Tag Archives: fish and chips

More Scones, More Chips

Really, the things I do for research.

First, I had scones at Minsmere Nature Reserve. They were big, reasonably priced and fruity. They were also much better than the ones we had on Wednesday, though that was not difficult.

The ones we had on Wednesday, during a visit to a craft centre, were “short” according to Julia. This is baker-talk for crumbly.

Actually they turned to dust as if they’d been tightly-wrapped in bandages 3,000 years ago and left in the pocket of an ancient pharaoh until recently rediscovered. They also tasted of baking powder, which is generally considered a bad thing.

The ones at Minsmere were far better. They wouldn’t be worth a special journey, but they are a safe choice if you find yourself on the Suffolk coast with an odd corner to fill.

While I was eating the scones I looked at some of the signs. They are really taking things seriously – possibly too seriously. I may come back to this subject later.

Later in the day we went back to Aldeburgh for fish and chips. We were there before five o’clock. There were two chip shops open this time and they already had small queues starting. I don’t think the people of Aldeburgh exist on fish and chips, by the way. Second homes make up about a third of the yown’s residential property and I suspect many of them are used by people who don’t cook.

They come in a specially made bag with greaseproof paper lining – very technical.

The chips were good – well-cooked and tasty. The fish was also good, with nice big fresh flakes. Again, we passed on the peas as they are tricky to eat in the car.

Were they worth the effort? Well, they were very good. They were probably as good as the ones from Saxmundham the night before. But they probably weren’t good enough to justify two trips to Aldeburgh.

Fish and Chips at Cromer

I’ll jump ahead a bit, missing out the rest of the Hunstanton visit and Cromer Pier and getting straight to the chips.

When a chip shop calls itself Number One, even if it is at No 1 New Street, it’s making a big statement. When this is backed up by fish and chips at £12.50 it’s doing the same, as you can generally get them for £9.50. So was it really 25% better than the average fish and chip shop?

Difficult to say.

I had hake and Julia had rock (which used to be called rock salmon in the days before trades description legislation).

I’m not sure if either of them were up to the mark. The rock was a bit soft compared to the shark I’ve had before, which has always been quite fibrous, and the hake was a bit too fishy. I believe that hake is generally more fish flavoured than other fish, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though again, it seemed a bit soft and didn’t flake well.

Hake and Chips in Cromer

Hake and Chips in Cromer

Portion size was good, batter was OK – not quite crisp enough for my taste. They were served seasoned with sea salt. When I’d read this on the menu I imagined a light sprinkle of salt, not the amount that ended up piled on the fish. Look at the photo for an idea of what happened. Too much salt!

The chips, on the other hand, were excellent. Big, crispy and plentiful.

Tartare sauce was tangy and had a great flavour. Ten out of ten for that.

The peas, on the other hand, were bland. We had the non-minted ones – I suppose the minted ones would have been a better choice. I don’t know how you can make bland peas, particulalrly when there was plenty of salt on the fish.

There’s no excuse for poor peas. They should have remembered the 6 P Rule.

Proper Preparation Prevents Peas Poor Performance.

We’re currently discussing this meal – Julia says she would go back again. I say I probably wouldn’t. It wasn’t bad, but I don’t think it was any better than some of the cheaper offerings from less glitzy shops.

 

 

An Expensive Mistake

This is probably the best example you could have of how out of step I feel with modern life. Apologies is you are becoming tired of my view on this subject, but I have to blog or burst.

On Monday afternoon we went to the new East Bridgford Garden Centre. A perfectly good local garden centre has been taken over, new buildings erected, a massive car park built and a slice of retail Hell has been grafted onto the Nottinghamshire countryside.

I’m sure, from the crowd of people, that it will be popular, and that it fills a need in the lives of many people. This need isn’t necessarily for plants as most people seem to have left without visible purchases. It is also providing a lot of jobs, though they are mainly, it seems, for teenagers. Older people, as in people in their thirties, don’t seem to have much of a place here.

We didn’t see any of the staff who used to work at he old centre and Max the Parrot has gone too. It appears that he went to live elsewhere during the building work and liked it so much that he decided to stay.

A likely story. I think he was handed his P45 as part of the move from Garden Centre to slick corporate retail outlet.

Anyway, back to the fish and chips. They were a familiar and, we thought, safe, choice in a rather confusing cafe.

They gave us a “locator” for the table – a high tech version of a number on a stick. The tea arrived, just ahead of the meal. My thoughts were that the tea could have been a bit quicker and the main meal was available quicker than I was expecting.

The staff were quick, efficient and cheerful and the locator seemed to work well.

And that was as good as it got.

The fish portion was small. The chips were large, though not numerous. The tartare sauce came in a cheap paper cup, the watercress garnish was a bit of an afterthought. And the peas…

For £10.95 you expect a goodly dollop. What we got was a smear. Julia’s photograph exaggerates the size of the portion. I wasn’t sure whether it was the promised pea and mint puree or just a leftover from a poor attempt at washing up.

Fish and Chips East Bridgford

Undoubtedly the worst fish I’ve had for years

The good news was that the sauce was tangy, the caramelised lemon was juicy, the chips were well cooked and the pea and mint puree was delicious, even if it was brief.

Bad news – the fish was the worst I’d had in thirty years.

It was small, thin and had a pasty consistency with only a few discernible flakes. Mainly it was tasteless, and in parts was so bland as to be unpleasant, which probably explained why there was salt on the plate when the meal arrived – an attempt to introduce flavour.

It took me back to market day in Uttoxeter thirty years ago. I had fish and chips in a cafe – the fish was thin, bland and, as I got to the centre, still frozen.

I really don’t know what to say. It wasn’t good value from the quantity point of view, and it was inexcusably poor from the quality point of view.

Surroundings were clean and bright, staff were great but the food is the important bit, and it was dreadful.

It’s very unlikely we’ll be going back.

 

The Piers of Lowestoft

There are two piers at Lowestoft – the South Pier and the Claremont Pier. The Claremont Pier is, I assume, named after something or someone named Claremont, but none of the published sources seem to mention who it is. Confusingly, the South Pier is, according to my map, north of the Claremont.

This called for some heavy-duty lucubration. (Yes, I’ve been reading that website again).

Things fell into place with a quick look on Google Maps. The South Pier, though North of the Claremont Pier, is actually South of the North Pier. The North and South Piers are the concrete breakwaters that form the harbour.

Like so many words, we expect quite a lot of it and it means at least three things.

This becomes clearer when you start to walk along the South Pier, which, in some ways,  isn’t a pier – it’s just concrete. There are no legs, no boards and no sight of the sea underfoot. Chris Foote Wood, in Walking Over the Waves, is considers that it isn’t really a pier at all. However, as he points out, the National Piers Society says it is, and they have the final word on the subject.

The South Pier is quite good, apart from the puzzling name and the lack of legs and stuff. When you drive up to it, it appears to be quite an elegant Edwardian building situated conveniently close to a large car park. As you park, you notice that the elegant pavilion isn’t part of the pier. It’s actually the East Point Pavilion and, according to the internet is only 25 years old.

Ah well!

The South Pier has a traditionally garish front (I speak only for my lifetime – obviously if I was Victorian I’d have a different idea of tradition) with plenty of amusements. It then has a concrete deck, a notice about lobster pots, a lifeboat shop and a trawler that is open to the public. We wondered about the lobster pots, and when we saw someone throwing what looked like a keep net into the water Julia asked him about it.

That morning he had caught prawns and shrimps (which I thought were the same thing) and some crabs. He does catch lobsters now and then, which was a surprise as I’d never thought of them being caught off the east coast. He uses bacon as bait. This would work for me too, as I’d be happy to crawl into a net for bacon.

From the pier you can see a massive crane on the other side of the dock. This, according to the internet, is based on the North Pier and is doing construction work.

Unlike many east coast piers, which had sections removed to stop them being used by the Germans (see previous comments) the South Pier couldn’t be breached, though it was damaged by German bombing. Around 20 bombs fell on the harbour, with one falling next to the pier and one destroying the reading room/pavilion.

Lowestoft was bombed 90 times during the war and suffered 261 fatalities. It isn’t much compared to the bombing of London or Germany, but it must have been a massive contrast to the holiday season of 1939 when the town was crammed with holidaymakers and the pier was full of happy faces.

The South Pier is linked to the Claremont Pier by a road train along the sea front. It’s based on Thomas the Tank Engine, though I suspect that Thomas is considerably faster – we used it and had trouble overtaking pedestrians. A pair of joggers actually overtook us.

I was surprised how many people waved at us as we went by. People aren’t normally that pleased to see me. The proprietors of “all you can eat” buffets are particularly not pleased to see me.

The Claremont Pier doesn’t have a buffet but it does host a selection of eating outlets, which mainly seemed closed. I suppose you have to do whatever pays the bills but restaurants that only open in the evening don’t really make for a cheery atmosphere during the day. Nor does an empty roller-skating rink, despite the flashing lights. It really isn’t my sort of thing (I last wore roller skates around 50 years ago, fell down a lot and ended up bruised and annoyed) so I didn’t feel inclined to have a go. That just leaves the amusements, and it was a bit hot for getting excited in a confined, badly ventilated, space.

The pier’s website shows photos of the eating places and bars, and it does seem to be a much brighter place to be when they are open. If I lived 150 miles closer I’d be seriously tempted by their Sunday Lunch offer, though “beef jus” isn’t really my style. I’m a gravy man. The menu for Scott’s, the restaurant that does fish and chips, looks interesting, and seems to be hammering the local Redpoll population. I notice they do that thing where they miss the £ sign off, as it makes food seem cheaper. Looking at their prices you can see why.  Note also that prices are for fish – you have to buy the chips as an extra. I was a bit miffed that the special at Sutton on Sea didn’t include tea. Guess what I think about chips being treated as an extra.

As part of a developing theme, the bulk of the pier is merely a seagull playground. It’s a shame, as the walk is often the best bit of the pier. It can be particularly memorable when accompanied by spongy boards and the fear of plummeting through the broken deck into the sea. Let’s face it, when you’re my size this can be a consideration even on a well-maintained pier.

Chips at the Dolphin

I’ve been going to the Dolphin fish and chip restaurant for around 30 years. When I sold chickens to farmers in Lincolnshire I would make a detour two or three times a year to walk round Sutton and then have lunch at the Dolphin.

We have been most years, either with the kids or just as a couple. It was always OK rather than outstanding, but has always been a pleasant place to eat. Over the years various owners have made improvements, though this has been accompanied by the occasional lapse, and in the last few years, they seem to have been selling off household goods to raise cash. It did start to look a bit like a jumble sale, but when we visited on Wednesday it was a lot tidier.

It has also grown an assortment of notices prohibiting various sorts of behaviour. I can’t give examples as I didn’t really read them. I prefer my food without too many petty rules.

Haddock Special at the Dolphin Fish Bar, Sutton on Sea

Haddock Special at the Dolphin Fish Bar, Sutton on Sea

The Haddock Special was £9.95, not £8.95 as stated in various reviews, and tea is not included in that. The chip portion was sufficient, though not generous, and the peas were also served in a smaller pot than we remember. That wasn’t the worst thing though, they were a bit tasteless too. All in all, not the best “special” we’ve had.

You can’t order at the table now either. It’s not a big thing, but it is a sign of the erosion of standards of service.

Finally, on that subject, when someone asked for tapwater they were told it was 50p a glass. Now, the law states that only places selling alcohol have to provide tapwater free of charge, and they are, it seems, allowed to charge for service and use of the glass. As the Dolphin doesn’t serve alcohol they don’t need to offer free tapwater, but on the other hand, it’s another nail in the coffin of customer service.

However, if you have a dog with you, you are welcome to bring the germ-ridden fleabag into the eating area, where I have no doubt it will be provided with free water, and if that’s not enough you can even buy frozen lactose-free yoghurt for your dog.

Frozen yoghurt for dogs - what next?

Frozen yoghurt for dogs – what next?

The staff were quick, efficient and reasonably cheerful, though they were arguably too efficient in clearing tables. I finished before Julia, as I come from a family of predatory snackers and speed is the best defence against food theft. The way they whipped my plate from the table was undeniably efficient, but felt like they were trying to get rid of me as soon as possible.

So that’s the report – declining portion size and a couple of queries over peas and service. It’s clean and efficient, and the food is generally good, but not so good we can’t find somewhere else equally as good. We will probably do that next time.

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Wall tiles – Sutton on Sea

Fish and Chips in Felixstowe

When we arrived in Felixstowe we found the sea front and threw the car into the first parking space we found.

Fortunately the space was just across the road from the Regal Fish bar, which looks like a poky fish and chip shop from the outside, and a hollowed out hotel from the inside. There’s a choice of large or medium fish. I had a medium haddock (with chips and peas) and Julia had a large plaice with chips and salad. She fancied plaice and they only do large plaice, so she opted for salad to make it a bit healthier. She says…

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Large plaice on a large plate

The medium haddock was quite large too.

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Medium haddock – it was good despite looking like it had died writhing in agony

I really don’t know what to say now. It was excellent fish with good chips and good peas. I’d be happy to eat it every day.

So, excellent food, bright, clean surroundings and friendly staff. Beef dripping again. I forgot to check on gluten-free alternatives again. I must start checking that so I can look like a concerned and touchy-feely member of the 21st Century.

Don’t worry, I’m not softening, I’m just pretending to be concerned.

Meanwhile I saw this notice in the toilets – it seems that modern life is a lot more complicated than I thought. If Julia ever gets rid of me I’m going to become a monk. The vows won’t be much of a problem – after 30 years of marriage and 25 years with kids I’ve got the obedience and poverty cracked.

I can’t see the tonsure being much of a problem either.

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The complexity of modern life

 

 

Full Speed Ahead, and Damn the Cholesterol!

The first life-threatening dietary experience of the holiday was fish and chips in Sheringham. We started the day with bran flakes in the hotel room and, after a long, hot walk round Strumpshaw Fen decided it was time to head off in search of a pier.

I think it’s time to reveal that we have set ourselves the target of visiting every pleasure pier on mainland Britain. This may expand to encompass Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight, but then again, it may not. There are about 65 of them and based on the events of this week I may run out of cash and stamina before I see them all.

We tried Cromer pier, but couldn’t find anywhere to park. They seem to have obtained a large supply of No Entry signs since last time we visited, about 15 years ago. What with the one way system and the road works we tried three different ways to get round and failed each time. Eventually, after a seven point turn in a narrow street, I broke the cycle and parked behind the church, only to find out that all the space was reserved for disabled drivers and taxis. One of the reasons I hadn’t noticed this before parking was that the painted signs were faded. The other was that there were no disabled drivers or taxis using the spaces. This was to become a familiar pattern of the holiday.

That effectively broke my spirit and I decided to call it a day and head for Sheringham. You can park in Sheringham, next to the station with a preserved steam railway and a Victorian Penfold letter box (originally in use 1866-79). They seem rather more welcoming in Sheringham.

We eventually ended up in the Sheringham Trawler, a bright and cheery fish and chip restaurant. I was going to link to an information site – visitsheringham.co.uk – but they have a notice on the page telling me not to link to them without permission. While I can understand them having a problem with me stealing content I’m not sure why it’s a problem for me to link to them. They are, after all, a site that you would think would want exposure for Sheringham.

The establishment was, as I said, bright and cheery. They have pictures of local scenes on the walls and a programme of local events in the menu. The staff were great and the menu was good, though as long as they have haddock and chips with mushy peas all menus are good for me.

When the meal arrived it lived up to our hopes, being very tasty, generous in the portion department ans accompanied by a good-sized lemon wedge and a plastic container of tartare sauce. I suppose we shouldn’t be using so much plastic but that and the fact that they don’t tell you where the fish comes from, were the only two negative points that I can think of.

The batter was light and crisp too, which I forgot to mention earlier.

Another nice touch was the use of beef dripping for frying. It’s supposed to be healthier than more fashionable fats and why just upset vegetarians when you can also offend pescatarians and Hindus too.

I have a low opinion of pescatarians, so this is a plus point.