Wednesday, 14 February 2018

United Chip, Clerkenwell


Being a fish and chip fan in London is hard, and you become wearily used to disappointment. Soggy old fish kept warm for too long in hot cabinets, batter too thick, batter too thin, chips too skinny, chips too fat, and the worst crime of all, the one truly unforgivable fish and chip violation, crushed minted garden peas instead of mushy peas. You're more likely than not to suffer one of the above list in your search for a decent fix in London, and the chances of you finding anything as good as even the most second-tier chippie up in Southport, or Blackpool, or Whitby, are pretty much nil.


So I was visiting United Chip more out of hope than expectation. I was also desperately trying to keep an open mind after a press release boasting an interior of "millennial pinks and soft greys... that linger in the memory" and of putting a "unique spin on a tired concept". Listen, mate, fish and chips is not a "tired concept". It's just that nobody south of Watford knows what the bloody hell they're doing with it. What we're waiting for isn't to match our dinner with craft beer in a "contemporary and vibrant" space but for someone - anyone - within Zone 6 to just do it properly for once.


How annoying, then, that United Chip turned out to be really rather good. Not the Swan Southport good, not Senior's Blackpool good, but good, and in London, quite frankly I'll take good. Yes, there are annoyances; the communal seating, the soundtrack of Morrissey's most recent "obnoxious dickhead" period, the fact that all the food is served in takeaway pizza boxes whether you're eating in or not. But they appear to know what makes good fish and chips, and how to achieve it, which puts them head and shoulders above most anywhere else in town.


It's also pretty good value. A "small" cod and chips is £7.50, and it really isn't that small at all. The fish was cooked perfectly, in a crisp, delicate batter and boasted lovely bright white, flaky flesh. Chips had a good crunch and were nice and soft inside, and despite being piled up inside a cardboard box managed to keep their texture 'till the last one was hoovered up. Doused in salt and malt vinegar, this was more than acceptable F&C work.


So, a "unique spin on a tired concept"? Not really. This was very solidly traditional fish and chips, done well, albeit served in a self-consciously "branded" room alongside craft beers and a selection of silly sauces. It won't be anyone's nirvana, least of all those lucky enough to pay regular visits up north, but it's guaranteed to be better than your local London pub's version, and possibly even cheaper, too. Oh, and the mushy peas? I'm afraid I didn't try them, but am assured they're proper, and don't involve garden peas or mint or crushed anything. And that alone gives me reason to return.

7/10

13 comments:

Alex C said...

A decent fish and chip shop is sadly a rarity. I got quite overexcited when I read about one on my way home from work www.stonesfishandchips.co.uk that had won the 2018 best newcomer award from these guys www.fishandchipawards.com.

It was decent quality fish and the batter tasted nice but my overall impression was disctinctly 'Meh'

That said the google reviews and my colleague have been very nice about them too so I might have had overheightened expectations and was hoping for somegthing as good as the Aldeburgh fish and chip shop (queues down the street and served by enterprising publicans along the way on a Friday night). I might have been unrealistic.

Tonimoroni said...

Never had you down as a Fish and Chip fan. Do you - or anyone else - have any London recommendations?

Chris Pople said...

Tonimoroni: In a word, no. Other than United Chip. Golden Hind used to be good but isn't any more.

Anonymous said...

Ace Plaice in West Norwood! Haven't been for a while, but Fishcotheque in Waterloo used to be quite nice :)

Anonymous said...

Brockley's Rock in Brockley is very good. Won quite a few awards too.

Liana said...

Another vote for Brockle’s rock.

Anonymous said...

Chris, I usually find myself in agreement with you but to say nobody knows what they're doing south of Watford is crazy. For instance Fryer's delight on Theobald's road can surely be counted as good fish and chips and Rock & Sole Plaice in Covent Garden is excellent, although pricey, to name but two in walking distance from my office.

Chris Pople said...

Anon: I've tried both those places and didn't like them, sorry! Fryer's Delight is about 2 min from the office and I would be a regular if it was even halfway decent. The fish wasn't cooked to order, for example, on my visit, just retrieved from the counter cabinet. Rock & Sole Plaice to be fair I've not been to in years but I clearly didn't think it worth reviewing, or going back to...

Timbuc Nelson said...

You overlooked another crime against decent fish & chips. Almost everyone down here leaves the skin on the fish. It looks like they haven't from the photo, can you confirm?

Chris Pople said...

Timbuc: Yep, was skinless.

Anonymous said...

my local chippy the Fish House in Brentwood is fantastic and have just started offering grilled fish as an option which is awesome as ive had heart surgery and arent allowed nice things anymore. When i ate the good stuff i found it just as good as ones by my missus in Newcastle. Its a shame the town and county is a generally a gastronomic wasteland though.

Mushy peas of course. None of the ones in my town do crushed peas etc only mushies. Oh and you can eat in too no box/bag steamed chips hmmm.

The one next to Grange Hill station did fish in matzo meal and was fab too. Been a few years since i was back that way though.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I agree about Rock & sole plaice - haven't been for years but it wasn't great when I did. I hear Poppies on Old Compton St is pretty good, but the person who told me that thought Twilight was a good book so all her opinions are suspect.

It's me again said...

Chez Fred Westbourne nr Bournemouth, very good. Seniors was not as good last time I ate there, better than most London places I would bet. Rockfish Dartmouth all good. Rockfish Plymouth great take away, not so brilliant restaurant Fish and Chip Friday £3 every 3rd Friday of the month. I believe Kingfisher Fish and Chips in Plympton, Plymouth, Devon has been crowned the best fish and chip shop in the UK at the 'Oscars' of the fish frying industry. The shop scooped the ultimate title - Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year - at the 2017 National Fish & Chip Awards. I have not been there yet.

I grew up in the North West, fish and chips were on the whole better back then for sure. Probably wont be getting Fish and chips when I visit London.