For centuries now, Brits across the land have been looking forward to their Friday fish suppers from the local ‘chippy’. Fresh fillets of cod, plaice or haddock coated in batter and deep fried, served with chunky potato chips – simple and delicious! With over 10,000 fish and chip shops in the UK and more than half the adult population visiting one at least once a month, this affordable and filling meal has been fuelling Britain’s working classes for hundreds of years and was even one of the few foods to avoid rationing in the Second World War. The humble chip was even mentioned in Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities.
The origin of the dish is a hotly debated topic with both the North and South of England claiming to be the founding fathers of the perfect pairing. It’s thought that Jewish immigrant Joseph Marlin opened the first fish and chip shop in London’s East end back in 1860. A similar outlet opened in Lancashire shortly after and soon the craze had spread with shops and restaurants opening throughout the country.
Now the famous British dish, a cheap and cheerful staple for generations of Britons, has found its way onto the menus of restaurants all over the world, including Prague. I took a look at a few of the options available within the city.
Ryby & Chips
Myslíkova 1698/18, Prague 1
The incredibly new kid on the block (opened December 2013) is already winning over Prague’s hardcore fish-and-chip aficionados with its authentic taste and reasonable pricing. I enjoyed deliciously flaky cod and perfectly chunky thick-cut chips, served as part of their meal deal – 159 CZK for fish, chips, mushy peas and a drink of your choice – this beats the rest of the prices in this list (and in the UK) by a mile.
The interior has a very authentic British ‘chippy’ feel, with tiled walls, minimal decoration, open kitchen with great view of preparation area and fryers and even the obligatory radio playing loudly into the service area. There’s seating for around 15 people on stools to eat in, although most of the business during my visit was for take away (the draft from the door constantly opening for the next customer was also very reminiscent of the chip shop experience back ‘home’.)
The counter service was efficient, friendly and fast, with just a short wait for my cod to be freshly fried. Meals are served in environmentally friendly cardboard trays along with traditional wooden chip forks, as well as above-average-quality plastic knives and forks but no ‘real’ cutlery or crockery.
Customers can help themselves to unlimited salt and malt vinegar from the the counter. Ketchup, brown sauce and other condiments are charged extra at 7 CZK per sachet.
A truly authentic fish-and-chip experience for a surprisingly cheap price.
Fish & Chips 21 Dlouha Street
Dlouhá 21, Prague 1
Prague’s first dedicated fish and chip shop opened its doors on elegant Dlouhá street in February last year. A bistro-style restaurant with an extensive wine list and higher prices to match, I enjoyed the newly introduced XXL Cod Menu for 195 CZK which comes complete with cod fillet, mushy peas, coleslaw and all-you-can-eat chips. (In fact there were plenty on the plate so I didn’t need to test the bottomless re-fill claim.) I was offered a choice of herb or beer batter and opted for the latter, although I did spot a slight donut-y aftertaste to the batter which was a bit off-putting but certainly didn’t ruin the meal. The presentation was excellent but the layer of fake newspaper under the fish and chips was a bit tricky to negotiate and got in the way of the good food. Service was professional and friendly as you’d expect for a restaurant with such a posh postcode.
Bohemia Bagel, Holešovice – Burger Bar
Dukelských hrdinů 48, Prague 7
An unlikely setting for a British dish, but a good option outside the city centre. Alongside the menu of bagels, burgers and brunches, the Holešovice branch of the popular expat and tourist hang out offers battered fish with chips for a reasonable 165 CZK. Instead of a more traditional side of mushy peas or tartar sauce, the meal comes with dish of malt vinegar, a bit sparse aesthetically, but tasty nonetheless. I was served three smaller fillets of fish in a dark crispy, batter – think more tempura than traditional – with homemade, skin-on chips, thinner than your average chip-shop chip.
It’s obvious that these guys have the rest of the extensive bagel-themed menu to fall back on so fried fish isn’t their main focus and as a result isn’t perhaps as lovingly prepared as the dedicated fish-and-chip vendors, but it’s still tasty and definitely worth a mention in case you happen to find yourself in that area with a fish-and-chip craving.
Nordsee, OC Palladium
Námestí Republiky 1, Prague 1
The red herring (excuse the pun) of the list. With a bit of negotiating with the staff behind the canteen-style counter I was able to come away with a battered plaice fillet with chips and tartar sauce for 199 CZK. The fish was breaded rather than battered but the chips were fairly authentic and the tartar sauce was one of the best of the bunch. Served with fresh lemon slices this was a surprisingly good option in an unexpected location.
Tržište 4, Prague 1
The staff at this Mala Strana Irish pub really make an effort to welcome you and look after you during your visit with friendly and efficient table service in a cosy atmosphere. Fish (cod) and chips with tartar sauce and mushy peas will set you back 290 CZK, a fairly hefty price tag but a huge portion to match. The batter was nice and crispy and the fish inside flakey and light. The chips were pub-style rather than traditional-chip-shop style but still nice and chunky and not overly greasy. The mushy peas were served on top of the fish and were fresh tasting and gave a nice splash of colour to the plate. The side dish of tartar sauce was a welcome accompaniment, as was as the basket of additional sauces (including brown sauce and malt vinegar) on the table. Highly recommended for the service and portion size.
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