Matthew Pearson

Fish and Chips in East London

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Give the person a fish and some chips, and they'll be much, much happier. Batter that fish and they'll be putty in your hands. So goes the old English proverb. And we’re looking for that kind of putty-in-your-hands satisfaction in the East End today, as we take you on a tour of our favourite places to get fish and chips in East London.

Many people believe fish and chips first got together in the East End. Not only that, the marrying of the two is thought to have actually been the brainchild of an immigrant Ashkenazi Jew fleeing persecution in his native Russia. In the early 1860s, Joseph Malin moved into an East End slum. A place stricken with poverty and a lack of hope, but the only place many Jewish immigrants could afford to live. He wanted to sell a Sephardic Jewish fish dish he loved - Pescado Frito - to the people of the East End, and he paired the crispy battered fish with fluffy fried British chipped potatoes. He opened up a shop in Mile End and the whole thing took off. The British press called it ‘Fish Fried in the Jewish Style’. So while it may have spread to the coast, fish and chips wasn’t made in a postcard-perfect seaside town in Little England. It was made by a determined immigrant living in the poorest part of London, within the sound of Bow Bells. So, with all thanks to Mr Malin, let’s see what people are doing with his legacy around the East End these days, on a tour of our favourite places to get fish and chips in East London.

Poppies, Spitalfields

You’d be forgiven for thinking this place trades on its nostalgic looks rather than its food. And for thinking it’s a bit of a tourist trap, given its position, popularity and perfect postwar East End looks. You’d be forgiven, but you’d also be wrong. Their sustainable fish is brought in fresh from Billingsgate Market each morning, and filleted onsite by veteran fishmonger and fryer, Salih Sadik. And the chips are just as you want them to be: just enough bend, right amount of fluffiness and not too greasy. The menu is impressive too, with lemon sole, rock and skate available alongside the traditional haddock and cod. This place prides itself on its East End heritage, and you can see that all around you, from the newspaper-style serving paper to the jukebox, staff uniforms and the fact they serve jellied eels as a starter. You can visit the original shop just off Brick Lane, visit the one in Spitalfields Market itself or head to the newer shops in Camden and Soho.

Fish House, Hackney and Stratford

This posh fish and chip shop has become supremely popular for its love of tradition, focus on quality and commitment to ethically-sourced produce. The original Hackney shop is situated right next to Victoria Park. So, there’s no chance your chips will have gone cold before you pop a seat on the grass. The takeaway does all the classics as the classics demand to be done. The eat-in restaurant gives you more choice, with a menu that changes with the seasons.

Sutton & Sons, Hackney

This family-run fish and chip mini-empire is loved by locals. Their chips are golden, their fish is fresh, their batter is crisp. Their homemade pickles and cakes are just spoiling you now. Sutton & Sons made headlines when they opened London’s first completely vegan “Fish” and Chip shop, and you can head to that Hackney joint if you wish. They also serve a full, incredibly inventive vegan menu in their main Hackney shop, as well as their places in Islington and Stoke Newington.

Faulkners, Dalston

A local institution that has had its ups and downs in recent years. But, Faulkners is back on an upward trajectory now. It’s pretty fancy looking in there - you can get cocktails with you F and C for flip sake - but its menu makes a fortune of its fanciness. Fresh oysters and a beautifully presented prawn cocktail to start. Follow it with classic fish and chips with their cod, haddock, rock and plaice the best of the battered stuff. Or some grilled options such as tuna and salmon. You can order their fish with baby potatoes or salad instead of chips if you’ve temporarily lost your mind.

Fish Central, Clerkenwell

Okay, so this is a wildcard and someone’s going to complain, but hear us out. It’s not all that East, sure. But it is, kind of. It’s not a fish and chip shop...but it is, kind of. And who said anything about fish and chip shops anyway? This place does fish (just look at that name, it’s Fish Central in here). Fresh fish, straight from the market, fresh and tasty and cooked in a number of ways. Deep-fried and served with golden, fluffy hand-cut chips. It’s their traditional Fish Supper. They also do fish fried in matzo meal, which is a lovely nod to the Jewish origins of this beautiful thing we call fish and chips. Rick Stein loves this place, and he knows a lot about fish. So do Fish Central. It’s family-run, unassuming, large and welcoming. It’s been around for over 40 years. And loved by its neighbours in that time. Where do you want to get off? Fish Central. Fancy some dessert? Step right this way.

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