Saturday, July 19, 2008


Okay, enough is enough. Why is there not a single decent chippie in Oxford? I'm not talking about people who work with wood and whistle as they work; I'm talking about that lard-loving British institution of the good old fish'n'chippie. I like them all: fresh, seaside offerings, Chinese takeaway combos with the whole family working behind the bar, and the village local with the same old boy muttering behind the counter who was there when you were a kid, and your dad was a kid, and your granddad was a kid...

But what I don't like is Oxford's attempt. Fair enough, Oxford's not the fish'n'chippiest of towns, but its surrounding villages have made a good effort and tourists and students would happily guzzle greasy chips covered in newspaper print and some deep-fried delights.

Oxford chip shops fall into one or more of the Bad Categories of fish and chips:

- Trying to be too posh - greasy lumps of potato just aren't sophisticated. They're meant to be hoovered up from the paper and shovelled into hungry mouths with grubby fingers, not poked at with a posh little fork.

- Trying to be healthy - the whole point of fish'n'chips is to be decadent and forget about the usual calorie-counting. Fish and chip shops should never have seen a salad, let alone try to sell soggy lettuce.

- Actually being a kebab van - kebab vans sell kebabs, burgers and fries. Fine in their own right, but definitely not to be confused with proper chip shop offerings.

- Actually being a greasy fast food shop, even if not a chain - fish and chips means just that: battered fish, chips, mushy peas and maybe a couple of sausages and pies. Baked beans and curry sauce are acceptable. I'll let chicken nuggets slip through as they're pretty yummy, but burgers, jacket potatoes and skinny fries are completely unacceptable.

The fast food places in Cowley fall under many of these categories. The chippie off the high street is at least trying, but still far too touristy, and Posh Fish just can't quite cut it with expensive prices, too much variation and too many staff. Still, it will do for those late-weekend cravings.

In the meantime, the search must go on...

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