Friday 17 March 2023

It's Friday, it's Fontvieille, and it's fish and chips

We don't do too badly for fancy fare in Monaco. The 2023 Michelin Red Guide for France was published at the beginning of March, awarding a total of 9 stars to restaurants in the Principality. If something quick and simple is required the humble pissaladière and barbagiuan are delicious and can be bought for a few euros in my local boulangerie (or for a lot more in a starred restaurant in England, but that's another story). Sometimes tho', only a taste of home will satisfy, something from my native land: British ale, Tunnocks Tea Cakes, and of course, that staple of the working class, fish and chips.

Quite a few places in Monaco include fish and chips on the menu as a Friday special. I've never quite understood the 'fish on Fridays' idea. I was brought up with evangelical Methodists who considered cod and chips a treat for any day of the week. The only thing denied us was alcohol. But I digress.

Last week the Other Half and I had a hankering for fish and chips. With spring only a fortnight away the sun decided to get some practice in and we took advantage of the warmth and walked out to the Ship and Castle, a British style pub as the name suggests. Unusually for Monaco it's been serving punters for around 30 years, established in the late 1980s when the Fontvieille district was built. You'll find it at the end of the quayside, just before you hit the digue. We last visited in 2019, and four years on the weather-beaten inn sign is the same, although during Covid the management changed.

When we arrive staff offer us a friendly welcome and a seat on the outdoor terrace. It's quiet, being a bit off the beaten track and tending to attract locals at lunchtime. Business picks up while we're eating tho'.

The menu includes pub grub favourites such as sausage and mash. Tempting, but not enough to distract us. I'm delighted to discover that the kitchen uses proper cod fish, flaky and milky, not the insipid, squidgy stuff we've had elsewhere. The batter is crispy too, although perhaps not deep fried, at least I don't detect that bubbling, hissing slurp as the basket of fish plunges into a vat of oil. On the table there's a bottle of Sarson's Malt Vinegar but the chips are French fries and incapable of absorbing a decent dousing. The mushy peas are common or garden peas mashed up with a bit of mint rather than traditional marrowfat, and a dollop of tartar sauce completes the platter. In my native land I'd pair the dish with a mug of strong, milky tea, the colour of burnished copper, but I've never yet found somewhere in the region that serves it, so I make do with half a cider.

Friday lunchtime's backing track includes 70s-80s hits and is just the right volume to allow for chatting. My ears prick up when I hear the jangly guitar of The Smith's Bigmouth Strikes Again, and again with The Cure's happy, melancholic Boys Don't Cry. As we leave, one trendy looking bloke with a barbered beard is whistling the latter, clearly satisfied with his lunch. So was I.

No comments:

Post a Comment