My punishing quest for the best fish and chips in London hit a new low on a return visit to Fish Bone, a much-praised chippie on Cleveland Street in Central London. At lunchtime there is always a queue.
When the young man in a hygienic trilby hat (right) served me the lone cod fillet idling in the heated fish display cabinet I told him I wanted a freshly fried one. He balked, insisting it had only been sitting two minutes. I relented.
Neither freshly unfrozen nor freshly battered and fried, the cod also had a strange, stale, almost burnt taste. I flipped the fillet over and found a dark, blistered patch on its hidden underside. I showed this piece of nasty business to the young man in the hat. He was unapologetic. “That’s how we cook our fish.”
At best the talented Mr Trilby was lying defensively to cover up his mishandling of a single order. At worst he was telling the truth: It was now standard practice at Fish Bone to first deep-fry its battered fillets and later finish them off under or over a grill, the heating element in the display case or elsewhere. Either way, twice-cooking may be good for fried potatoes but not for fried fish – not, anyway, in this way. For a restaurant specialising in fish and chips microwaving might even have been the lesser evil.
Here, have a closer look. Pretty cod-awful, isn’t it?
Fish Bone – 82 Cleveland St, London W1T 6NF