Thursday, September 30, 2010

French Fry Diary 150: The British Chip Shop, Haddonfield NJ

My mom-in-law hipped me to this place after an afternoon of shopping in Haddonfield with the girls. Haddonfield is a fairly upscale historical and pleasant town nearby that caters to walking traffic and a small town atmosphere. And the girls had lunch at what the mom-in-law called an authentic fish and chip shop.

My ears immediately perked up. A what where? I hit the interwebs and discovered that yes, it was true. The British Chip Shop had opened in July with an official grand opening on October 1st. Perusing the online menu .pdf, I found a place that resembled Cookes of Dublin, and it was right here in New Jersey.

Besides the obvious, fish and chips, they also had a variety of other distinctly Brit fare like bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, tea sandwiches, fried Mars bars, scones, black pudding, beans on toast, curries and crumpets. Yes, all that, but disturbingly, no Coca-Cola. I guess they can be forgiven for that omission, as long as the chips are good. So we planned to return that evening for dinner.

The British Chip Shop is a beautiful place, very authentic and nicely decorated. There's rugby playing on the big screen TV, distinctly British pop music overhead, HP sauce and Sarson's malt vinegar on the tables and union jacks everywhere. I loved the pub atmosphere, and especially the "Mind the Gap" sign. We hadn't even ordered and I was psyched.

For an appetizer we got the homemade crisps (potato chips) with horse radish sauce. They were scalloped potatoes thickly sliced, but not too crispy and hot in a good way, and served in a small paper bag, traditional style. I loved these, but could have gone for a bit more crisp and seasoning. Could have been hotter, but they were still very tasty, and heads above anyone else out there making these babies. Almost as good as those at the Hot Potato Café, and that's a serious compliment.

Our other appetizer was the deep fried green beans, which like the crisps are not on the menu, so make sure you ask for these terrific treats. These non-potato fries were very tasty, more battered and fried than those at T.G.I. Friday's. Both appetizers are recommended, so make sure you get them.

The beverages were all Brit authentic. I got the Barritts Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer, the in-laws got a Scottish soda called Irn Bru, and The Bride, an Anglophile from way back, got something she's been itching for since her last trip overseas, Ribena. The Ginger Beer wasn't Coke, but it was quite good, sort of like ginger ale, but with an extra kick.

Finally the food came, and while it was a wait, no one minded as it was all cooked to order. I had gotten the chicken and chips. The chicken was quite good and very hot and crispy, and sort of reminded me of what I had at Monk's Café in the city. But now on to the main event, the favorite fried food…

The chips are the extra thick steak fry cuts that characterize real English chips, hot and soft in the center and crispy outside. They are almost perfect, and begging for vinegar like a good English chip should. These chips are really fabulous. When I am asked what the best fries I've had are, I usually answer unwaveringly Cookes of Dublin in Orlando - but The British Chip Shop right here in New Jersey gives them serious competition. I might be changing my ranking. These are damn good fries. I am impressed.

Also, much like Cookes of Dublin, they offer the deep-fried candy bar as a dessert. I was amazed I still had room after this wonderful filling meal, some of which I took home, but the four of us split a deep-fried Mars bar anyway. Yummm… it was luscious, heaven in a mouthful.

All told, this was a terrific meal experience at a very reasonable price. The British Chip Shop is highly recommended by French Fry Diary, and I can't wait to back again. Please check them out tomorrow for their official grand opening and ribbon cutting. This place rocks!

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