That’s more like it, proper English spring weather; the drizzle and occasional downpour returns! What better matching tucker could you get other than Britain’s favourite dish? But Britain’s favourite dish has never been this good. I’ve discovered The Feisty Fish, and now there’s no turning back.
The light at the end of the lockdown tunnel maybe in sight, but a little way off. The popularity of mobile popup kitchens isn’t winding down yet. Village and market town folk are still happy to queue, whatever the weather.
What will become of the trend when pubs and restaurants reopen is anyone’s guess, but if it continues, they’ll surely have to up their game. Rob, partner of the newly opened Feisty Fish takes each day as it comes, not ruling out the possibility of aiming the business at the event and festival circuit after lockdown. For while the key for many popup kitchens is to offer something exotic and a little different, The Feisty Fish do the opposite. This is gourmet at its simplest formula, Britain’s favourite, good old fish n chips.
Chef Mark appeared content, when I rocked up for their first day camped at Calne’s Bug & Spider. After working abroad and on cruise ships, his last jaunt as head-chef on a yacht in Thailand, he smiled to the fact he was his own boss here. I asked him why fish n chips, while others aim for the unusual. “I feel the English are being let down; everyone loves fish n chips,” was the modest explanation, and while sure about the latter part to it, chippies remain packed every weekend across the county. The proof here is in the pudding; who am I but to dip in?
The menu and mobile kitchen are humble, fish n chips, battered sausage, Rowdey Cow ice cream for dessert, the price a mere pound or so above the average chippy, but the taste blows them all out of the water. The expertise of a head chef makes this a whole other ball game. Even the curry sauce is to die for!
Rob is proud to let me know the haddock is fresh daily from Grimsby, and everything, from fish to sauces are freshly prepared; there’s none of those heated cabinets keeping it lukewarm here. And yeah, I raced home with two standard haddock and chips dishes. From Calne the average chip shop chips would’ve greased through the paper and turned to mush upon my return. But presented in this cardboard container, these double or triple-cooked beauties stood the journey, and tasted like the best chips I’ve ever tasted for one outstanding reason, they were the best chips I’ve ever tasted. And if you know me, you’ll know, I’ve tasted chips, blooming loads of ‘em!
The fish was as it claimed to be, fresh, flaky, swathed in golden batter cooked to perfection, and served with a fresh chunk of lemon for my squeezing pleasure. Oh, and tartar sauce comes as standard, and is equally wonderful.
Now comes the killer; peas, the Marmite of fish n chips. Some like ‘em mushy, others like ‘em solid, but be it a north-south divide thing or just personal preference, the disaffected belief is steadfast on both sides of the fence, and no one budges on the issue. Me, I’m a solid pea kinda southern Nancy. Weirdly though, those Feisty Fishers bridge the gap with “broken peas.” Somewhere between the two, I actually munched my way through these, as far from the runny green sauce of mushy, or the pinging off your plate style of solid peas, this just worked, for all. Anyone who can unite the mushy and solid pea militias, thoroughly deserves every positive commendation going!
So, here comes the crunch, lesser than that of those gorgeous chips, but equally important. Even after one visit, I was left thinking, Harry Ram-who’s-dat-now? And I accept Tom Kerridge gave birth to the Michelin star pub grub inclination, but if you book The Hand & Flowers today, your hour-and-half trip to Marlow might happen for a Tuesday lunchtime a decade from now. But while these guys need an outlet on every major high street, this is a local, exclusive club secret I’m letting you in on here.
It’s only their sixth week in existence, and you’ll have to rendezvous at their weekly meeting points. These may change, so spare their Facebook page a like for updates, but for now, you will find them hanging out from 5pm-9pm, Wednesdays at The Bug & Spider, Calne, Thursdays at The Village Hall in Mildenhall, near Marlborough, Fridays at the old Chocolate Poodle in Littleton Panell, Devizes, and Saturdays at Milton Lilbourne’s Village Hall, Pewsey.
Thing is, and it’s a wonderful thing, if you’re not from those places, it’s well worth the drive. You can order online through their website, and get to taste exactly why I’m giving top marks.
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