Categories Food&DrinkPosted on

A Short History of Fish and Chips: The Iconic Comfort Food

Say what you like about fish and chips, sometimes this is the dish that hits the spot when you’re really hungry. Fortunately for the citizens of London, the capital abounds in fish and chip shops to suit all pockets and palates. Just as well – it’s an iconic dish. This is because, for many Brits, fish and chips are associated with happy memories. We’ve eaten them on beaches, in the street, at home or out in restaurants. Every seaside town boasts a good chippy. You can always find them, there’s a huge queue outside. It’s cheap fast food, and the capital is no exception in providing this delicious meal to the masses.

Say what you like about fish and chips, sometimes this is the dish that hits the spot when you’re really hungry. Fortunately for the citizens of London, the capital abounds in fish and chip shops to suit all pockets and palates. Just as well – it’s an iconic dish. This is because, for many Brits, fish and chips are associated with happy memories. We’ve eaten them on beaches, in the street, at home or out in restaurants. Every seaside town boasts a good chippy. You can always find them, there’s a huge queue outside. It’s cheap fast food, and the capital is no exception in providing this delicious meal to the masses.

seen london fish and chips

Personally SEEN favours the old-school approach: served in paper with plenty of salt and vinegar, thank you very much. A side-order of mushy peas and it’s the meal of champions, as the late Michael Jackson could have told you, that’s how he liked his. John Lennon of the Beatles smothered his in tomato ketchup. In Belgium, apparently, they smother their chips in mayo, according to John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Fish and chips are the great comfort food, bar none. It saw us through two world wars and was a sustaining meal in times of trouble. Crispy battered cod and fluffy golden chips are an irresistible combination! But how did this most British of dishes originate? Back to Belgium (or France, possibly) in the 17th century…

It’s thought that chips came about as a substitute for fish when the rivers froze over. Housewives cut the potatoes into the shapes of fish and fried them when real fish couldn’t be caught. During this period, fried fish was introduced to Britain by Jewish and Portuguese refugees. The fish was often sold from trays slung about the necks of street traders. A reference to ‘fried fish warehouses’ can be found in the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens, and the fish were often accompanied by a baked potato or a piece of bread.

It’s felt that Jewish immigrant called Joseph Malin hit upon the happy combination of fish AND chips in 1860, opening the first shop in the East End. This novel dish was a pleasant change from the plain and unvarying diet of poor, working-class people in the area and it quickly caught on. Italian immigrants saw an opportunity and set up similar outlets in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. To keep costs down, the food was wrapped in sheets of newspaper, until the 1980s.

These days, fish and chips have been joined by all sorts of takeaway food; a happy circumstance of Britain’s multicultural society and rich immigrant heritage. In these times of austerity, it remains a vital and comforting part of our daily lives. From the old-school chippy to rather up-market gastro versions, it’s clearly a meal that has the capacity to deliciously reinvent itself.

Where to Eat the Best Fish ‘n’ Chips in Central London
George Orwell once said that the eating of fish ‘n’ chips could avert revolution; it’s that satisfying. SEEN has it on good authority that the following fried food emporia will hit the spot for freshness, flavour and – above all – value for money…

Poppies, Camden, Spitalfields and also Soho

seen london Pops with takeaway box

Go for: The retro memorabilia, the music hall songs, the live performances and the responsibly sourced fish!

poppiesfishandchips.co.uk

The Golden Hind in Marylebone

seen london The Golden Hind

Go for: The old-fashioned vibe, the simple menu, a shop full of locals and your friendly hosts.
73 Marylebone Lane
London
W1U 2PN

The Seashell of Lisson Grove

seen london The Seashell of Lisson Grove

Go for: the fresh ingredients, the proximity to Madame Tussauds, restaurant or takeaway, and you might even spot the odd celebrity…
49-51 Lisson Grove, London NW1 6UH
www.seashellrestaurant.co.uk

The Golden Union

seen london The Golden Union

Go for: the simplicity, the fast service, the alcohol license and the egalitarianism!
38 Poland Street, London W1F 7LY
www.goldenunion.co.uk

Vintage Salt

seen london vintage salt

Go for: The ambience, the extensive menu, the desserts and the locations (Upper Street and Liverpool Street).
Dashwood House, 69 Old Broad Street, London EC2M 1QS
www.vintagesalt.co.uk

Masters Superfish

seen london Masters Superfish

Go for: The location, the mustard-battered cod, the proper chippy vibe and the cabbies.
191 Waterloo Rd, London SE1 8UX

Fryer’s Delight

seen london Fryer’s Delight

Go for: The sixties vibe, the beef dripping, Chips for £1.50, and near the British Museum.
19 Theobald’s Road, Holborn, London WC1X 8SL

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