Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 September 2020

The Reem Island Chippy serves up an authentic chip shop experience in Abu Dhabi

There are about 10,500 specialist fish and chip shops in the UK, compared with 1,200 McDonalds and 840 KFCs

The long-awaited Chippy on Reem Island has finally opened, with its promise of an authentic UK fish-and-chip-shop experience. I went to The Chippy with a degree of trepidation as I find that many of the chippies in the UAE offer a product and an ambience that are a ­watered-down version of what’s served back home.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m eating fish and chips in sunshine and in shorts, or that the potatoes or fish aren’t even from the UK in most cases, but the experience is nearly always, as I’m sure Douglas Adams would have said, “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike fish and chips”.

If you don’t understand the place of and love for fish and chips in British culture, consider: there are about 10,500 specialist fish and chip shops in the UK, compared with 1,200 McDonalds and 840 KFCs. Before I go on, when I say chips, I mean British chips – sort of French fries with attitude – deep-fried, serious oblongs of potato with no regard for calorie count or waistline. There really is no comparison between a fast-food French fry and British chippy chip. Hence my concerns at the opening of an outlet with claims of British authenticity.

Those concerns were somewhat allayed when I looked at the menu – these people obviously knew what an authentic chippy offers. I also learnt that the restaurant sources its potatoes from Ireland, and its fish from Scotland and Northern Ireland, to further its promise of the full British experience.

My eye was immediately drawn to the chip butty sitting proudly in the middle of the menu (this is a chip sandwich made with buttered white bread, and plenty of salt and vinegar), as well as curry sauce and gravy. The Chippy also offers brown sauce.

My traditionalist side won out, though, and I ordered the battered cod, chips and mushy peas. Known as the Chippy special (Dh85), it also comes with six pieces of deep-fried scampi and gravy.

I decided to eat in, but you can get a takeout in a box, the traditional newspaper being outlawed on health and safety grounds.

Battered cod and mushy peas at The Chippy on Reem Island, Abu Dhabi
Battered cod and mushy peas at The Chippy on Reem Island, Abu Dhabi

Now for the taste test: the Chippy Special is a tour-de-force – the full English chip-shop experience. The chips are just greasy enough, and exactly the right size and consistency. I drowned them in vinegar with a sprinkle of salt, and was transported back to my home town. The batter on the cod was crisp and light with a reassuring crunch, and the cod meat wonderful. The mushy peas may not have been how I remembered them, but it was nice to have them as a healthy element to the meal.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the gravy – I would normally expect onion gravy, but this was a dark, thick unction with no discernible vegetable involved. Pouring it over my chips, adding more vinegar, and eating my first “real” gravy and chips in a couple of decades was a sentimental moment. The tastes carried me back and flashes of the countless times I had eaten gravy and chips on the streets of Liverpool filled my senses.

For those who crave the British chip shop experience, The Chippy delivers in more ways than one.

Updated: February 5, 2020 04:54 AM

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