Until recently, post-pub grub-hunters in the environs of Waterloo station hoved mainly toward Fishcoteque, tucked underneath the railway bridge on Waterloo Road. A few months back, a new rival threw its doors open: Fine Fish Company, couched almost directly opposite Fishcoteque within the station entrance.
The pair could be said to encapsulate the diverging trends in all things chippy: the reliably old-school Fishcoteque, all plastic of furniture and with a jar of pickled eggs yet to be opened this century, represents the traditional Brit love affair with chips, while the arriviste Fine Fish is a shiny, modern-looking booth, catering to a slightly more refined connoisseur as they await their train back to the stockbroker belt. But which offers the superior experience?
At first blush, both portions looked a little anaemic, as if the chips would rather be back in the fryer for another spin instead of being marshalled for a humiliating beauty contest. On biting into the selection from Fishcoteque, initial fears were realised: the limp, pale surface offered no resistance when bitten, and the manner in which it capitulates on the tongue hints at dastardly difficulties in the frying process. Liberal helpings of salt and vinegar were required to coax any kind of reaction from the tastebuds, and even then the mulch was better swallowed than savoured. The portion from Fine Fish at least looked a little perkier, but this deception was torn aside upon tasting, as the chips were just as pusillanimous as the first batch. A side of glutinous tartar sauce didn't help matters either.
Both portions were sampled with a fish accompaniment. Here things fared better for Fishcoteque: the haddock flaked nicely on the wooden spork and the batter was good if not great. Fine Fish, on the other hand, served up a limp slab of cod that was difficult to finish. But we're not here to parse the pez: these places live or die on the quality of their chips.
It's a shame that both experiences were so tawdry, and it is entirely possible that both establishments were visited on below-par days. Previous, satisfactory visits to Fishcoteque had followed (indeed, been necessitated by) liberal helpings of alcohol, which does prompt the question: does a good chip require alcohol to bring out its best qualities?
Fine Fish Co. is in the entrance to Waterloo station on Waterloo Road. Fishcoteque is at 79 Waterloo Road.
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