Where can you eat south London’s best fish and chips?

How easy is it to find a decent fish supper without having to fork out at gastro pub prices? In …

A fish platter at Masters Super Fish
A fish platter at Masters Super Fish

How easy is it to find a decent fish supper without having to fork out at gastro pub prices? In honour of 2013 being the 150th anniversary of fish and chips, batter fanatic Phoebe Lowndes endeavours to find out

Before our second date, my boyfriend texted to confirm our Friday night plans. The location left charmingly undisclosed, I was excited by the prospect of being wined and dined.

Cut to our arrival outside a less-than-glam restaurant and takeaway on Waterloo road. Yet my initial surprise at the choice of establishment gave way to anticipation as we were hit with a hot waft of vinegar. That evening, gobbling battered cod and chips, washed down with house white, we left feeling we were in on a secret.

Masters had revived my love of fish and chips, and since that first date, our Friday-night-fish-supper outings have become a monthly pilgrimage. Where else could possibly match up in South London?

Considering several recommendations, I decided to check out a suggestion from a trusted friend for a fish bar in Kennington. As a low-key place, and a long running institution, I thought it would serve as a good comparison. I then braced myself for two fish suppers in two days, in order to bring you a head-to-head battle of the classic British dinner.

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Masters SuperfishMasters Super Fish, 191 Waterloo Road, SE1

Excellent value for money at £8 a plate or £9.50 if you go for the Masters special (a monstrous 247g of battered cod). Also a pile of bread and butter, followed by fresh prawns on the house to start. The main is served alongside gravy boats of homemade tartar sauce and a choice of pickled onion or a ‘wally’ (pickled gherkin). I order the same plate of cod and chips every time I visit, never tempted to stray.

The fish is flipped straight from the fryer onto a plate piled high with chips. Delicate flaky fish reaches right into every nook of its coating, certainly not more batter than substance here. The lighter option looks every bit as appealing as the battered treats: king prawns in garlic butter, sardines, swordfish steak, skate wing – to name just some of the grilled fare on offer, all for around a tenner.

Taxi drivers flock from all over London to frequent this small caff (I’ve counted up to nine black cabs parked up outside). The relaxed atmosphere and no-fuss table service draws a low-key crowd, but the cheeky banter will certainly keep you entertained. The menu proclaims “it’s the groundnut oil that makes all the difference”. We say it’s the superbly fresh fish, sourced daily from Billingsgate market. If I were to give this place a rating in gold stars? 9/10 – dropping a point for the surly waiting staff. Having visited countless times, there’s never an ounce of recognition; and that irks me every time.

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IMG_2987Windmill Fish Bar in Kennington, 211 Kennington Lane, SE11 5QS. No bookings.

So having been persuaded away from my regular to sample what Windmill has on offer, I was full of expectations. My first impression was at how clean the place is. Gleaming tables are polished to shine and the chrome fryers sparkle under bright white lighting. Burly men stand at the counter buying chicken nuggets, but our entrance doesn’t go unnoticed and we’re welcomed in and told to grab a table. No need for a menu because it’s all up on the lit boards behind the fryer, and after a quick glance, it’s clear that Windmill’s menu extends beyond the repertoire of Masters Super Fish. But is that a bonus?

The fish arrives and my first thought is that it doesn’t look sumptuous. A little flat, with a batter that verges on jaundiced. We ask for condiments and are offered a selection of sachets, mildly disappointing, but no biggie. Wally? It’ll cost ya – 70p to be exact. Tucking in, I find the addition of vinegar transforms this dish from so-so to quite nice. I rarely add S&V to fish because it overpowers the flavour and makes for soggy batter, but in the absence of fresh tartar sauce, the vinegar provides an additional kick – and for this I’m prepared to forgo crisp batter. The offerings here are fried in vegetable oil and the vinegar also helps to erase some of the oily taste, which doesn’t seem to materialise at Masters. Perhaps the secret really is in milder tasting groundnut oil?

IMG_2993The chips are a surprise delight., comparable to my beloved Masters’, and would certainly make any potato-lover swoon.

Drinks-wise, they have all the usual soft options but you won’t find alcohol on the menu, it’s definitely more the sort of establishment you’d go to soak the stuff up, or to cure an aching head the next day.

Overall we had a nice meal – disappointingly though that the fish was hardly star of the show. Something of the pride associated with sourcing and selecting fish is lost here; you’ll find no framed photographs of beaming seamen with their catch, as in Masters. If you’re after a good chippy then this is the place for you, but a devoted fish restaurant it is not. Large portion of cod and chips, with mushy peas and a pickled gherkin £10.80. A respectable 6/10 from me, most of these stars garnered from the memorable chips, but a point in the bag for sparkling fryers.

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Best of the rest

Olley’s Fish Experience, 65-69 Norwood Road, SE24 9AA. Booking recommended.

More of a restaurant vibe here, with its pine panelling and white tablecloths. But if you’re looking for a dining ‘experience’, this is the ticket. Wide selection of fish to choose from, cooked a myriad of ways. Cod and chips for £12.45, not including table service.

FishcothequeFishcotheque, 79A Waterloo Road, SE1 8UD.

Full marks for ingenuity with the name but less enthusiastic about the food. We strayed here late one Sunday evening, after finding Masters shut (closed on Sundays, rather traditionally because there isn’t a fish market that day). However, if you’re hungry for fish and want to grab a quick bite, Fishcotheque hits the spot. Tucked under a railway bridge opposite the comings and goings of Waterloo station, it gets very busy on a Friday night. Cod and chips, a reasonable £7.95.

The Fish Club, 57 Clapham High Street,

This place claims to bring ‘traditional fish n chips into the 21st century’. It certainly is the most modern, and perhaps tasteful, out of the five. However, it’s not about scoring style points and The Fish Club certainly tries hard to win you over with their ‘concept’ menu of fresh fish delivered twice daily. I’m certain this isn’t all that original, but the food is highly rated and a bit fancier than usual chip shop fare. Good ol’ sustainable coley and chips is £9.95, not including service.

So where’s your favourite fish ‘n’ chip shop?

Words and photos: Phoebe Lowndes

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  • Show Comments

  • DB

    you should try olley’s in Herne Hill, quite good!

  • South London Blog

    Fish club and olleys are great but you should try Kennedys in Streatham Hill, definitely one of the best South London has to offer.

  • Dave

    Olley’s is the most overrated, overpriced chippy I’ve ever come across.

  • Mark

    I’d second a vote for Kennedy’s

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