Perfidious Albion

Fish, Chips and Mushy Peas

In case you’re not familiar with it, Perfidious Albion is a derogatory term (once) used by the French to describe England – and specifically our capacity for treachery and general underhandedness. Charming.

I use this as a title because for the past 18 months now, the English culinary speciality fish and chips has been sneaking its way onto Paris’ bistro menus. And I still don’t really know what to make of it.

I hail from the country which has always been regarded by most with culinary disdain – I have lost count of the number of French friends who experienced “traumatic” school exchange meals of boiled beef followed by jelly for pudding. So I’m almost miffed that one of our few signature dishes is now suddenly the best thing since sliced bread.

The other part of me is chuffed that one of my favourite foods is now up there with other bistro classics like steak and chips and black pudding and mashed potato, because it is definitely just as deserving.

Fish, chips & tartar sauce at Frenchie to Go, not bad at all

I’ve tested three so far in Paris and was surprised that they were pretty good, or “better than anything I’ve ever tasted in England” according to the friend I went to Frenchie to Go with. I wouldn’t got that far (out of principle, and it was probably due to batter-induced euphoria) but it wasn’t bad at all, and definitely the best of the three: Frenchie to Go (5-6 rue du Nil, Paris 2) La Maison Mère (4, rue de Navarin, Paris 9) and Café Cacahuète (1 Rue Pierre Semard, Paris 9).

Le Figaro puts La Maison Mère at the top of its selection, although this article (in French) goes back a bit. Since then a fair few have sprung up, like George in the 10th.

cacahuète fish and chips

Slightly anaemic batter with decent chips at Café Cacahuète

My guess is that this is just a fad, and will drown under the weight of something else equally as perfidious to infiltrate Parisian menus – the dreaded hamburger (more on that in a subsequent post). In the meantime I’ll make the most of it while I can.

Next on the list is The Sunken Chip (39 Rue des Vinaigriers, Paris 10), probably the first Parisian fish & chippery and the one which set the whole craze off in the first place.

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