EATING FOR BRITAIN: THE "BEST" FISH & CHIPS IN THE UK AND KICKING UP A SKINK IN CULLEN
Unsurprisingly, after the previous day’s eating exploits, I woke up still feeling on the full side and, after a turning down the offer of a cooked breakfast at my guesthouse in favour of a large bowl of All Bran, I decided that, what I needed was a nice long walk to get the system moving again.
The village of Pittenweem, is almost impossibly picturesque and is one of the few working fishing harbours left on the Fife coast. However, fish was not on my agenda until later in the day. Making my way down to the harbour, I came across Adamson’s bakery, which I found out later was one of the oldest in the country. The make only one thing here, oatcakes and, as I approached the smell of baking was already filling the street outside. Dipping inside, I spent a few minutes watching three bakers hard at work kneeding the dough in oats before rolling and cutting and placing into an ancient looking oven. As I made to leave, Linda, one of the workers handed me a bag with three packs of the golden beauties to take away. Not a bad start to the day.
Anstruther, pronounced “Anster” by the locals is about two miles North of Pittenweem and was recently in the news because the well regarded Anstruther Fish Bar was awarded the accolade of being the best fish & chip shop in the country. Obviously, given DH’s obsession with things fish & chipular, that award had to be put to the test.
Well, I am pleased to say they are not bad, not bad at all. The smell of fresh beef dripping used for frying shows that it is replaced often as it should be and gives the unmistakeable taste and appearance of the very best fish & chips. The batter is thin, crisp and bubbly. The fish, always haddock in Scotland, is meaty and achingly fresh and the chips a piping hot and give off delicious fumes when doused with vinegar.
The downsides are the shameful appearance of little packets of Heinz Tartar sauce instead of the real thing and silly cardboard containers printed like newspapers. Unforgivable for a place of such repute and, in my book enough to demote them from the top spot. But, for £6.90 (sit-in) it’s still great value. Mind you, I would be incredibly grateful if anyone could explain why, even at lunchtime in Scotland, you still order a “fish supper”
After a walk back to Pittenweem, I pointed my car North for a three-hour drive in search of the next dish on my list, Cullen Skink. Arriving in Cullen just as the sun was about to set, I was disappointed to see that, not only did the whole town appear to be closed but, there was not a B&B in sight. More concerned at this point about somewhere to lay my head than filling my belly, I carried on to the next town of Buckie, which, despite offering up a perfectly decent guesthouse, I can declare is the single most depressing town I have ever visited.
Going off in search of supper in soup form, I trudged Buckie’s few streets only to see an Indian take-away, a Chinese take-away and yet another chip shop. Finally as I was about to give up, I stopped at a hotel called The Old Coach House and was delighted to see that, amongst the offer of chicken dopiaza, Thai fish cakes, chilli con carne and pasta bake on the menu, a bowl of the regions most famous dish for £3.00. I dipped inside and ordered.
It is a classic soup, akin to the New England chowder, with chunks of smoked haddock and potatoes in a creamy sauce. Hearty and enough to warm me after my walk around the gloomy streets of Buckie, but not worth the three-hour drive and certainly not worth ever revisiting Buckie for.
Next stop Arbroath. Smokin'