Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
Despite fish and chips being a national dish in the UK (when I was growing up in Somerset you could set your watch by where certain people would be in the queue outside the chippy on a Friday evening), since moving to Cardiff I have over the years found it increasingly hard to find a half decent fish and chip shop.
The decline in what I regard as proper chippies in Cardiff seems to have accelerated over the years and mirrors a nation that appears to be falling out of love with what was our takeaway staple. Fried fish and chips, which use to be to us Brits akin to how apple pie is to the Yanks, appears to be falling out of fashion.
Apparently consumption of takeaway fried fish halved between 1974 and 2014 whereas sales of takeaway pizza (the vast majority of which are hideous), curries and Chinese food have soared.
A decent chippy has become (to my mind) an increasingly rare thing and therefore the opening of a spanking new one, in the form of Fintans, opposite Victoria Park in Cardiff piqued my interest
Inside it is all spanking brand new, with lots of stripped wood. Whilst it is not a restaurant there are tables in the corner where you can wait and I suspect eat your food. There are also tables and chairs outside looking across to Victoria Park.
The reference to fish being sourced from a particular boat had me thinking “locally sourced fish from Welsh based day boats” (not that they actually make that claim). A somewhat naive notion on my part bearing in mind the name of the boat.
On googling it, the Vasiliy Golovin is actually a monster of a Russian registered factory trawler based in Norway.
Potatoes used for the chips were, however, local being from Pembrokeshire.
The menu is classic chippie, with fish (as it should) taking centre stage (but pies, chicken etc also on offer).
I went for the plaice fish supper (£6 70) and Mrs. SF the haddock one (£6.45) These fish suppers also come with hake (£5.20), cod (large £6.45, small £5.40) and scampi (£5).
The fish supper deal is fish, chips and mushy peas and both our portions were jumbo sized. Prices therefore on paper look very reasonable.
With battered fish, the batter has two roles. Firstly (and to my mind its most important function) it acts as the packaging that allows the fish to cook through steaming much like en papillote – the fish after all should be the star of the show. Secondly it needs itself to be tasty – light and crisp rather than soggy and flabby. With fish and chips, I often eat all the fish but leave a lot of the batter due to inferior batter.
Here my fish was perfectly cooked in its batter casing and very tasty. Love a bit of plaice me.
The batter was pretty good – nice and crispy and not oily, but just a touch too thick for my tastes.
Mrs. SF’s haddock was equally good, but again the batter was just a smidgen too thick (especially at one end).
Chips were very good , proper thick cut chip shop chips with plenty of crispy scraps. Great with a liberal dousing of malt vinegar and plenty of salt.The mushy peas were also nice, using proper marrowfat peas. No namby pamby petit pois puree here. Personally I liked the inclusion of plenty of mint, but suspect purests may baulk at this.
All in all very large portions which Mrs.SF and I struggled to put away (but manfully succeeded in doing so), so good value for the price bearing in mind the cost of other takeaways (Chinese, Indian etc). Put it up against the take away prices at some of Cardiff’s burger joints (like Shake Shack and Five Guys for instance) and it starts to look like a veritable bargain.
For the budget conscious (who isn’t) they also have a couple of good offers (not sure for how long) on the go. Very child friendly.
Drinks cover both hot and cold and the range amounts to the usual suspects
Prices looked pretty reasonable.
Eating fish and chips at home, alcohol wise fizz is the classic match. There was always something rather decadent, to my mind, about eating fish and chips out of newspaper wrapping (sadly no longer really possible) and drinking champagne.
As a good cheaper fizz option, I would recommend Aldi’s Cremant du Jura (great value for its £7.49 price tag).
Vino Verde is also a favoured option on my part, very dry with a hint of spritz. This one from Marks and Spencer (£8.50) is a good example.
On this particular occasion I had a bottle of Tribute (a pale ale) with my fish supper.
This, as a pairing, worked very well.
On the non booze front, a cup of strong, decent tea is hard to beat with fish and chips.
Pretty good is my view of the fish and chips at this place. Nicely cooked fish and chips at a decent price. One of the better fish and chips shops I have come across in Cardiff. Value wise you get a lot for your money and I think £13.15 for what we got was pretty good value.
One negative is that they use palm oil in their fryers (regrettably not uncommon in the fish and chip industry or,indeed, the wider fast food industry I have to say).
Palm oil is far from environmentally friendly stuff, with the plantations it comes from being responsible for the destruction of huge swathes of the rain forest in Malaysia and Indonesia. Having seen and fallen in love utterly with orangutans in Borneo, my heart bleeds at the destruction of their natural habitat wrought by ever expanding palm oil plantations. I know there are supposedly sustainable sources of palm oil (not sure if Fintans use these), but having read about them I am not convinced I am afraid.
I am no eco warrior, but there are better alternatives to palm oil in my view. For fish and chips my fat preference (for taste) would be beef dripping, but understand why that may not be an option for various reasons. They could, however, use rapeseed oil which the National Federation of Fish Fryers seem to view as a more than adequate alternative to palm oil, if good oil management is applied (as it always should).
Would I go back? Yes – it is a nice place and they do serve up a nice “plaice”. Prices are also very reasonable, but I have to say I am not enthused by their use of palm oil.
597 Cowbridge Road East,
Tel: 029 2056 6667
Website: click here
Mon – Sat: 11.00 – 21.oo; Sun: 12.00 – 21.00.