MCDERMOTT'S::FINE FISH AND CHIPS IN CROYDON
I’ve probably bemoaned the lack of consistency in London restaurants before so just in case the message didn’t strike home, I’m going to do it all over again.
There are exceptions of course, but a lot of places just can’t maintain the same standards day after day, week after week. Whether it’s because the chef/owners have their eyes on rolling out the ‘concept’ – something that happens with depressing regularity – or they just get bored and complacent I’m not sure, but it does make dining more of a haphazard experience than it should be.
Happily, the good places or should I say the consistently good places are always full: the British public make have an irrational love of the cheap and crappy but when they’re introduced to the good stuff they’re hooked.
I was discussing this with HS the other day as we sat in McDermott’s, a Fish and Chip restaurant near Croydon. These places are, or should be the bedrock of British dining like say Asadors or Marisquerías in Spain. When done well, and McDermott’s do it very well, there’s nothing better if you require a solidly crafted, novelty-free meal. Check your Espuma Guns at the door.
To be honest I only wanted to visit McDermott’s because it meant going on a tram. I like trams. Even though electric trams has been around for donkey’s years they still feel like something impossibly modern. One day all public transport will be like this. You can just catch what HS thought of all this at the end of the little video clip of the actual tram that we actually took to get to McDermott’s.
When we arrived we were gratified to find ourselves the youngest folk in the joint. It was like being in a sort of anti-Logan’s Run world. I was further gratified to see many people get stuck into the wine and beer. How much more civilised than doing the run down to Wickes for that all-important flange sprocket ?
McDermott’s menu is pleasingly straightforward. In lieu of starters you get a basket of decent French stick, a small ramekin of homemade tartar sauce, a few pickles and (blow me) an amuse-gueule - which I thought was a nice touch.
Whenever we eat out together the unwritten rule is that one Hermano shouldn’t be seen to be gaining an advantage over the other Hermano by dint of their order. So when HS went for the Kingsize Haddock and Chips (aka “The Fat Bastard”) it meant I had to order the same. At £16 it was pretty expensive but when they turned up we saw why. Instead of one great big fish we got the equivalent of two fish and chips. A meal for four in other words.
The moment of truth with F&C is always when you first break into the batter. Would it provide the correct crisp shell to allow the fish to cook within or would it cling to the fish like a very clingy thing ?
The kitchen at McDermott’s obviously knows its stuff as the frying was excellent. The batter crunched in an Heston-pleasing manner and the strata of pearly white Haddock flesh flaked satisfyingly, although just a tad softly.
We debated the merits of Groundnut Oil (used here) versus Beef Dripping (as used up North) as a frying medium and decided it was probably down to mood rather than one being inherently better than the other. We were split over the chips. I liked their crunch but I suspect they weren’t chip-shop style enough for HS. We’ve stopped critiquing Mushy Peas in Southern Chippies.
That should have been that but HS had a little meal momentum going and said the magic words Helado Mixta three times. My Ice Cream wasn’t homemade as far as I could tell but was fine. Better, I thought than HS’s Apple Pie, but he didn’t seem to have much trouble clearing his plate.
Service, was friendly and on-the-ball which is all you can ask for and they seemed genuinely pleased that we’d had a good time . Which was nice. With a bottle of Albarino, it wasn’t a particularly cheap meal, but then when you have Fish it shouldn’t be.
I read that McDermott’s have been around for about twenty-five years. I don’t know if we’ll ever visit McDermott’s again – the journey, although relatively short, took in three different modes of public transport - but I suspect if I ever visited in another twenty-five years hence, they’d still be going strong and the meal wouldn’t be so very different. Which is where I came in.