Old-school fish and chips

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The Little Chippy, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 7379 7065

Is there a word for what happens when restaurants tart up old-school food?

Hipsterised, yuppified, gentrified – like that, but meant specifically for food?

I enjoy eating in pleasant surroundings, but the CTS ethos holds that our dining experiences are about the food and the people who make it, with daylight between them and the likes of decor, ambience and on-trend.

But there is one of our fave kinds of food where the opposite is true.

We love new-school fish and chips.

We like the crisp, shiny places; we like the effort that is made with salads and the like; we love that often there is a variety of fish and other seafood available, matched by different methods of having it cooked.

And we absolutely love that such places tend to operate as restaurants proper – and that means tables, chairs, and crockery and cutlery of the non-plastic variety.

We have no interest in revisiting the “good old days” of fish and chips.

But for some people, that does hold appeal.

And a sub-set of such people involves those for whom old-school fish and chips ideally have a particularly British bent.

The Little Chippy could’ve been created for them.

 

 

It’s old-school from the ground up.

Mind you, half the menu (see below) is dedicated to burgers and the like.

But the other half of the food list tells the story.

No potato cakes or dimmies here.

But there is curry sauce and mushy peas and battered sausages.

The place is done out in minimalist takeaway style, with in-house eating restricted to pozzies available at the window bench and its tall stools.

Oddly, the servery and prep area is obstructed from customer view.

I’m not sure what that’s about – we all love watching our food prepared; it almost seems like part of the admission price.

But I’m definitely up for giving it a go!

And if that’s the case, I am may as well go whole hog.

So I order the North Atlantic cod with chips ($16), with a tub of Little Chippy’s coleslaw ($3) on the side.

It’s been a long time since I settled in for a fish-and-chip feed wrapped in paper!

 

 

I like the chips – there’s plenty of them and they’re defiantly old-fashioned and a long ways from shoestring fries and beer-battered chips.

The fish?

Well, it’s a mixed bag.

I can tell just by looking at it that there are going to be problems.

I’m right – sure enough, as soon as I try to pick it up, it falls apart into several different pieces, with some of them losing their batter in the process.

I’m unsure if this is a characteristic of this particular fish species, or if it’s something to do with the fact that as an import, it’s presumably been frozen.

Whatever its cause, it’s not something I want to see in my fried fish and detracts from my enjoyment.

The fish, however, is very nice indeed – mild of flavour, well cooked and with just the right amount of al dente meatiness.

 

 

The surprise of my meal is the coleslaw.

What looks like a regulation version of the gloopy and over-dressed takeaway joint salads found the length and breadth of the land turns out to be superb – fresh, crunchy, a little on the lovely salty side and a bargain at $3.

I can understand the attraction Brit-style F&C has for some people.

But we’ll be sticking to new-school.

 

They’re off – new Flemo burger joint

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Straight Six, 336 Racecourse Road, Flemington. Phone: 9376 2333

Based on its proximity to Flemington racecourse, this flashy new burger joint – on the corner of Racecourse Road and Pin Oak Crescent, and right opposite the Doutta Galla pub – has enthusiastically embraced a theme based around horse racing.

Yep, from the name and onwards, it’s all very horsey.

There’s garish, internal neon signs proclaiming “feeling lucky?” and “burgers so good you’d put your house on”.

The burgers themselves sport the names of famous steeds of the past.

And the staff are all wearing T-shirts telling you they’re stewards – just in case you miss the drift.

It all seems a bit, well, lame to me – but then, I’m in no way a fan of horse racing.

 

 

The lack of subtlety doesn’t stop with the repeated racing motifs – the place is, generally speaking, bright and loud, the music overbearingly so.

But, hey, I’m probably not in the focus demographic for such a place.

It’s been open a little more than a week and has been busy the whole time, Uber bags by the dozen heading out the door from day one.

They’ve even had to hang up the “sold out” sign on occasion.

We do the burgers and sides routine with happy results.

There are some unexpected options on the menu (see below) we may take up on a future visit – fish and chips, for instance, or chicken ribs, loaded fries and a chicken/waffle/bacon offering.

 

 

The Phar Lap ($11) is one step up from the basic cheeseburger (the Saintly, $8).

Phar Lap tastes fine with its 120g patty, cheese, Straight Six sauce, pickles, onion, lettuce and tomato.

But it’s made for those of medium appetite only – it’s gone in a flash.

If you’re wanting something with more heft, go for …

 

 

… the Think Big ($14).

Oh yes, this is more like it.

The double 100g patties, double cheese, excellent bacon, spicy Straight Six sauce, jalapenos and onion combine to create a beaut burger.

It eats bigger than my photo indicates!

 

 

A small serve of beer-battered onion rings is generous for the $4 asking price.

They’re well cooked, but oh-so-very-decadently rich and more like beer-battered batter than onion rings!

Good, though, if that’s your thing.

 

 

The chips, small serve for $4, are also a fine deal.

They’re very good.

Perhaps it’s all about – or much about – timing and location.

And perhaps pizzazz, too.

A year or so ago, a burger enterprise arose further along Racecourse Road, folding quietly after a few months having made no impression whatsoever.

Straight Six, by comparison, has been an instant hit.

I may not dig the racing theme, but we have enjoyed our burgers and sides a lot.

 

That’s not coleslaw!

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Hunky Dory, 28 Pratt Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9326 0350

CTS had been wanting to try the new Moonee Valley branch of the Hunky Dory chain right from day one, but has been thwarted by its popularity and a lack of communal seating.

The latter, in particular, seems foolish in a high-turnover swish fast-food place.

But, finally and during a very busy Friday lunch hour, I grab one of the small for-two tables and settle in.

The plates – platters is more accurate – I see whizzing about me are massive and laden with way more than simple fish and chips.

Indeed, F&C seems a minority – mostly it appears to be all about salads, grilled seafood and heaps of molluscs.

So how do I go with my CTS benchmark order of F&C, chips, coleslaw?

Not so good …

Chips – excellent; I eat each and every one.

Fish of the day (blue grenadier) – the batter is not crisp, it is leathery. The fish itself, however, is beautiful, moist yet firm, delicious.

Coleslaw – oh dear.

I ordered this with profound misgivings as all I saw in the display cabinet was a pile of chopped cabbage. Assured that what would be on my plate would be dressed, I took the plunge – so to speak.

And, yes, it is dressed – with quite a tasty mayo concoction.

But it’s a dribble that in no way dresses or is adequate for the masses of veg on my plate.

Often F&C places, and chicken shops, serve coleslaw that has so much mayo that it’s more like a broth with some cabbage in it.

This one goes in precisely the other direction.

Chopped cabbage and coleslaw are not interchangeable terms or concepts.

Mind you, the price for my lunch – $13.50 under the guise of the Hunky Dory “grilled fish pack” – is ace and significantly below what would be the combined prices of the three components.

It’s just one meal and I’m happy to believe/hope that I simply had a bad day.

Meanwhile, this Fairfax story has what seems to be the latest update on Hunky Dory, its fish-labelling practices and state of fish imports in general.

 

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Fishy delights

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Serenity Blu, Shop 4/29-35 Lake St, Caroline Springs. Phone: 8390 1700

A few days after eating at Serenity Blu, a friend asked what there was to write about a fish and chip shop.

Turns out she was not familiar with the new-school F&C joints that have come on the scene in the past decade or so – somewhat in tandem with the similar burger places.

For her, fish and chips meant wrapped in paper and always takeaway.

The places we like, by contrast and featured many times here on Consider The Sauce, are quite different.

So what do we seek or want from flash F&C places?

We want a nice, bright, clean setting.

We expect to eat in-house.

We want cooks/chefs who look like they know what they are about – if they’re dressed smartly, so much the better.

 

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We like seeing a nice line-up of at least a couple of good salads.

We most definitely expect to use real cutlery to eat food that is on real plates (or, in the case of Serenity Blu, boards).

We want to see a good range of seafood available, both grilled and fried.

Most of all, we’ve come to expect to be able to get fish, chips and salad, well presented, for under $20 – that is, at least $10 less than the same meal would cost in a restaurant proper or pub.

Serenity Blu, a new operation in Caroline Springs housed in what was formerly Ocean’s D’Lish, scores well on all those counts.

 

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Though we’re equally happy to see they are enough grounded in F&C tradition to offer potato cakes and chips with gravy!

My mid-week lunch companion is Conan of the Yo India Food Truck, a Caroline Springs local.

As we talk shop and other matters of mutual interest, we enjoy a very nice lunch.

 

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Conan chooses the grilled salmon with chips and salad ($17.50).

The fish is well cooked through but still very good.

 

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My flathead fillet with chips and salad ($16.50) is every bit as fine.

The fish is well battered and cooked, and of a good size.

In both our cases, the chips are good but fall short of great.

My coleslaw – the serve is smaller, by my choice, than would’ve normally been provided – is fresh and lovely.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Conan’s quinoa/melon/grape salad.

Normally, I’d be suspicious of anything so redolent of hipster wellness, but this really does taste wonderful.

 

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Serenity Blu is the baby of Aydin.

That’s her in the middle, with nephew Tarkan on the left and son Yakup on the right.

Tarkan has previously worked at Nobu and that sort of breeding shows in the food preparation and presentation at Serenity Blu.

****

Perhaps I should keep a closer eye on Caroline Springs.

In some spare time I had before meeting Conan, I spied restaurants of the Japanese and Malaysian varieties that I did not know were there.

Then, in the shopping centre proper, I ran into Jacqui The Urban Ma and her kids.

Finally, as I entered Serenity Blu itself, I met Natalie Galea Ahmet.

Natalie runs Garden of Eden Photography, and through that has somewhat accidentally fallen into doing social media work for eatries she has shot – including this one!

It was through contact she made with a Star Weekly colleague that I learned about this new F&C place.

I love how connections work.

 

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Photo: Garden of Eden Photography

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App zap brings fish and chips

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Consider The Sauce is skeptical about apps.

Sure, since belatedly joining the smart-phone world, I make daily use of a variety – gmail, wordpress, ColorNote, the ABC, my credit union.

But when it comes to our zeal for exploring the world and new things in it, apps – it mostly seems – are all about limiting choices and discoveries.

After all, apps are a closed world – you are limited to what the app creators/owners have included.

And then, of course, there’s the familiar joke – an app is someone wanting to sell you something.

However, we have been won over by Menulog.

Really, this app and the attendant service are beaut.

And we offer that endorsement freely and with no support or inducements from the company.

(A few years back, Menulog did try repeatedly to get me involved in doing promo work for them. The approaches were painfully inept:

“I am a major fan of your writing and thought you would appreciate if I send you a few ideas that might help you grow your audience:

1. Partner with other bloggers (I can give you some contacts if you want).

  1. Run a competition (do you need free prizes? Just let me know).
  1. Use infographics in your posts …
  1. Give back to the community: review your local restaurant and help them to promote their name (I can organize a free meal from them for you).
  1. Have you thought about having a guest post on your blog? Menulog can send some really fun editorial content and stats e.g. Top 5 takeaway meals in your city or even Top takeaway orders to cure a hangover.”)

So we have come to appreciate Menulog all on our own.

We’ve found the service and its cost and processes pretty much faultless.

OK, once – a few weeks ago – the delivery guy failed to include a can of soft drink.

But that’s it.

Getting food delivered is not something of which we’re REALLY big fans of – we much prefer getting out and about; meeting the people who make the food we love makes it taste so much better.

But sometimes it is just the ticket.

Inner-west favourites we’ve used Menulog on so far are Kitchen Samrat, Mishra’s Kitchen, Kenny’s Yum Cha House, Rizq Bangladeshi Cuisine, Motorino and Krishna Pait Pooja.

For this lazy Friday night, we’re taking a Menulog punt with one of our favourite westie fish and chip places – Dough! in Newport.

We’re usually rather fastidious about always wanting to eat F&C we’re they’re made – so we’re a little nervy about what sort of nick our meal will be in by the time it arrives.

 

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Our fears turn out to be completely unfounded – our food has, it appears, gone straight from the deep-fyers into a car and thence driven straight from Newport to Yarraville.

Everything is hot and fresh.

Two two big, handsome slabs of battered fish are wonderful.

Two serves of BBQ corn at $1.20 each turns our to be three slivers – they’re fine and juicy but it’s not clear how BBQ-ing has been going on with them.

The chips?

Those legendary rough-cut, warts-and-all chips?

“Wow – these chips are so great!” quips Bennie.

These are terrific fish and chips – and our meal has turned out to be much the same price (and better) as if we’d walked around the corner to Anderson Street.

With a $5 delivery fee and a 10 per cent discount for a first-time order, the total is $25.61.

Forgetting about the corn and getting a small serve of chips (which would’ve been ample) would get that price down to a very splendid $21.15.

Ordering a home-delivered meal from Dough! has also seen us not left to deal with the plastic containers that go with all other delivered food, save for pizza.

Another potential downfall?

I wonder if the delivery drivers, in general, are caught up in the same onerous work/pay/conditions situation as convenience store workers and Myer cleaners.

I’m very interested in some reader feedback on this.

Do you use Menulog?

Or another service?

If so, what have been your westside winners?

What – if any – have been the disasters?

Meal of the week No.6: Ebi

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f&c

 

The dinner hour for CTS and, we suspect, many other bloggers and foodies is somewhere between 6pm and 7pm.

For some, this is the legacy of having – or having had – very young children.

Perhaps “available light” has something to do with it.

I’ve even heard of bloggers who only do lunch for that very reason!

But a big part of it for us is … we’re hungry for food, hungry for adventure.

So 8pm seems way too late, especially on a work/school night.

The Mediterranean post-sietsa 9pm or later?

Unimaginable!

Early evening dining also means missing rush hour and always getting a seat.

In the case of tiny Ebi in West Footcray, that latter point is no small thing.

Entering by myself and taking a seat at the bar, I go through the usual routine … look at the display cabinet, consult the blackboard menu, peruse the regular menu, before saying …

“I’ll have fish and chips thanks, John – large!”

John: “How did I know you were going to say that?!”

Me: “Hmmpf! You must have other regulars who always order the same thing?”

The genial, chrome-domed Ebi host the proceeds to count off a long list of regulars with whom he is on first-name terms and their invariable choices – “fish three ways”, vegetable balls, udon, bento and so it goes.

Everyone gets their own groove on at Ebi …

Old-school WeFo

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Con’s Fish And Chips, 577 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 9689 280

Bennie and I had good fish and chips from Con’s many moons ago but haven’t explored the place further since then.

This time, I’ve been nudged through the door by Col and the very excellent Barkly Village Facebook page he runs – he’s raved about the Con’s burgers several times, arousing my interest.

Truth is, we’d looked elsewhere largely based on our preference to eat in and sit down whenever possible, no matter what kind of food is at hand.

So I’m delighted to find, in what is a basic take-away operation, a small table and chairs for my comfort and enjoyment.

Long tells me she and Hung have run the joint for about 11 years but that they still see the eponymous Con from time to time.

 

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Did I say old-school?

How can you tell?

 

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I’m super impressed that Long provides me a half serve of the minimum serve of chips for $2.

They, too, look old-school but are fine, hot and enjoyable.

Predictably, even a half serve is way too big.

 

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My “one with the lot minus egg” ($7) is a two-hands job that is demolished quickly – it’s a typically enjoyable, um, old-school burger.

In the way of such places, the patty has been smashed flat.

I don’t have any problem with that – tradition is tradition, after all.

But next time, I’ll request an extra patty.

These folks are so friendly and obliging, I’m sure that will not present any problem!

 

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