Those days are gone forever
Over a long time ago, oh yeah
A lot of my early working life in London was spent in or around Clapham Junction. Anyone who travels or lives (poor souls) South of the river will at some time or another pass through or stop here - the busiest rail interchange in the UK. Now, I’ve escaped to the hills North of the river I only visit because I have to. My rich dentist is here, so for me a visit is usually thrice painful (the treatment, the bill and just being in Battersea in case you were wondering).
To be honest Clapham Junction still looks the same as it always did – a bit of a hole. The only differences are that now the house prices are much, much higher and Northcote Road (aka Nappy Valley) has completely changed. Once just a normal street in SW with a market, now best described as (to borrow one of HS’s favourite words) hateful. If you looked up the word “smug” in the dictionary the definition would be “Northcote Road (see crap)”.
Battersea isn’t all bad, of course. There’s a little place called Fish Club which I visited one afternoon. I’d been meaning to visit for years especially as one of the owners, James Thomson, had previously been cooking up a storm at Medcalf’s in Exmouth Market.
The concept (there’s always a concept) is refreshingly simple. You order your food from the blackboard, queue up and pay, then the staff cook it for you. You can either take it away or eat it there. If you pick the latter option there’s a few tables at the front and a couple of refectory tables at the back where you’ll also find Heinz Ketchup. Not the poncy stuff you get at Tom’s Place. Fish and shellfish are from the well-regarded Ben's Fish based in West Mersea. There’s also beer, wine and light refreshments.
A starter of Prawn and Chorizo Kebobs (sic) were two decent sized skewers of little individual Chorizos and fresh prawns which had been grilled. Chorizo can be quite overpowering and the prawns not being the sweetest specimens didn’t really stand up to the sausage but it was still a gutsy and enjoyable dish, especially when accessorised by a little tub of pungent saffron aioli.
The one weakness in the menu was shown up by my piece of battered Coley. Now if my failing memory is correct Coley used to be preferred by at least eight out of ten cats and really it should have stayed that way because for us humans it’s a pretty tasteless lump of protein. It also wasn’t very firm which I don’t think was down to the cooking as the batter was a tad underdone. An inexpensive dish, sure, but there’s a reason for that.
I saw a couple of good-looking Royal Bream go out, though, so the grilled fish may be a better bet. In fact there’s such a good choice of other fish from Sardines and Mackerel to whole Plaice and Slip Soles I wonder why I got so fixated with having conventional Fish and Chips…what am I saying (you can take the boy out of the North etc).
Chips were bloody great. Tartare sauce was homemade and pleasant enough but the best of the accompaniments were the pickled onions. Also, made aquí, they didn’t look much but were as good as my granddad used to make i.e. the nuts. He was also a big favourite with clippies, but that’s a story for another time.
I liked Fish Club. I feared it might be some sort of sophisticated, corporate operation, totally lacking in soul but it’s the completely opposite. The raw ingredients are good, the cooking mostly spot-on and vibe (sorry) very friendly. The perfect neighbourhood joint, I would say.
Oh and it’s probably for the best if I don’t say anything about the mushy peas. I’m still a bit het up after thinking about Northcote Road.