Wednesdays get a bad rap… the midweek blues… humpday… something which you need to haul your bones past so you can get over the serious business of hurrying towards the weekend. Fish and chips in the south has likewise managed to so often fill me the same sense of disappointment.
I grew up in Whitby, North Yorkshire, AKA the fish and chips capital of the world, see also Dracula Town, and “where old goths go to die”. But seriously good fish and chips, even the late A. A. Gill doled out a critically endangered 4 stars for his takeaway from my childhood favourite The Magpie. Now imaging the challenge of living up to these standards and being gluten free. I will be honest, I had pretty much given up and forlorn glimmer of hope.
Don’t worry, you can put the violins away, it gets better, I promise! While I was working over in NW3 I noticed a huge Gluten Free Wednesdays sign in the window of Oliver’s Fish & Chips… that has the potential to make a Wednesday my favourite workday!
I will fully confess to my schoolgirl error on my first visit, in my over eagerness to get there bright and early, I got there too early, before the oil had not hit its sweet spot. The result was some excellent fish, some serious cod, huge flakes and perfectly cooked, in slightly anaemic batter, which had a slightly noticeable buckwheat flavour. Yes… Beki vs Buckwheat again… The joy of having good chippy chips, however meant that I left counting down the days until the next Wednesday when I could get another try!
Next time around I waited impatiently until a bit later in the afternoon, but made it in time to still take advantage of their lunchtime combination deal – fish, chips and either a soft drink or a coffee. They do a decent coffee too, but lets be honest I am not here to talk about coffee right now. This visit I had the cod again, and this time the batter was much better. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something missing. This was good, no mistake but it was missing something, which I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
Next visit I opted for the haddock, in the interest of reportage, or me being miss piggy, I will let you decide. I also checked out the mushy peas, and after my server checked I was told these were definitely gluten free so I decided to see if that was the missing piece of the puzzle. The haddock was again, excellent quality fish, and because it has a slightly stronger flavour compared to cod, the buckwheat in the batter wasn’t noticeable at all. The mushy peas were minty and fresh and went quite some way to filling the jigsaw. I was impressed… a serviceable gluten free fish and chips… In London!!
On my last visit while I was working over that way, I picked up a takeaway. Their portion sizes have always been huge so I went for the small portion of cod bites in GF batter and chips, with a side of mushy peas. This is when I found the missing piece of the jigsaw… at the counter they offered GF vinegar too… it all came together perfectly, but left me feeling a bit sad that I hadn’t been offered this when I was dining in! I will definitely miss my weekly feast now I’m not based over there, my waistband, maybe less so!
So there you have it, genuine northerner approved gluten free fish and chips right here in the capital! Oliver’s is a 5 minute walk up Haverstock Hill from Chalk Farm just out of Camden. If you go, just be sure to go HUNGRY!