Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When in Rome...(Luke's Traditional Fish & Chips)

Fried Haddock and Chips

Living in a foreign country is a true learning experience in that you are immersed among a people and within a culture differing from your own. Such an instance provides a great opportunity to learn about how others talk, behave, and live. In the three short weeks since my arrival here in England, I have already found myself asking some questions with an English inflection (rising pitch towards the end of the question) and using their exclamations and phrases, i.e. cheers, bloody, bullocks (okay, I'm not British enough to be using bullocks just yet, but you get my point). To gain a full appreciation for the culture here in England, I must also, of course, delve into their cuisine. Quick, what's the first food that comes to mind if we're talking about England? Setting aside treacle tart, trifle, crumpets, and all of the other foods that you picked up from reading Harry Potter, I'll bet that one of the first things that you thought of is fish and chips. And so upon arrival in England, one of the first things I sought out was a good fry shop. 

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am no fish and chips connoisseur. I think the last time that I ordered it for myself was when I was a chubby middle school-aged kid eating at the Arthur Treacher's in the Paramus Park mall, and that was most certainly not the pinnacle of fried fish and potato wedges. In fact, I doubt that I have ever had a truly memorable and well-done order of fish and chips in my lifetime, as you'd be hard-pressed to find any suitable fry shops in the suburban New Jersey area. While walking around Cambridge, I saw various pubs and restaurants advertising their "traditional fish and chips." But I wasn't looking for fish and chips in a pub or bar; I was looking specifically for a fry shop, where the fish and chips are supposedly truer to form and of better quality. It was during my walk through the neighborhood that I stumbled upon Luke's Traditional Fish & Chips, a tiny storefront that specializes in fish and chips. 

With only three tables, Luke's is definitely more of a take-away place than a place to come to for a sit-down meal. While offering the traditional cod and haddock, Luke's also has more interesting types of fish, like plaice and skate. As this was my first time there, I stuck with the haddock. After placing my order at the counter, I watched as the fry cook battered my fish and fried it right before my eyes. The fried-to-order fish was done shortly thereafter and plated with a heaping portion of chips. 

What is first apparent about the fish is that the batter is extremely light and crisp, which is in stark contrast to the thick, heavy batter that I recall from my Arthur Treacher's days. Better yet, the fish tasted ridiculously amazing, as the light and crisp batter encased pleasingly flaky fish that just seemed to crumble in my mouth.  And of course, the fact that it was fried to order meant that I was eating fresh food that had not been sitting in a heating tray, which is the absolute worst way to serve fried foods. With a dash of salt and malt vinegar, the fish was finished off really quickly. The chips, while a bit less crisp than I'd prefer, were fresh and tasty nonetheless. I think that softer, more tender fries may just be the way they cook them over here in England. 

My first fish and chips endeavor in England was revelatory, as I had never before had fish and chips anywhere nearly as good. The meal clocked in at £6.80 (about $10.80), which is a reasonable price for the quality and amount of food that is served. With a trip to London coming up soon, I am looking forward to trying out more of England's culinary delights.

Luke's Traditional Fish & Chips
110 Regent Street
Cambridge CB2 1DP
United Kingdom

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