Tuesday, 4 February 2014

McDermott's Fish & Chip Restaurant, Forestdale, Croydon, UK

I can't remember the last time I saw people queue for fish & chips. I think it was in Aldeburgh, Suffolk many years ago when I myself was in the queue, waiting for cod and chips. There's nothing better than fish and chips, especially if there's plenty of salt and vinegar at hand. And while it could be argued that fish and chips has been replaced by chicken tikka masala as the traditional British dish, I'll always enjoy it, albeit not very often.
It might look pretty standard, but that's a decent fish & chips, believe me.

Fish, chips and mushy peas. Why not? Quite nutritional as it goes and, believe it not, it tastes even better when wrapped in newspaper, although that practice has been obselete for a long time.

In Europe they have mayo with their chips instead of ketchup and that's never really caught on here; there was a time when fish and chips were served in newspaper print patterned paper cones. These are probablystill is used in some places – but I prefer mine being wrapped up after the salt and vinegar smothering.

One thing I really like is the fish and chip restaurant as it brings back memories of childhood holidays on the south coast where you'll always find a decent fish and chip restaurant – and, in the old days, crinkle-cut chips (whatever happened to them?). Remember fish knives? You rarely see them today, but if ever you do see them, it's likely to be in a fish and chip restaurant, a 'plaice' where you can enjoy fish and chips sitting down.
A local Croydon brew – fantastic!

Having said that, I didn't see any fish knives in McDermott's fish and chip restaurant, located in what looked like a seventies-built shopping precinct on the outskirts of the Forestdale housing estate near Addington in Surrey. I'd walked over to the precinct while killing time waiting to escort my wife home along the mean streets of this part of Croydon after dark and was amazed – and elated – to find people queuing for their fish and chips. It was a Friday night and the queue was at least 30-strong, if not more.

McDermott's has a good reputation for quality fish and chips and I thought they were based in central Croydon, on Crown Hill, but here they were plying a very good trade. Not only was the takeaway crammed with people queuing for their Friday night meal, the adjoining restaurant next door was heaving.

Later I decided that I had to be a part of it so we opted not for a takeaway – which would have meant standing at a windswept bus stop in the rain with greasy fingers – but a full-blown meal. But that didn't mean we avoided queuing. We walked in to a bar area (yes, the bar area) and had to wait to be seated and were eventually escorted to a table by the window looking out on the aforementioned small precinct.

McDermott's is licensed and it sells locally brewed Cronx beer. Needless to say one was ordered along with cod and chips (not cheap at £12.50) but the portion size was good and the quality of the fish and chips second to none. My wife ordered, foolishly in my opinion, a vegetarian meal. Service was second to none and the hubbub of the crowded restaurant – full with people from all walks of life and certainly not in any way 'poncy' – made the experience worthwhile. I loved it and felt glad that I'd taken a wander and found it.

A brief mention of the desserts menu. With the exception of 'various ice creams' (all £3.10) there were three proper desserts in the shape of sticky toffee pudding, chocolate fudge cake and apple pie served hot or cold and with a choice of cream, custard or vanilla ice cream. We opted for apple pie and custard but they'd sold out and I was a little disappointed with the other two desserts on offer and wished there had been greater choice available. Running out of apple pie is a cardinal sin in my book.
Queuing for takeaway fish & chips – a rare sight!

The total bill for two was just over £26, but well worth it and I'll definitely return. It was great to see the place crowded out and with people queuing for takeaways next door. It was one of those moments when I felt that my faith in human nature had been restored – and I'll forgive them the lack of apple pie (but only just).

And let's not forget that a cup of tea costs only £1 – a rarity these days. Take note coffee retailers, especially Café Nero where a pot of tea will set you back £2 as opposed to Costa's £1.75. Café Nero might be a little cosier than Costa, but the tea is 25p more expensive and, as you'll see shortly when I post about a Nero unit in Croydon, milk is rather sloppily served in a paper cup (Costa tea is cheaper and the milk is served in a small, white, jug.

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