Chip Week 2015
Chip-shop style chips are the nation’s favourites, according to a TNS survey, with almost half (45%) of participants putting them first, followed by French fries (16%); oven chips (14%); potato wedges (8%); crinkle-cut chips and curly fries (7% each). With Chip Week, organised by the Potato Council from 16 to 23 February 2015, fast approaching, those running independent pubs serving any style of quality chips are invited to register for the Choice Chip Award 2015. Registering rewards pubs and restaurants with handy promotional tools, boosting your offer and publicising the popular national event. To register, call 01664 869409 or email email@example.com. Each establishment will be entered automatically and free promotional material will be issued in January to encourage your customers to vote for you. Customers can vote online in the Choice Chip Awards from 10 January to 7 February. Any postal votes must be sent in by participating pubs and restaurants by February 10. For more information see http://chips.lovepotatoes.co.uk
1. Top chips
At the Crown in Henlow, Bedfordshire, run by Wallman Pubs, head chef Karl Jaques sees tangible business benefits resulting from winning more than one prestigious chips award. “We pride ourselves in excellence,” says Jacques, “so winning the Choice Chip award for Best Independent Pub/Restaurant Chips two years running was a great accolade. The media coverage was amazing and generated new trade, with several customers saying they had seen our win featured in our local paper or online.
“Sometimes the contribution chips make to pub menus is overlooked, but we find that customers really value them. As head chef I aim to give my customers the best possible dining experience, including ensuring that we offer consistently high quality hand-cut chips.”
2. Chips with everything
Offering chips with almost everything as well as music that suits its student demographic has established the Woodside in Plymouth, Devon as a firm local favourite. Chips alone cost £2.50; additional cheese, curry sauce or baked beans cost 50p extra, and due to strong relationships with suppliers, the cost of two 8oz rump steaks on a plate with salad and chips has not increased from £10 in four years. Punch tenant Dr Keith Davis says: “Students love the Woodside as our affordable dishes, plus juke box, jam night with a variety of performers and other entertainment such as karaoke and comedy make us an ideal place to relax. Our best-sellers are with cheese or curry sauce – we sell about 100 portions combined weekly and use about 37.5kg of frozen shoestring fries every week.”
3. Careful sourcing
At recently opened Finch’s, a Young’s managed house in the City of London's Finsbury Square, cooking chips carefully is one of the keys to the success of the menu, which attracts discriminating casual diners. Finch’s head chef Marcus Old says: “We serve more than 1,000 portions of chips weekly. Across the company Young’s uses Agrier potatoes for triple-cooked chips, producing a texture that is fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside. I recommend speaking to your local vegetable supplier for the best seasonal chipping variety. To achieve perfect triple-cooked chips at Finch’s we blanch the potatoes at 100°C until fully cooked, place them into 140°C oil to seal the outside, and finally cook at 180°C."
4. Caribbean style
Sweet potato fries (£3) are the side dish of choice at Margate’s Westcoast Bar & Grill, especially popular with its best-selling jerk chicken burger (£7.95 inclusive) and a wide range of Caribbean and Mediterranean-influenced dishes, many served tapas-style. Proprietor Eli Thompson says: “We like to be flexible, from offering quick snacks at lunchtime through to full Caribbean-style Sunday roasts for large groups. Any menu incorporating light bites can benefit from sweet potato fries – they’re a healthy option and easy to prepare, and offering them as the only type of chips on our menu reflects our Caribbean roots. Our customers know they’ll get nourishing, seasonal food at affordable prices here, so sweet potatoes are particularly useful in our winter menus.”
5. Angel delight
Innovative, fully licensed fish & chip takeaway shop Angelfish opened in August 2014 at Northumberland’s Angel at Corbridge, following a £120,000 investment to convert one of its outbuildings. Managing director Kevin Laing says: “Being able to pop in or phone to pre-order great chips plus fresh, sustainable, locally sourced fish, delivered from North Shields’ Fish Quay, has proved a hit with locals and visitors alike. Offering an extensive drinks list from Champagne to lemonade has pushed up drink sales, while adding a downloadable takeaway menu to our website and emphasising that we offer high quality fish, potatoes and oils, accompanied by a range of sauces, raises our profile, encouraging customers who might otherwise just pop in for a drink to pick up a meal on their way home."
6. A chip off the old block
Traditional beef dripping helped St Austell’s managed house The Ship, in Plymouth, to win the award for Best Fish & Chips in last year’s National Pub Food Challenge. Manager Anthony Plum says: “Ingredients for one portion of fish & chips, including our sustainable catch of the day cooked in St Austell’s Tribute beer batter, cost us £1.73, with a GP of 78% on our £9.50 selling price. Beef dripping’s fantastic, traditional flavour makes our customers nostalgic and also has a very frying long life. We find it out-performs vegetable oils, giving us perfectly crisp chips with a soft fluffy interior and subtle meatiness. Our beef dripping is from Olleco: it is pure beef fat, refined and deodorised and comes in a handy 5kg or 10kg block.”
7. Choice condiments
At John Calton and James Laffan’s Staith House in North Shields, Tyne & Wear, home-made condiments are as important as great chips (£3 per portion, or £10.50 for fish & chips). “Flavouring vinegar with herbs such as rosemary is a good talking-point and the bottles are eye-catching. Our tartare sauce has a good shelf-life, lasting for five to seven days – it tastes best when we add the tarragon, chervil, parsley and chives at the end,” says Calton. “In summer, our veg supplier is happy to sell us crates of slightly squashed tomatoes for about £2 each – a terrific way to cut ketchup costs. And I often make chip-shop style curry sauce using a simple recipe, adapted from Jamie Oliver’s. It’s really tasty and only takes a few minutes.”
Fuller's crowns its chip king
Head chef Damian Greczycho at Fuller’s managed house the Pilot in Chiswick, west London, has been hailed by the pubco’s head of food Paul Dickinson as ‘king of the fryer’ at the Great Fuller’s Chip Off, amidst strong competition from many of its 184 other managed pubs. Seven finalists were selected at a cook-off at the George IV, also in Chiswick, by a panel including Fuller’s MD Jonathon Swaine and his daughter.
Greczycho impressed the judges with his skin-on, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, triple-cooked, hand-cut chips. He says: “Choose dirty potatoes and wash them three or four times to get rid of starch and prevent them from cooking too quickly on the outside. I use Maris Pipers and clear, flavourless rapeseed oil. At £3.75 for a portion served in a wire basket, we can easily sell 60 portions daily.”