Fish and chips are a British staple that dates back to the 1830’s. Potatoes were cheap and plentiful and fish, well the waters were full of fish back then. The dish helped fuel the industrial revolution and was one of the few things not to be rationed during the second world war. It was food to feed the masses, wrapped in the newspapers that didn’t sell, as you neared the bottom of the paper cone, yesterday’s news would be imprinted on the chips. (Listen to a fun podcast on Fish & Chips on BBC Radio 4 here)
Like most street food, it has been picked up, picked over and in some instances, poncified. Instead of a plain flour batter, let’s say, the fish is covered in panko. It’s an intervention I condone, over my 15 years in London I ate a lot of saggy fish and limp chips. I welcome the shattering juxtaposition of a panko crust to a moist tender morsel of fish.
This is the version you will encounter at The Fish And Chips Shop in Eixample. A corner shop, small enough to do service to the mom and pop shops that held court over this popular fast food. Painted a dark green-blue. The small open bar serving as a frying station.
The go-to order here is hake (merluza) in a smoked batter with spiced chips, tartar sauce and mango chutney (€8). There are other things: calamari (€8), truffled edamame (€4.5) even tempurad cocochas (cod throats, a delicacy from the Basque country.)
I order the bestseller. Served in a cone of printed paper, fries at the bottom, 3 crispy pieces of fish. Hot from the oil so that I can only nibble tentatively at the edges, to begin with. Then deeming enough time has passed, placing a still-too-hot piece in my mouth where I desperately try to cool it down further by sucking in air and exhaling in dramatic Lamaze style fashion.
Knowing this, would I wait patiently for the fish to cool down before eating it next time? Probably not.