BITE CLUB: TOP FISH & CHIP SHOPS IN KENT
‘cene magazine listened to the readers and visited the best recommended Fish & Chip Shops from around Kent
As 90s rap star Nelly quite eloquently put it, now is the time to “batter up”.
Though that may have been a baseball reference, we know that everyone loves a sneaky portion of fish and chips. It’s nostalgic. It’s iconic. It’s arguably the country’s signature dish.
While the days of serving it in actual newspaper may have passed, the quirks of the humble fish and chip shop remain. Think pickled eggs... where else can you find them?
But things are also moving on, too. On menus we have seen vegan fish (honestly), gluten-free and wheat-free batter, ‘potato of the week’, deep-fried Cadbury Creme Eggs, Freddie
Mercury impersonators and even the name of the trawler boat bringing in the fish!
We took on the brutal challenge of travelling around the county to test out some top chippies that are still knocking it out of the park. Batter up!
Walmer Fish & Chips
Walmer Fish & Chips has been an Italian-run family business since its creation in 1997. Now headed up by siblings Giancarlo and Carolina, taking over from their parents Luisa and Carlo, the chip shop on the seafront not only takes care of the traditional but is thinking about modern chip shop diners.
Its amazing mosaic and retro feel sits perfectly in Deal, while the menu will attract customers from greater distances.
The shop has got modern trends in mind, with its vegan sausages, pineapple fritters and pea fritters offering something for those avoiding meat and fish.
But alternative diets are not just an afterthought; vegetarian specials such as the deep-fried halloumi offer a genuinely delicious product we would certainly travel back for.
Gluten-free batter options are available, as well as the specially-made gluten-free curry sauce (though trace gluten may be present due to shop layout). There’s virtually no plastic – forks are wooden, boxes are cardboard – and it is the little things that make a big difference. Our visit included battered red mullet and seabass, served with a piece of lemon – it doesn’t take a lot, but it is memorable. Does your chip shop offer you lemon?
Very proud of their community interaction, they collect donations and give food vouchers to charity, having handed out more than 1,140 portions of fish and chips across the last few years.
Look out for their active social media and YouTube channel featuring #BatterEverything, in which Giancarlo reviews crunchy creations such as battered Belgian waffles, battered pizza, croissants, Kinder Beuno, Ferrero Rocher and, at Easter, Cadbury Creme Eggs.
Tom Bells, Bexleyheath
Tom Bell Fish & Chips has been trading for more than 30 years, with a number of outlets of this family-run business (see Edenbridge, Sevenoaks, Bromley, Orpington, Bickley and Westerham).
In the Bexleyheath shop, customers can order and then take a seat with partial table service.
Red-and-white-chequered tablecloths and vintage pictures of Fred Bell chip shops from bygone eras make it all very old-school but friendly and welcoming.
What’s more, a delicious light batter covers a range of fish including haddock, plaice, cod, scampi, calamari, skate, rock and roe. And they aren’t skimpy on portions. A big gold star goes to the free tartar sauce – something very few chips shops offer.
Newington Fish Bar, Ramsgate
Away from old main drag and the thriving Ramsgate harbour, you might worry about the footfall going past the Newington Fish Bar... no need. This place is a classic ‘I never knew’. Those who don’t go in will never know the quality of the meaty fish, the rich flavour of the batter and the regularity with which they bag up awards and commendations.
Regarded as the first fish and chip shop in Kent to be awarded ‘five stars’ by the Sea Fish Industry Authority, the Newington Fish Bar has been a big fish on the awards scene for some years.
Back in 2005, the Independent newspaper placed it at #1 in a survey for the Top 50 UK Fish Shops.
In 2017, it was named the best in Kent and appeared in the UK’s Top 20 at the National Fish and Chip Awards and was similarly awarded this year, making it into the Top 60 shops in the National Fish and Chip Shop Awards for 2020.
Open since 1980, the shop has undergone some changes, with a modern restaurant area and stylishly illuminated front counter. In-house cut chips are served in 100% compostable and biodegradable packaging. On our visit we took on a monster plaice with chips and a speciality Steakwich with cheese and onions. Spectacular.
The shop remains very active on Facebook, with Cutting the Cod, Behind the Counter and Ditching Plastic videos reaching more than 15,000 views collectively.
Watch out for Christmas, when battered Brussel sprouts, pigs in blankets and stuffing balls are on the menu.
Shakey Shakey, Herne Bay
So, what’s always the first question?
“What’s in the Shakey Shakey seasoning?”
What came first, the seasoning or the name of chippie? I guess we will never know. But you should all go and try it out.
Shakey Shakey boasts inclusive menus, with a complete selection of gluten- and wheat-free options, such as onion rings, battered sausage, fish cakes and crab cakes. They also house a complete vegan menu, with battered Tofish, veggie and curry spring rolls, mushy pea fritters, beefless pies, battered garlic mushrooms and chickenless nuggets.
There is attention to detail, with, for example, naming the potatoes on offer (we had Maris Bard), while little specialities like whitebait and chip butties add a little something to the menu.
But it is the little tubs of Shakey Shakey seasoning that are most intriguing. We really don’t know what’s in it, but the salty, moreish tang it adds to your chips will get you buying a sample to take home. We did. The continuous ‘Excellent’ ratings and gushing reviews on TripAdvisor tell the story.
Reliance Fish Restaurant, Gravesend
A livelier fish and chip outlet you’ll never see; the Reliance in Gravesend is renowned for two things... unbelievable fish and chips, and the best tribute acts in the UK.
With both a chippie-style service counter and a 60-70-seater restaurant, Reliance manages to get the balance of quick service for those who want it and friendly chatter for those looking to sit down.
Arguably the stand-out portion of fish from our entire trip round Kent was the naturally smoked haddock. Served in batter, it is not a taste I have ever experienced before, but one I want to have again.
Supplied by P&L Fish Supply – White Rose Traditional Quality Smoked Fish, it is now a staple specialty on the menu, and a must-have.
While Reliance has had a number of celebrity visitors – see its Facebook page – it is the restaurant’s reputation for impersonators that puts bums on seats. Evenings sell out as the best UK tribute acts perform in front of the counters, with the likes of Abba, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Robbie Williams, the Bee Gees and Diana Ross dropping in for pickled egg and chips. Amazing.
Catch Fish & Chips, Ashford
Out in the Eureka strip, Catch Fish & Chips has been garnering a reputation for itself over the past few years as a community hub and award-winning chip shop.
With a few tables that turn over at a rapid pace, and a queuing rope, you can tell just how popular this place is.
The Federation of Fish Friers has given it five stars, while Fry Magazine has named it in the 50 Best Takeaways in the UK every year since 2015.
The little touches such as the ‘Your plaice or mine?’ sign, the fact that they name the trawler Granit that catches their fish and the Barents Sea area Fao27 where their cod and haddock are caught shows they think about the customer. The minted mushy peas and cod goujons provide some alternative to the regulars and the amazing salt-and-pepper-battered squid rings alone are worth the journey.
Barming Fish & Chips, Maidstone
On the outskirts of Maidstone, Barming Fish & Chips certainly wins the award for community spirit. While the restaurant is the most spotless chip shop we have ever been to, it is its “Pay It Forward” scheme that amazed us. With a saveloy in one hand, and the biggest pickle you’ve ever seen in the other, we listened to how customers come in and buy an extra portion of fish an chips for charity and stick post-it notes on the wall to mark the portion. Reacting to the homeless problem in Maidstone, Barming Fish & Chips made it so people can come in, take a post-it not off the wall and pay for something to eat with it. Stunning.
The rock and chips were pretty good, too!