Besides pie and mash and sticky toffee pudding (both of which I have tried at Mother Mash), fish and chips is another iconic British food.
Considering that fish and chips originated from the United Kingdom, it seems wrong not to have fish and chips at least once while I am in London.
Instead of searching for the “best” fish and chips (because “best” is subjective), I searched for the oldest fish and chip restaurant in London. I reckoned that if a restaurant can survive for so long, it must be pretty good.
A quick search on Google shows that the oldest fish and chips restaurant in London is a place called Rock & Sole Plaice. It was opened in 1871 so it has more than 145 years of history. The nearest metro station is Covent Garden, which is just 3 stops from where I am staying. Rock & Sole Plaice it is.
The 3 stations to Covent Gardens took less than 10 minutes. I was going to take the stairs until a sign on the wall informed me that this particular staircase has a total of 191 steps, so unless I want to die from exhaustion or challenge myself, it’s best to take the lift.
Once I am out of the station and on the streets, I followed the Google Map directions which took me to the restaurant.
The white-colored restaurant definitely does not look 145 years old. The interior of the restaurant retains its 19th century design of white tile walls with black strips running across.
The basement level decoration is a little more modern with enlarged pictures of fishing boats adorning the walls.
The restaurant was in full swing and even the outdoor seats in front of the restaurant were jam-packed with people. A chirpy staff ushered me into the restaurant and directed me to the basement.
Taking a seat at the only available table, I was promptly presented with the menu by a pretty and young waitress.
I know I was here for the fish and chips, but the question is: what fish should I get? I love cod’s soft white flesh but I had the most wonderful Fish (Hake) and Chips at Manly Fish Market. I decided to ask the pretty waitress when she was ready to take my order. She replied “haddock” without thinking, and then almost as if an afterthought, she said “lemon sole is quite good too”. I decided to try a different fish this time and ordered lemon sole. It turned out to be a big mistake.
I got myself a bottle of London Pride Ale [£5] to go along with my fish and chips. I don’t normally like to drink beer but “London” and “pride” makes this beer sound like a classic, so I decided to give it a try. I was right, this beer has been around since 1958 which makes it much older than me! Ale is sweeter than beers and it is served chilled which makes it even more refreshing.
My Fish & Chips Lemon Sole [£16.50 for Regular, £19.50 for Large] took so long to come, I was almost certain they have forgotten all about me. When my food finally came and I dug into it hungrily, I almost wanted to curse out loud. The outer layer is so oily I almost gagged and the fish inside is totally tasteless. No amount of tomato ketchup helped and I gave up without even finishing half of it.
The fish and chips I had was really bad, but it could be because it was really busy that day so there was a loss of standard. Rock & Sole Plaice does have 145 years of history after all so you might still want to check it out. If you have dined at Rock & Sole Plaice, please share your experience in the comments below.
Rock & Sole Plaice
Address: 45-49 Endell Street, London WC2H 9AJ, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 20 7836 3785
Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday 11.30am – 10.30pm, Sunday 12pm – 10.30pm