It's one of London’s best known and most loved dishes, and quite possibly the greatest coupling of all time. But fish and chips is 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 — London's best fish and chips — all of which offer decent dining-in options as well as takeaway...
Looking for London's best vegan fish and chips? We've got you covered.
Golden Union Fish Bar, Soho
This sleek and modern-looking Soho chippy uses a carefully planned blend of oils for frying, sources only sustainable fish, and serves battered halloumi. There's even a sizeable vegan menu so free-from diners needn't miss their chippie fix. Its fish is among the flakiest, well-seasoned and highly-flavoured we’ve tried, its batter is reliably crisp and chewy, and 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 £15.50, but it is worth it.
Golden Union Fish Bar, 38 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 7LY
Fish Central, Clerkenwell
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 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, 149-155 Central Street, King Square, EC1V 8AP
To say that it's styled as a "nostalgic throwback in time” makes Poppie's 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 others in Camden and Soho — 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.
Poppie's, Camden, Soho and Spitalfields
Sutton & Sons, various
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.
Master's Superfish, Waterloo
A good value favourite in Waterloo. Not only are the portion sizes generous but the serving style is distinctly old school, with veggie pickles and a basket of bread and butter on the side. Perfect for an impromptu chip butty. The service is brisk and the restaurant no-frills, but who's here for the smiles when you can tuck into succulent, Billingsgate-fresh fish for under a tenner?
Master's Superfish, 191 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UX
Toff's, Muswell Hill
Voted best fish and chip shop in the UK more than once, this Muswell Hill chippy — 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. No notes.
Toff's, 38 Muswell Hill Broadway, N10 3RT
Fish House, Victoria Park and Stratford
It should come as no surprise that any chippy within whiffing distance of Victoria Park Village is going to land on the trendier end of the scale. Fish House serves up superior fish and chips in this upscale pocket of east London. Alongside your classic crispy battered cod and haddock, tuck into the likes of fried fish tacos, teriyaki-baked salmon bowls and seafood paella. The quality is top notch and the mushy peas particularly noteworthy. Just be aware you're also paying for the location.
Fish House, 128 Lauriston Road, Victoria Park, E9 7LH; 36-39 Victory Parade, E20 1FS
- Fish Lounge: Melt-in-the-mouth fish fried with a light touch in Brixton. Plus, more chips than you can shake a salt packet at.
- The Fish House of Notting Hill: This restaurant just off Portobello may be touristy but the fish and chips are no less excellent for it.
- 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.
- Gigs: In need of a fishy fix in central London? Tucked just behind Tottenham Court Road, Gigs fuses traditional fare with Cypriot grilled dishes
- Oliver's: Mediterranean-influenced chippy in Belsize Park and Boxpark Wembley.
- Seafresh: Large portions of very fresh fish and quality seafood in Pimlico.
- The Seashell of Lisson Grove: Fish can be panko breadcrumbed for extra crunchiness at this Marylebone spot.
- Seventeen: Small but hip chippy adjacent to Balham station.
- Kennedy's of London: Whacking great bits of fried fish, mammoth portions of lovely chips — and scrumptious pies to boot — Kennedy's has branches in the City, Tooting and Streatham (strangely the latter doesn't appear on their website, but we can personally vouch for it).