I don’t know about you, but for me fish n chips conjures up childhood memories of a special treat on a Friday evening; my dad would go round everyone in the family asking who wanted what – I was always the only one who wanted a gherkin – then he’d head out to the chippy to get the dinner. As it wasn’t every Friday there was always a buzz of excitement about it.
When I left home and went to university the happy fish n chips memories continued as we used to stop off at our local chippy on the way home from the pub for a portion of chips, I used to feel such a rebel having a second dinner!
Then when I moved to France in my early 20s, fish n chips became the biggest treat when I came back to the UK for my biannual visits – oh, how I missed having a decent chippy when I lived on the French Riviera. (Funnily enough the French seem to love them too, whenever French friends or family come to stay the first food they want to try out is the British fish n chips.)
When I was contacted a couple of weeks ago to ask if I would like to try out a new posh fish n chips restaurant that was opening in Clapham (Abbeville Road to be precise), I jumped at the chance, as for me posh and fish n chips just don’t go together. I took my lovely northern friend, Jo, with me so that we could critique the place and the food with our north/south differences and we headed over to Kerbisher and Malt last week.
The interior certainly didn’t look like any chippy I’ve ever been to before – this was actually somewhere I’d like to hang around to eat my fish n chips. The ambiance was good; it’s not exactly somewhere I would choose to go for a romantic dinner, but if Ben and I ended up here after a day out then we certainly wouldn’t be disappointed.
The menu was a bit confusing to start off with – first there was a list of fish to choose from (battered, grilled or crumbed in matzo meal), fine we got that, but then there was a list of “Favourites” such as Calamari, fish bites and a half pint of prawns, amongst others, and it was unclear if these should be starters or eaten on their own. We asked our waitress who explained they are not really starters but are more light bites that can be combined.
However in the interest of giving the most thorough review we sacrificed ourselves and chose a “Favourite” each, as a starter, and a different fish n chips each. I chose the half pint of prawns as I LOVE prawns but we have to limit how much we eat them at home as Ben has (or according to him – as he loves them – “had”) a prawn allergy.
Well there were oodles of them. They were literally spilling out of the top of my glass. They were good prawns too, really tasty. There are just a couple of things I’d say about this dish – most of them had eggs in them, so if you’re funny about things like that you might want to choose something else, and secondly there were no finger wipes and you do get messy! The waitress kindly brought over a bowl of water for my mucky fingers, but a wipe would have gone down a bit better (or is that just because I spend my days with kids and have become wipe-obsessed?!?).
In the interest of trying out different dishes to review, Jo went for the Calamari.
As you can see there was an awful lot of Calamari too! I had a sneaky taste (as I also love squid) and they were really not bad, not the best I’ve ever had but certainly something I would order again.
But the best was definitely yet to come, and my recommendation would really be to go old school and stick with good old battered fish and chips.
Jo chose the cod (which you can see in the first photo, above), and I went for the plaice. We both opted for battered, just because having grilled fish or crumbed in matzo meal just felt too strange for a fish n chips restaurant, so we went for the classic option.
As you can see the portion sizes are ENORMOUS, our fish was literally placed on top of a mound of chips, so you certainly won’t go hungry at Kerbisher and Malt.
As for the dish itself, how did we rate it?
The fish was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, with an absolute freshness that I’ve certainly never tasted in fish n chips before. The chips were also very good, although less like fish n chips chips, and more like restaurant chips, in general I do prefer a real chippy chip, but that is possibly just me.
As you can imagine there was way too much for us to get through, but we did make a good attempt at it. Even though we had sides to get through too. I couldn’t have fish n chips and not have a gherkin, and Jo wanted to try out the mushy peas (something I can’t bear, so I left that test to her).
My gherkin was the perfect accompaniment to my fish n chips (in my opinion) and Jo was very impressed with her mushy peas (which is saying something coming from a northerner, she tells me!).
So what was our overall feeling about Kerbisher and Malt?
Posh fish n chips certainly seems to describe it well. The food was really tasty and the atmosphere great for a “fast food” restaurant. It was also good value for money for the area it’s located in (Abbeville Road, Clapham); a very generous portion of fish n chips (like those above) costs £7-9, depending on which fish you go for – Kerbisher and Malt offers 5 fish: Haddock, Cod, Pollock, Coley and Plaice.
You also can’t knock a fish n chips restaurant that offers you a fairly broad selection of wines and beers either: 5 whites, 2 reds, 1 rosé, Prosecco and even Champagne compete with 5 beers from the award-winning Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, London.
Would I go back there?
I don’t think it is somewhere that I would plan to go to with Ben, just the two of us, but it is the type of place that, if we were in the area, I would definitely suggest going to. However I wouldn’t think twice about going there with the kids, as a bit of a change from pizza restaurants. They have a kids menu, offering 2 courses and a drink for £5.50. The drink is juice or milk, the second course is ice-cream and there are 4 mains to choose from: kids fish & chips, fish fingers & chips, grilled sausage & beans or fish bites & chips. I know that our 7 year old would be happy with pretty much anything on the menu, and whilst our 19 month old doesn’t have chips or ice-cream yet I’d be happy for her to have sausage and beans there. (They have high chairs for little ones.)
Would I recommend Kerbisher and Malt?
I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way for lunch or dinner there (it is after all fish n chips and not a Michelin-starred restaurant), however if you live nearby and want some incredibly fresh, beautifully-cooked fish at a decent price, then yes, this is the place for you. (The takeaway is the same price as if you eat in, making it possibly a little bit more expensive than most fish n chips in the area.)
About Kerbisher and Malt
The restaurant on Abbeville Road in Clapham is the fourth Kerbisher and Malt in London; you can find the other 3 in Brook Green, Ealing and East Sheen, whilst a fifth will be opening very close to Farringdon’s Exmouth Market in July.
Kerbisher and Malt is owned by classically trained chef Saul Reuben (OXO Tower, Racine) and entrepreneur Nick Crossley. They are committed to sourcing sustainable and fresh produce; when we asked where the fish came from we were informed that most comes from Cornwall, so it’s good to hear that it’s supporting British industry too.
Kerbisher and Malt pride themselves on offering food that is as healthy as possible, so everything is made fresh using the finest ingredients, and the menu has a range of grilled fish, freshly made fishcakes and salads. According to them their battered fish & chips has fewer calories and less fat than pizzas, curries or burger and fries, so this could be your healthier eating fast food option.
Disclosure: Franglaise Cooking was offered a meal for two adults, including drinks, in exchange for this honest review. As ever all words and opinions are my own (with some input from my friend, Jo!).