Saturday, September 24, 2011

Fish & Chips

Yesterday I embarked on a mission to find the best of England's arguably most famous food, fish and chips. Although I've had fish and chips countless times in the states, I was very excited for my first real British fish and chips. I imagined them to be a world of difference between the authentic local favorite and that served in random restaurants in suburbia USA. To complete this challenge, I decided to eat at The Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. During a walking tour of London our guide pointed it out to us, describing it as a "world famous chippy," as did the restaurant's large outdoor umbrellas. Trusting out guide, we chose it as our first chippy experience. It is located on a cute, quieter, cobblestone side street. The outside dining area is comprised of about 5 heavy wooden tables all covered by a large green and white umbrella, boasting Rock and Sole's fame. Gas torches warm the outdoor seating area and give it a more secluded feel from the mix of tourists, cyclists, locals, and everyone in between brushing past on the street. The inside has several tables and an open kitchen, of sorts (they only really make fish and chips so it's essentially just several deep friers and a small prep area). The restaurant does have a few more tables downstairs but charges less money for food ordered to go, an incentive of small restaurants here that I've noticed quiet a lot. The restaurant sounds awesome right? World famous, quieter area of Covenant Garden, outdoor seating, a neighborhood hippy since 1871, an ally to the homeless during World War II...

Not so much. Firstly, I was expecting a more pub atmosphere where I could enjoy a nice draft while I noshed on my fish and chips. They only had one beer, in a bottle (!), and even ordering water was a pain, we had to ask three times for one refill! The food was also a slight disappointment. The chips, fries for all my fellow yankees, were delicious. I poured some malt vinegar over them and they were the perfect combination of crispy, tart, and salty. The fish however was less impressive. The waitress told us, despite offering 6 choices for fish, that Cod and Haddock were the classics so I ordered Haddock and my dining companions all ordered Cod. The breading was great! Both types of fish were breaded in a crunchy, flavorful breading of ground nuts that really gave a flavor to the fish and not just a fried taste. However, after biting into the delicious breading, all you tasted was the oil and grease. It was like a separate layer completely between the breading and the fish, and it was very difficult to overlook. The haddock was well cooked and I thought paired better with the breading than the cod, which seemed completely overpowered by the nut mixture. Despite being a well cooked piece of fish with a delicious breading, we all felt a little ill after eating only half of our fish serving because of all the grease.

My first attempt at finding great, authentic, life-changing fish and chips was not a total fail but not really a success either. At least I have a new mission: to find London's very, very best fish and chips. And I'm off on my mission!
Rock & Sole Plaice on Urbanspoon

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