David Adamson visits 'The Home of the First Fried Chip'
What: Levers Fish and Chips Dining Room
Where: Tommyfield Market, Oldham
Food/drink type: Fish and chips, pies, puddings and gravy
When: Mon - Weds 10.30am - 5.30pm // Thurs - Sat 10.30am - 7pm
Independent or chain: Independent
Ironic, tedious types have had their way with quite a few forms of eating establishments, and I worry that next to be blown up into an unsubtle, slightly insulting parody is 'the caff'. Red seats bolted to a lino floor, plastic bottles of vinegar on every table and garish, backlit menu boards. How quaint.
Levers Fish and Chips Dining Room, to give it its full title, is the real deal. There's no pastiche to be played around with - it looks like 1991 because as far as the furniture and fittings are concerned, it would seem it still is.
Refreshingly unpretentious, it's a comfortable, inviting place to sit down for lunch or, at weekends, even an early dinner.
There's the option of the takeaway section next door, but in standing around patiently before being handed a plastic bag full of polystyrene containers you would truly miss out on the full experience of eating at Levers.
One side backs directly onto Tommyfield Market, essentially making it part of the thing itself, so the effect of looking out of a window onto indoor stalls makes you feel as if you're eating inside a vivarium. Much like those kind of conditions, it's warm, cosy and stocked with plenty of food to keep you full.
The main event
I was on a day out in Oldham to work on my next Buzz in the Boroughs piece, and was kindly offered a guided tour by Confidentials resident Oldhamer Jake, and social manager Hayden is never one to miss out so tagged along too in the name of content.
I chose the steak and kidney pie and chips (£5.50) with a pot of tea (£1.40). Jake took it up another northern notch with the 'pudding' variant (£5.50) and a Dandelion and Burdock (£1.70). Hayden trumped the lot with what was essentially a build-your-own northern butty - four slices of white buttered bread, a plate of chips and two separate bowls of mushy peas and gravy.
My steak and kidney pie might not have looked as typically enticing as the pub-grade editions we're now used to, which are the size of a medieval battlement and stuffed with an entire farmers market. This was a much more modest affair but no less enjoyable, with minced steak and crispy shortcrust pastry. Top of the bill was, of course, the chips, which were battered and oily to the optimum level and could withstand a barrage of salt and vinegar. A pot of tea tied up a perfect lunch time trio.
Oldham is now undergoing a substantial regeneration, and this will include the historic Tommyfield market, which traders will be moved from and into new premises in early 2025. There's always a delicate balance when it comes to uprooting an institution and putting it somewhere new, such is the magic of a place and the people that work there. I just pray that Levers retains its charm, and of course its chips.
Levers Fish and Chips Dining Room, Tommyfield Market, Oldham, OL1 3BG