A trip to the British seaside isn’t complete without a hearty meal of fish and chips. The timeless union of earthy fried potato and juicy white fish is perfectly reflected in the coastal surroundings – the produce of the sea deliciously combining with the crops of the land. The saltiness of freshly seasoned fish and chips can even be tasted on the air. It’s a match made in culinary heaven.
Surprising then, that the dish’s origins are believed to be far from the crashing waves of the coast and rooted in the sprawling cities of Victorian London or Manchester. We don’t have time to go into the conflicting origin claims here (we covered that in another post), instead we will focus on how fish and chips became synonymous with the seaside.
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Victorian Seaside Entertainment
The majority of our much-loved seaside traditions were started by our Victorian predecessors. From donkey rides to Punch and Judy shows to coastal piers and towers, they were all popularised as jolly old seaside attractions for summer holidays during the 1900s.
Towards the end of the 19th century, thousands upon thousands of excited city-dwellers would descend upon seaside resorts such as Blackpool and Brighton, looking to spend their hard earned cash. The prospering working classes could finally afford to take holidays, eagerly heading to the coast on new railways to locations previously only accessible to the affluent upper classes.
New Taste for Fish & Chips
The industrial classes brought with them their newfound appetite for fish and chips (believed to have emerged as a unique dish in the 1860s) – where better place to eat freshly caught fish than by the sea itself? This humble meal was perfect for hungry day-trippers who didn’t have the time, space or money to bring a picnic. All they needed to enjoy fish and chips was a couple of spare pennies, a dry spot on the beach and an eye for pesky seagulls.
Up and down the country, from Southend to Skegness, these traditions became seaside staples and continued well into the 20th century. Whilst nowadays most people look further afield when it comes to their summer holidays, the seaside chippy has endured. Whilst you may not see crowds of people queuing to get on the pier amusements anymore, you can still regularly see queues out the door at the local seaside chippy come dinnertime on Friday.
So that’s the history of one of the UK’s favourite food traditions. But where should you go to get the most sumptuous seaside experience? We’ve listed a few of our favourite coastal culinary hotspots below…
Best UK seaside spots for fish and chips:
- Whitby, Yorkshire – this old fishing port has produced delicious seafood for centuries. Two of the countries most revered chippies – The Quayside and The Magpie Café – can be found here. Both supplied by the freshest catches at the harbourside fish market.
- Blackpool, Lancashire – the archetypal seaside resort, Blackpool offers a lot more than just its iconic Pleasure Beach and illuminations. You’re never more than a few minutes away from a delicious chippy in Blackpool – Bentley’s is our hot tip.
- Brighton, East Sussex – like Blackpool, you are spoilt for chippy choice in this traditional yet vibrant seaside city. Sit down for some top-notch fish at the seafront Melrose Restaurant or grab a portion of chips from Bankers and enjoy it on the pebbles of Brighton beach.
- Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire – Cleethorpes is how to Papa’s, an award winning chippy that is both a giant in the fish and chip trade as well as in physical size. Papa’s has the capacity for 500 hungry customers at a time, all vying for a tasty meal and great views from Cleethorpes Pier (which Papa’s actually owns!).
- Plymouth, Devon – sitting quaintly on the western side of Sutton Harbour is Harbourside, a seaside chippy that has been serving great tasting fish and chips for over 40 years. This chippy has a real focus on great quality, sustainable food and even went totally gluten-free in 2018.
- Harbour Lights, Falmouth – another must-visit seaside town if you’re in the southwest of England. Make sure to pop into Harbour Lights, a great local chippy that provides the best harbour views in town. Harbour Lights offers a variety of delicious fish dishes with kid’s meals even coming with a free bucket and spade – another great reason to head to the beach!
Wherever you choose to indulge in some delicious seaside fish and chips, never settle for anything less than the best frying oil in the frying industry. Frymax has been the leading vegetable oil for the fish frying trade for over 60 years. Fully refined and deodorised, Frymax is the frying oil of choice for any chippy looking for sustainable, long lasting vegetable oil. Get in touch with our team today to learn more.