When you think of fish and chip shops you don’t expect some sort of gourmet dining experience à la Gordon Ramsay, so when I hear about Oliver’s ‘Gourmet’ Fish & Chips in Branksome, the inquisitive, if not a little sceptical, little cogs in my brain start turning.
Shortlisted in the Seafish Frymax National Fish and Chips Awards (the industry’s biggest competition), Oliver’s Gourmet Fish & Chip shop has really been making a name for itself since it opened in June 2010. Situated just down the road from Branksome railway station, the bright turquoise facade is attention grabbing to say the least. Inside, the place has much the same feel as any other chippy, except for a few comfy, hairdresser-style bar-stools.
I have a look around the small but airy space whilst I wait in line. There’s a certificate for ‘Best Newcomer’ finalist from the National Fish and Chip Awards neatly displayed on the counter by framed photographs of celebrity customers, like local heroes from AFC Bournemouth and Joe Calzaghe.
The menu includes the usual suspects, like cod, haddock, plaice and so on, you can have them fried in batter the traditional way, or (grandad, look away now) you can have them griddled with olive oil and served with minted new potatoes and garden peas. It’s a nice touch for the modern deep-fat-fry-aphobe, but I ponder the thought of lightly griddled fish, and then the thought of a nice juicy bit of cod smothered in batter and dripping with oil, and I go for the latter.
It’s a good bit of fish; the batter is crisp and certainly doesn’t drip with oil. The fish is moist, and the chips are what I’d call ‘proper’. Perfectly fried, crisp and soft, at under £5 this fish and chips is one of the best I’ve had in a long while. I also go for a Yorkshire fish cake, and a regular fish cake to see the difference. The Yorkshire fish cake is a few pieces of white fish sandwiched between two slices of potato, and deep-fried in batter. It’s lovely, and tasty and a massive step up from Oliver’s ‘regular’ fish cake. Although I commend Oliver’s for trying to be different, with slightly curried potato, and the addition of a few tasty herbs, the fish cake tastes a little too potato and not enough fish for my liking.
The tartare sauce is fine, and so is the fruity gravy, but I can’t help wondering if Oliver’s have missed a trick here. In an age where homemade products are relevant and preferred over bought-in goods (and rightly so), it wouldn’t have taken much effort to create tartare sauce from scratch, and offer customers gravy that’s been lovingly prepared on the premises. As far as chip shop curry gravy goes though, it’s tasty and sweet, with bits of onion and a fruity edge, a nice alternative to the usual gloopy brown stuff you get.
Homemade sauce aside, I think Oliver’s have done well to tweak the default setting of the average fish and chip shop. Introducing healthy versions of the humble fish and chips is a clever marketing strategy for an increasingly health-conscious society. But against everything else, for me, their simple fish and chips done exceedingly well, means that I’ve now declared Oliver’s as my not-so-local, ‘local chippy’.