork sausages in a bun or spicy veg bites), plus some ice creams for dessert. Also check the specials board for cut-price lunch deals and other offers. To drink, choose from a short batch of wines, Fentiman’s soft drinks or Meantime bottled beers. Expect regular queues at the takeaway counter.
Kerbisher & Malt Hammersmith