Gordo’s waistline takes a battering as he scours the region for the best fish, chips and peas
IT’S an institution, the chippy tea. Fish, chips and peas – what’s not to like? And since the nation’s favourite fast food is celebrating its 160th anniversary, Gordo thought this was a reasonable enough excuse to start a search for the best fish suppers in Greater Manchester. Sometimes it's a tough life, but where there’s a whale, there’s a way…
Over the past few months, Gordo has been all over the place undergoing an intensive research programme in the name of uncovering where serves the flakiest, freshest fish coated in the lightest, crispiest batter. Who serves the fluffiest, tastiest chips and the mushiest most comforting peas. (Extra points for proper vinegar and a decent tartare sauce.)
He has scored each portion of fish, chips and peas out of 10. We start with the lowest scoring chippies first and work our way upwards, so the winner of this heat is at the bottom.
(If you think Gordo has missed out your favourite, make sure you let him know in the comments below.)
What - Kingfisher NQ
Where - 43 Tib Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1LX
Step into the Kingfisher and you step back 30 years and become an honorary Manc, if you aren’t already one. It’s on Tib Street, which has survived pet shops, porn shops and, from memory, even a well weird Army and Navy emporium.
Kingfisher is a standout blue shop where you can sit in with your plate of well-arranged fish, chips, mushy peas, and bread and butter. The latter is shrink wrapped and a bit suspect, but the rest is fine and fills a spot. The fish appears to be portion controlled and the chips a bit on the mean side, but that’s probably this greedy bastard going on with himself. Don’t go out of your way, but if you’re there it’s a good port.
Fish 7.5 / Chips 8
/ Peas 8
Chippy tea final score 7.83
What - Harry Ramsden’s
Where - Unit 5 Castlemore Retail Park, Throstles Green, Stretford, M16 0SN
When Harry’s first came to Manchester, it was a revelation. It was great. It then went downhill and the brand started to look dated. It didn’t help that once, when tucking into his mega cod, chips and peas in the carpark (at the first location over in Salford), Gordo was treated to a display of how nimble rats can be on a day out by the dustbins.
The new location, well away from the River Mersey over near Manchester United in Trafford, is a good deal cleaner, so it had to be given a chance. It was well worth it. Looked after by the lovely Jean, Gordo had a delightful plateful of chips, the legendary cod was a corker and the peas had attitude. Lovely mugs of tea and a belting barm. Sarson’s vinegar – extra points! It’s expensive, but a helluva size fillet of fish. If you haven’t been for a while, you should give it a go.
Fish 8.75 / Chips 7.75 / Peas 8
Chippy tea final score 8.16
What - Didsbury Fish Bar
Where - 1 School Lane, Didsbury, M20 6SA
I think this has recently had a brush-up. The dining room is a little contemporary charmer, or you can sit outside as well. The guys at the business end of the fryer have a smile on their faces and they care. Pretty rare. I loved them.
The fish is a generous portion, not hanging about, great batter, dry and crispy with chips cooked to the place where the angels start to exist. Good peas. Sat outside with a can of ice-cold Irn Bru, Gordo felt at peace with the world even when someone wound a car window down as he slowly passed and shouted: “Gordo you’re a fucking prick and you don’t know shit.” But that mouthful of crunchy batter, with near translucent flakes of cod, covered with a few peas, made everything perfect. A little diamond.
Fish 9.25 / Chips 9.25 / Peas 8
Chippy tea final score 8.33
What - Chung’s
Where - 19 Oldfield Road, Salford Quays, M5 4NE
This place offers a whole menu of Cantonese cooking which I’ve never tried, but the fish and chips I have, mainly after falling out of The Crescent Pub pissed on my way back up the Crescent where I once had one of the Georgian townhouses. Visited sober this time, luckily just before the lads on the building site over the road clocked off, otherwise I’d have been at the back of a very long queue.
Fish was cooked to order, the chips piled on paper, with a big plastic bowl of green peas lurking by their side. The jury’s out on those. Ask to sort your own salt and vinegar – the vinegar is the real stuff. The council appear to have fucked the bus shelter off (as good as sitting underneath the vine canopy at Club 55 in St Tropez when you’re eight pints in) so this was eaten in the car. Loved the result. Go.
Fish 9 / Chips 9.75
/ Peas 7
Chippy tea final score 8.58
What - Armstrong’s
Where - 486 Bury Old Road, Prestwich, M25 1NL
Highly recommended by Confidentials' Lucy Kersh as well as a whole slew of other Prestwich peeps. Arrived to a queue, always a good sign, with parking outside – 4X4s and white vans battling for spaces, a plethora of the latter being the true test of a quality chippy. Those lads don’t stand for no shite.
Greeted by Confidentials readers who rather gave the game away, but the finished product, eaten in proper Manc fashion sat on a wall on the street, didn’t quite make the top grade. Not bad, but, well, not quite there for me. Poor vinegar rather spoilt it, but a choice of Holland’s and Greenhalgh’s pies shows the gaffers are thinking.
/ Chips 8.5
/ Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 8.66
What - Mike’s Fish’n’Chips
Where - 531 Wilmslow Road, Withington, M20 4BA
Nearly opposite Christies, Mike’s is a well kitted-out gaff with chairs inside and out. It does breakfasts as well as being a chippy. Gordo is suspicious of this, as he is of any chippy offering pizzas, kebabs, Chinese, chickens. In fact, anything else but pies. And even then they need to be bloody good, which includes Holland’s. OK, forgive me, I’m from Salford. They are the Law. My Uncle Tom always had two puddings as well as a fish. But, we digress.
Mike’s fish batter is amazingly crispy; great frying skills, while the cod within is no slouch. Lovely mushy peas shine as well. If you just need somewhere to sit with a newspaper and decompress, this is the gaff.
/ Chips 8.75
/ Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 8.91
What - Burton Road Chippy
Where - 178 Burton Road, West Didsbury, M20 1LH
Been a bit up and down over the years this one, but as of writing, it's well worth an inclusion here. It’s modern British, pale blues and whites, with a comfortable seating area, and it does old-fashioned scampi, with a crust an inch thick to soak up the beer.
The raw ingredients are good here. I’ve had several bashes at it recently, working late and not being arsed to cook, so I’ve been calling in on the way home. Batter great, not in any way soggy; maybe needs a touch of seasoning before the cook. Cod is on form, big strong flakes well timed, chips are very good, peas lovely and I respect the fact that, like Fosters (see below), there is homemade tartare sauce. The gravy is good as well, got a touch of personality. Pies are recommended, not from the usual suspects.
/ Chips 9.25
/ Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 8.91
What - Fosters
Where - 4 Chorley Hall Lane, Alderley Edge, SK9 7EU
Fosters has been going for a while and is a modern British, well thought-out chippy. Expect queues, a fight for seats: witness a place run as well as a multi-billion-dollar fast-food restaurant, but with soul and brilliant food. Gordo’s mum, Maureen, polished off her plaice and chips, a portion of peas, lots of salt and vinegar, and tartare sauce, then went back to Sunrise, the care home in Hale. She loved the gaff.
The cod is still gasping for breath when it reaches your plate it’s that fresh, the chips are crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and taste of potato. Gasp. Oh, the tartare sauce is HOME MADE. A special mention for the bread and butter: slices of spongy, fresh, beautifully nasty Warburtons with lots of butter. The only wrap for great chips. An historic establishment.
/ Chips 9.5
/ Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 9.08
What - Wrights
Where - 86 Cross Street, M2 4LA
Lovely fitted-out modern British chippy in the city centre. You can eat in, but huddled against the wall, though this is not a problem for Gordo on a wet Manchester day. There’s nearly always a queue, which moves quickly and is absolutely worth the wait. The owners are always on hand – proper grafters.
The fish is the best fried cod in the region. It simply cannot be beaten. Chips and peas are royalty; it’s a dream. The fact that, during the festive season, tens of thousands of people are visiting the Christmas market 110 metres away and paying £6 plus for a sausage made from landfill while this absolute gem is going bang at it all day long is bewildering. Crap tartare sauce, mind, the only letdown. Otherwise, it’s FF*.
/ Chips 9
/ Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 9.25
*FF = Fucking Fabulous
What - Hooked On The Heath
Where - Northwich Road, Knutsford, WA16 0GJ
Recommended by the infamous Frosty The Butcher’s mum and dad, who, by all accounts, know a thing or two about the subject, this was a last-minute visit - and what a recommendation! Owned by a great guy called Craig, who started with his first chippy at 21; now 32, he bought the toilet block on the Knutsford Heath and converted it into a chippy.
The queues are 20 and 30 deep at the weekend, and it was buzzing on a Tuesday lunch. It’s a real find. The packaging is cardboard boxes, the fish is awesome, large juicy flakes, no woolliness here; batter was out of this world, thin and crunchy, while the mushy peas are of the deep green variety, and the chips are a nanosecond from perfect. It’s worth a journey.
Fish 10 / Chips 9 / Peas 9
Chippy tea final score 9.33
And the winner is.......
What - Tommy’s Chippy
Where - 47 Manchester Street, Heywood, OL10 1PB
Tommy’s Chippy is a legend; 30 or 40 years ago there were several across north Manchester. Gordo nearly forgot about them. The original is on the main road going through Heywood. They have a dining room at the back that is like a scene in a fifties Stanley Baker film. The staff are delightful, riddled with tattoos, and serve you with big smiles.
The fish is exemplary, the batter crisp and dry, sat across world-beating proper chips straight out of the fryer. It’s a large portion. But the mushy peas. Oh my. At first glance, they look a bit hard. But they aren’t. They squish in your mouth, a bit, but not too, salty. Then you realise they have a pea gravy (pea wet?), which runs along the plate giving everything a delightful lick. This is how mushy peas should roll.
A barm cake was proper Manc an’ all. Thick, chunky, little air; it kept its shape, seriously fresh. Made a brilliant fish, chip and pea butty. Let’s not forget the mug of tea, steaming, full of flavour, washing the meal down in working class hero style. It turned out this last meal was the best. Fantastic. Go.
Fish 9.75 / Chips 9.50 / Peas 10
Chippy tea final score 9.95
Has Gordo missed your favourite? Tell us in the comments below and if he visits and likes it, Gordo promises to message you and treat you to a month's worth of fish, chips and peas.
Don't miss out
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email.