The Brits may have invented fish ‘n’ chips, but we sure as hell perfected it. Australia is internationally renowned for the quality of its seafood, and there’s no question we have some of the best beaches in the world. Although in these fancy modern times the humble fish ‘n’ chips can often be unrecognisable, especially when so-called gourmands in Sydney or Melbourne get hold of them: we’re talking delicate cubes of translucent sashimi in designer containers, nestled on a bed of rocket with a few sweet potato slices masquerading as chips.
As 100 Greatest Gourmet Experiences Judging Panellist Michael Ryan says: “It’s hard to get good ones . . . but when it’s great, it’s really great.”
No, no and no. This trend is unacceptable. You want white paper (loads of), brown or white vinegar (to taste), non-soggy chips (with a good mix of shapely long ones and crispy stubby ones), a decent bit of fish (you may, in these health-conscious times, opt for grilled over battered, but only if you MUST), maybe a dim sim or some calamari to mix it up, a wedge of lemon, some salt and some tartar and that’s IT.
Now, take the lot very quickly to the nearest beach. For best results, that beach will be a quick dash in thongs across a road or grassy verge. If there’s a car ride involved, relish this moment with the just bearable hot pillow of goodness on your lap and the car filling quickly with the smell of your childhood (and vinegar). Those with poor discipline might poke a hole in the paper at this point, letting loose a blast of steam and one or two chips “just for testing”. Try to resist. Then, one you’re settled, just enjoy. Whether it’s a shared-around feast for the whole family, a romantic sunset experience for two, or even devoured by yourself, as 100 Greatest Gourmet Experiences Judging Panellist Michael Ryan says: “It’s hard to get good ones . . . but when it’s great, it’s really great.”
PS: Just don’t feed the seagulls.
Where: Everyone has a favourite local fish ‘n’ chip shop, then it’s just a matter of choosing from one of the 8000-plus beaches Australia is blessed with.
Did you know: One of the earliest references to “chips” comes in this delightful phrase from Dickens’ 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities: “Husky chips of potatoes, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.”