Tuesday, July 26, 2011

If Something's Worth Eating, It's Worth Eating Well (The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar)

Fried Haddock and Chips

Growing up, my dad loved to refer to adages and proverbs. Whether it was to teach a lesson, get a message across, or just to express his inner Confucius, most of these phrases have become seared in my memory. I cannot count the number of times he's told me that "there's no such thing as a free lunch." (Consequently, I always made an effort to point out to him the times when I really did get a free lunch). And one of his all-time favorites is "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." While I tended to just roll my eyes whenever I heard him spout off another one of these sayings, there was one adage in particular that has had a lasting impact. Another one of his favorites, "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well," is a phrase which has become a part of me and has helped to shape and define the person I am today. It has become ingrained in my personality that giving anything less than my best effort and striving for anything less than my best -- whether I am studying for an exam, practicing for my baseball team, or even something as trivial as scrubbing the toilet -- is unacceptable. To this day, I still scrub that toilet seat my damn hardest and make it the absolute cleanest that I can. If the Mariners are going to collapse this season and lose a bunch of games, then they better go all the way and run off a record-setting losing streak. Lose big or go home, that's how I feel. I mean, really, if they had gone 2-14 or 3-13 over the last 16 games, they would still suck, but they would have just been another bad team losing a bunch of games. So if you're going to lose, you might as well go all the way and do it right by losing 16 in a row

Anyway, getting back on-topic, my mindset that anything worth doing is worth doing well also applies to my food choices. For instance, if I'm going to eat a burger or a slice of cake, I don't want just any old burger from Burger King or a slice of packaged cake from the grocery store; I want a burger from Shake Shack or a slice of Two Little Red Hens' Brooklyn Blackout Cake. If I'm going to eat "junk" or "bad-for-you" foods, I want it to be quality junk food and not, well, junky junk food. And few junk foods are done better in the UK than fish and chips. Seemingly every city has several award-winning fish and chips joints that would put even the best fish and chips to be found in the United States to shame. At The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar in Edinburgh, the fish and chips aren't fried in just any old oil. No sir, they are fried in pure lard. Oh baby, now that's what I'm talking about when I say that anything worth doing is worth doing well. If you're gonna fry something, why not fry it in cow fat? Go hard or go home.

The result? Exceedingly crisp fish and chips that are probably some of the most well-fried specimens I have ever come across. The fish was cut a little too thin for my liking, but this was more than compensated for by the impressively crisp outer shell. And these chips were probably some of the best I have ever eaten. So. Freaking. Good. Topped with what the Scots call "sauce," which is essentially a vinegary brown sauce, the portion was fried to order, and I took my £6 meal to a nearby street corner, where I inhaled the meal while passing pedestrians stared at me funnily, not that I cared.

Of the three fish and chip meals that I have eaten so far in the UK, this was probably my favorite, though you can't go wrong with any of the three. While the portion was smaller than the other meals, the amazing crust that developed from frying in lard put these fish and chips over the top. After sampling fish and chips from some of the best shops in the UK, I have a completely new set of standards for fish and chips which probably cannot be reached by restaurants in the US. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well, and The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar has certainly taken this sentiment to heart.

The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar
14-15 Albert Place
Edinburgh EH7 5HN
United Kingdom

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