British food gets a bad rap. Not that it isn’t deserved at times; in our 48-hour stay in London (many years ago, in another child-less reincarnation, it seems), mealy and grainy sausage, thin, buttered sandwiches, and tuna and corn on pizza (eeeewww) were casual-dining mainstays. But there is one institution that no American should leave Great Britain without patronizing: the beloved local chip shop.
Those Brits know how to fry something, anything into crispy heaven, be it a Twinkie, a Mars bar, a pickle…or, of course, fish n’ chips. Well, you no longer have to cross the Great Puddle or drive all the way up to Kearny to get to your “chippy” anymore. Behold The British Chip Shop, on the main drag in Haddonfield, which has been serving up English grub since August.
Walking in, I was impressed at how nice and cozy the small space was- dark wood tables, chairs, and wall details, with plenty of kitschy British paraphernalia on the walls (football team logos, and a red telephone booth among them). Our server greeted us right away and was friendly and engaging. The menu was on the placemat, and there was a surprisingly large array of choices: bangers and mash, sausage roll, cottage pie, as well as “afternoon tea” (complete with cucumber and ham and pickled salmon finger sandwiches, or just a “spot of tea” and scones). I was craving seafood that night, so there wasn’t any way I was getting out of there without an order of good old fish n chips. It came in two sizes- “Queen” and “King”- and our waitress assured me that the queen would be sufficient for me. John, dedicated food blogger that he is, sacrificed for his readers and agreed to try something else: the savory pork pie. Sadly, we had not brought any beer with us (although we were welcome to), so we were limited to the “fizzy drinks” selection. Forget about having a Coke (they don’t have it)- the sodas were an adventure in themselves. After quizzing our server to death, we decided to order a Ribena (a delicious, straightforwardly fruity blackcurrant soda) and a Lilt (a pineapple and grapefruit soda that tasted suspiciously like a Fresca). But we also couldn’t resist the pull of “Ben Shaw’s Dandelion and Burdock Classic “-which tasted like a lightly-flavored licorice soda. Trust me on this one: though odd, it was really, really good!
The our entrees arrived- and I fell in love. I think the picture here says it all…crispy crust? Check. Tender, flaky,fresh and sustainable haddock? Check. Hand-cut, perfectly crispy fries/chips? It was all there, all in one luscious meal. And with the addition of an honest-to-goodness English malt vinegar and salt on the table, I was sent into orbit! As you can also see, the prissy-sounding “queen” size was deceiving. It was HUGE. Unlike the fish however, John’s pork pie looked kind of puny in comparison. I wondered for a moment if he’d have to order something along with it, as we were both pretty hungry- but that little pie was heavy and rich (that said, he also helped me finish the fish n chips!). It was a simple pie with a nice, flaky crust, but with a big slab of pork contained within (no chunks of diced pork but a large,whole piece). It was enjoyable, but the fish easily outshone it. As a side order, we decided to skip the “mushy peas” and Heinz beans and went with the pickled vegetables instead. A mix of zucchini, green beans and pearl onions, they were surprisingly crisp, flavorful, and tart, a really refreshing compliment to the heavy dishes we ordered. Unfortunately (and fortunately), we were off to another destination for our dessert, so we’d have to save the deep-fried Mars bar and the sticky toffee pudding for next time.
As we left, we discussed our plan to hit them up for their Saturday/Sunday brunch, so we can get a full “fry” (fried eggs, toast, beans, bangers, rashers, mushrooms, and fried tomato-and maybe a spot of black or white pudding to boot) or a scone. And as if we weren’t reeling-in-the-U.K.-feeling enough already, we encountered these young gentlemen on the street on the way back to our car: