The best fish and chips in London
In 2014, the Golden Hind celebrated 100 years of providing solid fish suppers to the residents of Marylebone – almost as long as the dish has been in existence. It’s therefore no surprise that the kitchen team have their craft well honed. Our haddock was exceptional, with a light, wonderfully grease-free batter. Chips were chunky and perfectly seasoned mushy peas were a treat, providing more than just a splash of colour on the plate.
Cast an eye over the menu and it’s evident that Golden Union can talk the talk – fish delivered daily from sustainable waters, grade-A potatoes, a combo of two frying oils changed at least four times a week, and freshly made beer batter. The point is, it can walk the walk too. Fish is chunky, flaky and perfectly cooked in a light, crispy, complementary casing; chips are crisp, firm and fluffy; pies and fish cakes are own-made and look it – there seems to be no weak point.
There are so many possible variations on the theme of deep-frying seafood and potatoes. Hence, the kitchen team at Kerbisher & Malt tweak every stage of the process to make the food as appealing as possible. This means high-quality fillets dunked in floaty-light batter, cooked freshly to order. Chips are double-fried, the tartare sauce is rich and made in-house, and the onion rings have been ‘pickled’, adding an appealing vinegar tang.
Frills there aren’t, but this white- and blue-fronted spot often produces gasps of delight at the sheer freshness and just-so cooking of its fish. The second thing you need to know is that batter’s off the menu: it’s matzo, or matzo and egg, if you want the fish fried. Portions are generous and fillets of cod or haddock typically stretch off each side of the plate. Anything other than chips and simple salad on the side would have got in the way.
Poppies’ pick and mix assortment of shiny British kitsch – including a jukebox, mini red telephone box and a monochrome photo of heart-throb Cliff Richard – makes it look like a simulation of a fish and chip shop. The food on the plate is also better than the real thing. The Billingsgate-sourced fish is so fresh that diners are offered the option of having it grilled as well as fried. Extending beyond the staples of cod and haddock, the menu encompasses mackerel, seafood platters and jellied eels.
With monkfish, Maldon oysters and moules marinière on the menu, this is smarter than most chippies. But Sutton & Sons knows on which side its bread is buttered, catering as it does for Stoke Newington foodies. Natural and attentive staff, sustainable fish (from its fishmonger across the road) and locally brewed beer signify a top-notch chip shop.
The dark-wood panelled interior probably seemed retro when Toff’s was established back in 1968. This Muswell Hill stalwart is a true one-off; the corporate slickness comes from being a long-established family business that knows what it’s doing and knows that people like it. Little changes here, but we were pleased to note that, unlike many London chippies, the business has joined the Marine Stewardship Council and sources fish from sustainable stocks. Fish is cooked to order and batter is the norm; egg and matzo, or grilling, bring a surcharge.
Although this looks like a London cabby’s chip shop, its adherents are far more widespread. Every lunchtime, businessmen, hungry locals and passing trade wander into this blast from the city’s culinary past. Furnishings don’t seem to have changed much in the 50-plus years since fish were first fried here. It’s a cosy little spot, with Formica-topped tables, long benches and an old-school menu up on the wall. New restaurants may try to recreate this ‘retro’ look, but Fryer’s is effortlessly genuine.
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With bargain prices and proper British food, this pie and mash house is something of an anomaly among the tourist traps of Covent Garden Market. It’s housed in one of the refurbished subterranean arches, keeping the traditional exterior and flagstone floor, but the fixtures and fittings are stylish and modern: bright white tiles, polished marble tables and a shiny counter. Besides the traditional fillings such as steak and mushroom with stout, minced beef and onion, or chicken and mushroom are less expected versions such as butternut squash and goat’s cheese or salmon, cod and prawns. They all have pleasingly firm crusts. A chicken and mushroom costs a mere fiver and creamy, well-whipped mash an extra £2.75. Rich red-wine gravy arrived separately in a miniature jug. Ingredient quality was exemplary throughout – so much so that, even though full, we attempted to finish a sticky toffee pudding (£4.75 and also tip-top) between two of us. Even for a counter-service place this little caff is terrific value – and is the exception to the rule that central Covent Garden is best avoided by the bargain hunter.
Venue says: “Why not come in and try some delicious seasonal red cabbage with your pie and mash. Don't forget to include lashings of gravy!”