It’s one of London’s best known and most loved dishes, and quite possibly the greatest coupling of all time. But it’s also one of the hardest to get right. As such, London’s finest fried fish is lost in an ocean of greasy mediocrity, and its chips in a sea of sogginess.
But like pearls in oysters, a good chippy does appear once in a while — one where the fish is always fresh, the batter crunchy and the chips fluffy. Here’s our pick of those pearls, all of which offer decent dining-in options as well as takeaway...
Both the Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack in Fitzrovia have fish and chips on the menu — beer battered North Sea haddock and beef dripping chunky chips, to be exact. The batter is made using a Japanese tempura mix making it seriously crispy, while we found the fish within to be firm, meaty and moist. Homemade ketchup and mushy peas are final flourishes, while the seaside-style decor sets the scene perfectly.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, 21a Foley Street, W1W 6DS (alas, the Exmouth Market branch is no more).
This old-school Clerkenwell institution appears to have barely changed in all its years of existence (it opened in 1968), and that’s a very good thing. It’s all about the fish — serving a range that spans grilled sardines, oysters and lobster — and as a consequence deals only in the freshest of the stuff. It really shows through in the flaky, moist and sweet-tasting cod that gently steams within a light but crunchy batter. The chunky chips are very decent too, but there are mixed reports on the rest of the menu (we've only tried the fish and chips).
Fish Central, 49-151 Central Street, EC1V 8AP
The Fish Club
There are many variations on fish and chips, and sheer choice is the biggest strength of this restaurant with branches in Clapham and Battersea. As well as selecting from an array of freshly delivered fish — from sardines and mackerel to bream and sole — customers can decide if they’d like it pan-fried, grilled, baked or deep-fried. Sustainability is another strength, which is why it’s coley — not cod or haddock — that takes top billing. It’s just as moist and flaky, and a seaside-worthy success when coated in a crisp beer batter and served alongside pert double-cooked chips. We’d highly recommend some smoked sprats on the side.
The Fish Club, 57 Clapham High Street, SW4 7TG
Golden Union Fish Bar
This sleek and modern-looking Soho chippie uses a carefully planned blend of oils for frying, sourced only sustainable fish, and serves battered halloumi. Its fish is among the flakiest, well-seasoned and highly-flavoured we’ve tried, that its batter is reliably crisp and chewy, and that the chips are soft and fluffy. A combination of quality and its central location will be to blame for a large cod and chips costing a steep £13.50, but it is worth it.
Golden Union Fish Bar, 38 Poland Street, W1F 7LY
Kerbisher & Malt
Another gastro-chippie group, there are Kerbisher restaurants in Brook Green, Clapham, Ealing and Mortlake. Fat crisp chips (possibly the best on this list), pleasantly chewy batter and proper mushy peas all go in its favour, while the freshness of the fish being served is unquestionable. We also like its breezy seaside vibe, though you’re at no risk of being pooped on by a seagull.
Kerbisher & Malt, various locations
To say that it’s styled so as to “recreate East End London between 1945 and 1955” makes Poppies sound much more gimmicky than it is. Though its retro leanings may have contributed to the popularity of its Spitalfields site — and the subsequent opening of another one in Camden — it's the fish and chips that make it. Thickish, crunchy batter encases fat fillets of fresh flaky fish, which comes direct from Billingsgate, and fried seafood platters are also treated well. Accompanying chunky chips are of the archetypal ‘chip shop’ variety: not too crunchy, but strongly flavoured and fluffy — the fact they come in (fake) newspaper is a nice touch, too.
Poppies, Camden, Soho and Spitalfields
Sutton & Sons
Danny Sutton — who runs this Stoke Newington favourite — also has a fishmongers in the area, so the high quality and reliable freshness of fish is no surprise. But while it’s the fat, flaky fillets of moist cod encased in crunchy and chewy batter that earn Sutton & Sons a place in this list, that’s just the start of it. From its faux-rustic beach shack interior to the chirpy, chatty service and range of local craft beers it has the whole deal. You also need to try Mrs Sutton’s range of pickles — choose from quail eggs, shallots or red onion rings — and if you still have room she makes a mean sticky toffee pudding, too.
Sutton & Sons, 90 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7NY. Branches in Islington and Hackney Central too.
Voted best fish and chip shop in the UK more than once, this Muswell Hill chippie — which has been around since 1968 — is something pretty special. There’s nothing particularly fancy about it, just the highly sought-after holy trinity of crunchy and grease-free batter, fresh and juicy fish, and crisp and fluffy chips. We can’t beat this one.
Toff’s, 38 Muswell Hill Broadway, N10 3RT
Fish House: Superior fish and chips near Victoria Park
The Fish House of Notting Hill: Unrelated to the previous, this restaurant just off Portobello may be touristy but the fish and chips are no less excellent for it
Masters Super Fish: A good value favourite in Waterloo
North Sea Fish Restaurant: This class chippy in Bloomsbury has a claim to fame in that it’s one of the landmarks cabbies have to learn when passing The Knowledge
Oliver’s: Mediterranean-influenced chippie in Belsize Park
Seafresh: Very large portions of very fresh fish in Pimlico
The Seashell of Lisson Grove: Fish is panko breadcrumbed for extra crunchiness at this Marylebone spot
If you know of any high calibre chippies that we’ve missed (maybe your local) then let us know in the comments below so we can consider adding them to the list.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital’s top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.