Readers, clear your diaries, clear everything, and prepare to hotfoot it over to Camden Town in a ship shape, orderly fashion. I have found the best sustainable fish and chips in London and the name to remember is Hook Camden a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and fish comes from certified MSC fisheries. Imagine the idea of ‘new school fish and chips’; a fish supper so delicate, so intoxicatingly delicious, and offered up without the usual guilt and tummy expanding ocean of unctuous batter, that seems like a good idea at the time, but leaves you wishing you really hadn’t by the time you are asked to pay the bill. Well, you don’t need to worry here. Yes, slow food nuts and Ethical Hedonist gourmets alike, you can rejoice – the slow, ethical fish and chip revolution is here.
Forget Posh – Now it’s all about New School, Sustainable Fish and Chips
When chef Simon Whiteside tells me in his soft Dublin burr that it has taken him five years to deconstruct and perfect his ‘new school fish and chips’, I can believe him. I can also see how all his Michelin star training, experience and passion for authentic local food ingredients has catapulted him from a market stall in Dublin to his very own bustling kitchen at Hook Camden Town.
Chef Simon Whiteside Reinvents Fish and Chips with a P hD in Food Alchemy
Chef Simon Whiteside has deconstructed the nation’s favourite dish like a boffin with a P hD in food alchemy and put it back together with flare, innovation, perfectionism and a huge helping of love and respect for the treasures of the land and sea. We start by grazing on the best crispy squid in town, enrobed with velvety squid ink, which is a perfect balance of salt, sea, crunch and a surprise, zingy after kick! And, there isn’t a hint of chewiness either. While a pot of spiced octopus salad with apple offers a myriad taste sensations from sweet to tart, to piquant. This is fish and chips elevated into a gourmet round the world adventure that wouldn’t be out of place in some of the most esteemed and far pricier establishments in town.
Four Types of Sustainable Fish on the Menu
There are four types of sustainable fish to choose from on the menu – haddock, sea bream, pollack and coley. The fish comes up from the Cornish fleet daily, and then the alchemy seriously begins, with an exciting array of spices, herbs and sauces from the culinary hotspots around the globe. I choose luxurious sea bream fresh off the day boats that morning, in a pleasingly tangy crust of tempura infused with lime and basil, served with a creamy, truffle sauce. The pillowy, light as air tempura is a flavour infused culinary work of art. Inside, the fish is perfectly cooked, juicy, pearly, delicate and sweet in a way that only super fresh fish can be and it comes with a mound of bright, jewel green mushy peas which taste like minty, heaven on a plate. Food should please the eyes and the senses and Hook does that over and over again. So much so, that I have to linger over every delicious morsel, so I can admire how pretty it all looks.
Hook is all about beautiful ingredients, executed with flair, confidence, playfulness and imagination.
My dining companion is the magazine’s new journalist intern, Silvia, who chooses the pollack, with chimichurri sauce, and even though I can’t stand the texture of this fish, I had to admit Simon had worked wonders, it is very tasty indeed. It is a bit like eating a posh, homemade fish finger. Sorry Simon! I might add that Silvia completely clears her plate and when an Italian says the fish is good, that really is a compliment to the chef. Could it be made even better? ‘Only if we could chose the sauce to go with the fish of our choice,’ she suggests sagely.
Now let me tell you about the chips. They are all of the following – melt in the mouth, golden, fluffy on the inside, and completely yummy, thanks to Simon’s top secret, seaweed infused salt. It is also worth pointing out that they are not in the least bit greasy. The sauces, ketchup and assorted little pots of perfectly cooked samphire and cucumber caviar add even more layers of flavour, surprise and interest too. The meal is a piscatorial banquet and offers incredible value for money, with classic fish and chips starting at £10.00. Everything is made from scratch, right here in the kitchens before service starts.
Karma, Karma Cola – It’s Like Drinking an Organic Kitchen Garden
Even the organic Karma Kola is a yummy ethical and organic taste sensation; the perfect balance of zingy, aromatic botanicals, proper fizz and lingering after finish, without the horrible, artificial sweetness of a certain, ridiculously over hyped drink. There are so many curious and exotic, fair-trade botanicals in this Kola, it’s like inbibing an organic kitchen garden. You will also want to steal the bottle and take it home. There are also some curious, very well-chosen organic, biodynamic and fair-trade wines, with Sixty Clicks ticking all the boxes on the night for taste and a lust-worthy, green is sexy, bottle design.
Prosecco, Harry’s Bar and Glamour to Rival the Ritz
Eating at Hook is fun, and every element of the experience is a carefully considered delight, from the dinky, re-usable wooden serving crates to the floral, aromatic Prosecco, which is the same served in Harry’s Bar in Venice. Now, touches like this really do delight a well-travelled hackette about town. I do like a bit of glamour and allure with my sustainable fish and chips. Any moment, Cary Grant will turn up to whisk me off to Bermuda in a vintage Berdorf gown to admire the pink sands.
The Ice Cream Is Coming!
The only thing missing from the menu was a delicious pudding, as no fish and chip supper would be complete without some seriously good ice cream. This was a tad disappointing. I was almost tempted to dash over to Wholefoods and buy dessert. Alex, the very loquacious, hundred mile an hour maitre d tells me that this is in hand, and pudding will soon be on the menu. After all, it couldn’t just be any old ice cream; it will have a great deal to live up to. So, that’s the only excuse I need to return to cool Camden Town very soon for the mother of all ice creams! – and a dash of London that is forever hip, always changing, always surprising – and now it can lay claim to offer the best, sustainable fish and chips in town, and that is something to get really, truly, deeply get excited about. Alison Jane Reid.
The Details – www.hookrestaurants.com
Address – 63-65, Camden Parkway, London, NW1 7PP
Tel 020 3808 5112
Friday – Saturday 12-10:30
Takeaway Menu also available
Hook Restaurants Only Use Fish from 100% MSC Certified Sustainable Small Fisheries and Day Boats in Cornwall.
Hook is accredited for its sustainability practices by the SRA – The Sustainable Restaurant Association – For More Info – http://www.thesra.org/
Food is served on re-usable wooden crates and kilner jars for side dishes
All Takeaway Food comes with cutlery made from recyclable corn starch
All other ingredients are sourced from high quality organic, fair-trade and local and suppliers.
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