The Brits take fish and chips seriously. This is the dish that topped a survey to select a national icon, beating out the Queen, Princess Diana and the Beatles. Chips in Britain are never referred to as French fries.
So, following the recommendation of friends and relatives in the London area, we headed for the Mayfair Chippy, an icon in itself tucked into 14 N. Audley St.
This may be an odd way to start a restaurant review, but the Mayfair Chippy immediately captured our hearts when there was absolutely no overpowering odor of fishy grease surrounding the front entrance. This immediately put it above 99 percent of competing establishments.
Taste-testing at the Chippy came up at the top of the delicious scale whether we selected cod, haddock or plaice, all fried in beer batter. Other exotic offerings with chips included scampi tails or skate wing.
The fresh, moist fish was lightly covered in a batter that retained its crispness throughout the meal. The chips, equally crisp, shared the lightness of the fish.
The restaurant’s “Mayfair Classic” was an offering of fried cod or haddock, chips, mushy peas, and an outstandingly tangy tartar sauce. Our advice is to exile your mushy peas to the side of your plate. (Scots prefer gravy on their chips and the Belgian preference of mayonnaise finds few British backers).
The steamed mussels in a creamy white wine could compete in tenderness and taste with any fine restaurant in London.
The menu goes on and on – grilled rock oysters, soft-shell crab burger or surprisingly pleasing haddock fish cakes topped with a poached egg smothered by chive butter sauce.
As a further advertisement for their cuisine, the restaurant had posted a headline from the British press stating that “nutrition tests prove fish & chips have less calories.” Perhaps as a paean to British schooling, someone had scratched through the word “less” and inserted “fewer.”