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Restaurant review: F&C Traditional Fish and Chips

Angie Sammons finds the most hard working (and possibly best) chip shop in the city lies up in Kensington

Written by . Published on April 16th 2010.

KEN Testi calls up.

Deaf School have got a gig coming up. A tribute to their late singer Eric Shark. What can we do to help spread the word?

People don't do fish and chips as much as they used to. With good reason, they are mostly vile.

Ken is the one-time co-owner of Eric's. He is also Deaf School's fixer. Manager of a group that went off the radar for a generation in order to carve out individual high places in that London music industry.

Nowadays, as one, they come back to play Liverpool, city of their conception, with the same regularity as the Arsenal bus showing up at Anfield.

Much loved as they are, I say, we have done Deaf School a lot. This will require imagination.

But didn't the band have a song called Capaldi's Cafe, written by the departed Sam (for that was Eric's real name)? And isn't Capald's still going up in Kensington? And isn't it time we reviewed it?

Yes it is, says Ken, about Kenny, and off he goes with his medicine wagon.

This was meant to be a review of Capaldi's, but isn't.

By the time our missing-in-action restaurant reviewer, AA Grill, and I get around to Capaldi's, which fond memory has looking like a 1950s neon-lit milk bar, Ken's gig (at the Everyman this weekend) is almost full. It doesn't even need a push.

Unlike us. We are late and there is a heated exchange in the car about being late. Thus we arrive at the historic Capaldis at 1.30pm.

Stony silence as we park outside, on the corner of Romer Road, by the 10 bus stop.

What's this? A striking looking chap, nattily dressed, is leaving the door at the back of the cafe. What luck, Armando Capaldi himself. Original owner. We beam at him, collective gritted jaws slackening, then accost him with questions, taking his picture before he has chance to say no.

Disappointment, he doesn't own Capaldis any more, but they kept the name. Disappointment, Capaldi's Cafe no longer looks like a 1950s milk bar. It now looks like the refectory of a care home.

Disappointment, it is about to shut for the day.

Now, Kensington has had £62 million injected into it in the name of regeneration. No, not the one in London, the one here. So, like the one in London, given all that dosh floating about, it should look like Millionaire's Row. Does it? Does it bugger.

OK, there's a prominent Lidl and a McDonald's but those are the only buildings that look shiny and new. The most grotty have been bulldozed and replaced by inexplicable tranches of grass. Perhaps that's what they meant by ploughing money into the area.

A critic might say that, but we are only food critics, today, and by-now-starving ones. The pleasant veneer with sharp-suited Armando is beginning to crack again.. He has long gone off to see his son, Mario, who runs the New York Bagels shop in India Buildings. We should have gone with him.

But we have been tipped off about a special chip shop that deserves a visit, the F&C Fish and Chip shop, in Fairfield. So, at five to two, its proprietor, Chris German, welcomes us in with a smile, even though he is probably about to close too..

You expect to find a quantity surveyor making their own pies, every day, as much as you expect to find one eating them.

The march of the pizza and kebab shop on neighbourhoods is nothing new and, come the evening, it's Chinese takeaways that keep most chip shops in business.

People don't do fish and chips as much as they used to. With good reason, they are mostly vile.

Sickening grease packs that weigh hefty, wrapped up in paper they take on a steam-filled sogginess, batter flaccid and crusty, chips watery and limp. The aroma remains tantalising, yet after indulging greedily in laborious climax the whole package lies depressingly solid and nauseatingly on the gut. The old traditional Friday night treat is a weep-fest.

Chris does good fish and chips. Cod, haddock, plaice, whole tail scampi, it comes from the Kensington wholesale fish market a minute's drive away, gleaming every day.

He dips fine sized slabs of it in his own beer batter made every morning, not the powdered processed stuff that makes you want to shoot yourself. Because he knows what he is doing, the result is crisp and as dry as a desert, puffed out with pride. He serves it with mushy peas, marrowfats that are, of course, soaked in bicarbonate of soda in the back, and we say they could have a little more seasoning.

Chris has tables and chairs in his spotless shop, so we can have this conversation. It also means it counts as a restaurant in our book. We sip not-bad coffee, on the house with food.

He was in Fleetwood when he got the idea. At the Granada Fish Shop and Restaurant which has won dozens of awards. They only do one thing here, and they do it well. Chris, excited by the possibilities of Kensington Regeneration, set up his stall thus. But with pies.

Every day he makes something different, today's is steak and kidney and “might be tomorrow too”, although chicken and other red meat variations might crop up too. The pastry (puff today) is light and soft, the pie filling is good, erring on the side of kidney chunks. Tip, if you want extra gravy (normal chip shop standard) get it on the side.

He also makes his own burgers, incidentally, and even the chop suey rolls. He is going the extra mile, having a go.

Chris whose shop is just a couple of doors away from the Labour Wavertree Constituency Office, sent his two grumpy customers away with moods transformed. When the debate comes around to where to eat good fish and chips, he will get our vote every time.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 7.5/10 food
5/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address: F&C Fish Traditional Fish and Chips
Prescot Road,
Fairfield, L7.
0151 264 8657

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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