5 Clerkenwell Rd, London EC1M 5PA www.unitedchip.co.uk
Looking for proper fish and chips? Then the Clerkenwell Road is your, unlikely, destination.
I’m just old enough to remember the classic chippy; the great towering counter from where a pair of big, beefy, arms would lower down a paper-wrapped parcel to my ten-year old self far below. As I carried it away, Dad would pay for it in pounds, shillings and pence. Yes, I am a pre-decimalian.
Of course, as everyone knows, the combination of the rising price of fish did the classic chippy no good at all. It was no longer an affordable treat, and in any case the punters were being lured away by the new and madly exotic flavours of things like sweet and sour pork and chicken vindaloo.
So, it’s good to see that United Chip first of all actually looks like a proper chippy. Brightly lit with simple furniture and a counter that is reasonably high, even if it’s not the towering Formica cliff that I remember.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœWe cook the fish fresh, so it will be eight minutes or so,’ says the man behind the counter.’Is that okay?’. It says something for our modern eating habits that he fears I might not be prepared to wait eight minutes for freshly cooked food. Yes, of course it’s okay.
Sustainable, high quality fish (Atlantic cod, Haddock and Pollock) are on the menu, in three meal sizes depending on your appetite. I went for the mid ranger haddock at £9 and traditional chips, no Belgian fries for me, viva la Brexit baby. No, seriously, I just prefer big chips with my fish.
While I waited the eight minutes I nibbled a cone of deep-fried squid rings with one of the complimentary sauces that you can pick up from the counter – Tartare sauce, Sweet chilli, Bangkok mayo, Aioli. I went for the tartare, which could have been more pickly.
The squid was good though, not the rubber rings they sell you on the Costas with that weirdly smooth batter, these were properly uneven in shape and crunchy with crisp batter. Well-cooked squid, not a hint of bounce.
I’m rather ashamed to say that I also ordered a Battered Dingly Dell pork sausage, I just had to for old time’s sake. Very good sausage, not the sad horse’s doobry that we used to snigger over in the old days.
The fish and chips come in a box. I like that as, of course, cardboard is recyclable but it’s also very good at retaining heat. The chips really are old-skool, all different sizes and with lots of those crispy fragments that were always the best bits for me.
I’m a bit unsure about curry sauce and mushy peas. The latter were occasionally eaten back in my day, but curry sauce was really only something that people north of Watford ate, along with boiled whippets. Still, I order some to try.
The curry sauce is really rather excellent, I could eat this and the chips all night. Personally though I do find it a distraction from the fish, which is too nice to drown in any kind of sauce. The mushy peas are a bit thick, I like mine a bit runnier.
There’s a choice of wines, craft beers and ciders and there’s even cold lager on tap. An innovation that would have helped the chippy of old fight back against the curry houses – after all, one of their big attractions was offering alcohol after 11pm.
If you don’t like fish there’s the options of a Soft Shell crab burger and Prawn burger, plus a homemade fish finger sandwich and panko bread crumbed halloumi. So, something for everyone, then.
Good prices, well-sourced fish and bloody good batter. The chippy strikes back.