The moment has come – the best chippy in the UK has been declared in what is probably the biggest moment of the year for fish and chips.
The 2017 National Fish & Chip Awards culminated in a glitzy awards ceremony in London dubbed the ‘Oscars’ of the fish frying industry – along with the declaration of the best fish and chip shop in the UK.
The jewel in the crown of the awards – the ‘Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award’ – this year went to Devon-based Kingfisher Fish and Chips in Plymouth.
But what goes on behind the scenes to find the nation’s best chippy? I joined the judging panel for the final stage of the gruelling process and heard first-hand exactly what’s needed to make an award-winning fish and chip shop.
Reaching such dizzy heights of success in the fish frying world is no mean feat. With more than 10,000 fish and chip shops in the UK, it’s a competitive world.
The National Fish and Chip Awards involves a seven-month rigorous judging process to whittle down hundreds of entrants to 10 finalists who then have to face a panel of judges in the final stage, before the winner is declared.
Sitting on the judging panel for the first time was an eye-opener for this fish and chip lover, seeing exactly what goes on behind the scenes to make the top 10 establishments in the UK far more than just your average fish and chip shop.
The awards, organised by Seafish, are a gruelling process, starting back in July 2016 when preliminary judging stages picked out the UK Top 60. From there, mystery judges trawled round all 60 to whittle them down to a UK Top 20 Area Winners listing.
An in-depth audit then took them down to the top 10 Regional Winners – who had to deliver presentations on their businesses to a final panel of judges. Think Dragon’s Den without the cameras, with the owners quizzed on everything from menus and sustainability, to why they should be ambassadors of Britain’s favourite dish.
So who are the top 10 chippies and what’s the inside scoop on them?
1. Kingfisher Fish & Chips, Plymouth, Devon
Craig and Nikki (pictured above) borrowed from friends and family to buy their business and have gone on to win a string of awards. They have the world’s most sustainable seafood menu and came second in last year’s Independent Takeaway Award but returned to net the top spot.
They admitted the award is the “pinnacle” of their careers, saying: “We are absolutely elated! We’ve entered this award three times now, coming second last year, so to go all the way is amazing – I guess three really is a charm.”
2. Burton Road Chippy, Lincoln
It may be number two in the UK, but Burton Road Chippy is number one for Lincoln – especially its students! As well as offering family meal deals and the amusingly-named ‘squampi’ combo, Burton Road has also embraced delivery, and apparently three quarters of the meals that go out for delivery are to the city’s university.
3. Miller’s Fish & Chips, Haxby, North Yorkshire
Miller’s has been in the family for four generations and father and son team David and Nick Miller are drawing on 75 years of family history to put their chippy the top three in the UK. Nick quit his career in music to come back to the family business and hasn’t looked back since, with plans to inspire people and spread the word about how great fish and chips really are.
Behind the top three come the remaining six finalists – in no particular order. All fabulous fish and chip shops in their own right, and top in their region, they will no doubt be back for another try at the top title in the 2018 awards.
Fochabers Fish Bar, Fochabers, Moray, Scotland
Fochabers Fish Bar owner Darren Boothroyd is a former RAF pilot who turned his hand to frying just three years ago. And he’s not the only one in the family – 17-year-old daughter Elise has taken up in the mantle and was a finalist in this year’s Young Fish Frier of the Year Competition – the youngest ever.
Hennighan’s Top Shop, Machynlleth, Powys, Wales
The Hennighans are celebrating their 35th year this year. According to owners David and Eleanor, they’re a bit like a pub without the booze and are at the centre of the community – with people even getting their deliveries dropped off at the chippy!
The Dolphin Takeaway, Dungannon, County Tyrone
The top fish and chip shop in Northern Ireland, the Dolphin is run by Malachy Mallon – a guy who believes that if you come up against an obstacle, you simply find a way round it. He’s created some of his own innovate equipment to make fish frying even more healthy, and has plenty of plans in the pipeline to spread the word about fish and chips – including a mammoth bike ride across the UK.
Hodgson’s Chippy, Lancaster, Lancashire
Nigel and Linda met working at Linda’s parents’ fish and chip shop, then later decided to buy their own. They’ve been frying since 1988 and are previous title-holders of the best fish and chip shop in the UK, winning the award back in 2006. They’ve invested in an electric car for wholesale trips and deliveries, though Nigel admits he’s had a few close calls and had to get a push on one occasion.
Oldswinford Fish & Chips, Stourbridge, West Midlands
Oldswinford Fish & Chips has been owned by the Ioannou family since Andreas and Tina Ioannou bought the shop in 1977. Now their sons John and Zach have taken over, bringing with them a self-confessed bit of brotherly rivalry. They’re mixing traditional fish and chips with a modern approach that includes their own app so you can order your chips and get them delivered.
Henley’s of Wivenhoe, Colchester, Essex
David and Lisa were childhood sweethearts and reckon they’ve got batter, not blood, in their veins. When David bought his first fish and chip shop, he expanded the menu to include squid, king prawns, monkfish and even champagne. When he transformed the local newsagents in Wivenhoe into a chippy, he made it open plan so customers could see every part of the preparation process, along with a fish display built into the counter so you can pick your fish and watch it be fried.
Godfrey’s Fish & Chips, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Luke Godfrey credits his mum for his love of fish and chips, and she still helps him in his shop in Harpenden. He doesn’t do anything like kebabs or pizzas, preferring to keep Godfrey’s a traditional fish and chip shop, but does offer popular homemade pies. And when one punter told him the only thing that could make his chippy better was to be by the sea, he made it happen – bringing a ‘pop-up beach’ to land-locked Harpenden.
Which chippie’s your favourite? Tweet us at @YahooStyleUK.