Dabbler Soup – Fish & Chips in North Shields

Dabbler Soup is our new food and booze feature. We’re hoping to bring you guest posts from some of the top bloggers in the gourmand/gluttony area. Inevitably there’ll be a distinctively British flavour to Dabbler Soup, so for the debut Worm kicks us off with, appropriately enough, Fish & Chips…

Kristians, North Shields

Alighting at Tynemouth there’s a jostling flea market filling both platforms of the station. Amongst the Lloyd Loom laundry baskets and cracked chamber pots, there’s lots of Nazi memorabilia on sale.

Fighting the urge to buy an SS dagger from a man with a tattoo on his face, we push out into the North Sea air. Tynemouth is genteel and full of tall hedges. Above the black harbour, the ruined Norman priory skulks on Benebal crag. Saints and kings lie here. Viking blood is soaked deep into the soil.

Even though I am amazed to discover a thriving surf scene in this upmarket northern outpost, it doesn’t take long to exhaust Tynemouth of all its wonders, so we walk along the estuary to North Shields, where the briny breeze warns us of the approaching Fish Quay. Right in the middle of a row of identical establishments, Kristians is somewhat of an institution in these parts apparently. I wouldn’t know – it’s only my second time north of the Midlands. I keep quiet, trying not to draw attention to myself, as I’ve already noted that I seem to be the only man around here with a hairstyle.

Inside, there’s two halves to the business, a restaurant, which is surprisingly full to the rafters with sweating, shouting chinese families, and the take away proper. Not wanting to queue we take the away option. We are funneled up ramps and around metal barriers like football supporters. All surfaces are hose-downable.

The young blond girl with dead eyes and deep fried hair gives us plenty of crispy scraps without being asked. She apologises profusely when handing over sachets of tartare sauce, ashamed at having to ask a whole 10 pence for two of them. Gauchely I ask for four. A man with a squashed nose mutters something behind me in the queue and his family all snigger.

Wondering what dreadful decadent southern perversion the over-consumption of tartare sauce signifies to the natives, I scurry out, and as we reach the seafront, then sun breaks the clouds. We sit squinting ahead. Beneath us in the jumbled concrete breakwater, rats skip and gamble around our feet, whilst overhead dirty gulls wheel and screetch. The piece of cod I’ve been given is over a foot long. The fish, torn with fingers into great pearlescent lugs, running with molten hot beef dripping, is excellent. The mountain of accompanying chips are the very pinnacle of chipfection. Not too fat, crunchy on the outside and meltingly soft in the middle. The peas are mushy. It is all marvellous.

The view back towards Newcastle is flat and featureless. Somewhere out there Gazza is stumbling around with a golf bag full of whisky bottles, looking for his pal Moaty. Over our shoulders, Collingwood’s monument scowls down on us and the Black Middens rocks at the entrance to the Tyne, where hundreds of sailors have drowned over the years, only a mile or two from their homes.

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About Author Profile: Worm

In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

20 thoughts on “Dabbler Soup – Fish & Chips in North Shields

  1. russellworks@gmail.com'
    ian russell
    October 14, 2010 at 08:37

    Tartare sauce AND mushy peas! Beef dripping – hot and running! At least you were within sight and smell of the sea.

    Best take-away fissionchips I had was at Anstruther, Scotland, and we ate them on the quayside, like you do.

  2. Brit
    October 14, 2010 at 09:13

    Beautifully bleak. This surely is the English seaside in extremis.

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 10:18

    Sunny North Shields, known among the remnants of Tyneside’s Geordies (outnumbered now by southerners, coming up to work in the lucrative public sector) as ‘that heap of shite’, subtlety not being one of their strong points. The town is mainly populated by Neanderthals with degrees in ram raiding and stealing the food from the mouths of innocent babes.
    Your choice of an away-day Worm is interesting, bordering on the erroneous.

    Best, or the least worst, fish mangling emporium is Moles in Seahouses or better still the one in Köln’s Neumarkt.

  4. wormstir@gmail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 12:05

    Funnily enough Malty, you’ve hit the nail on the head – I was taken to Kristians by a softy southerner friend of mine who’s moved to Newcastle ‘to work in the lucrative public sector’……

    The reason I was moved to post about fish and chips is that as a southerner living below the Mushy Pea Line, eating fish and chips is actually quite an event for me – especially GOOD fish and chips (and mushy peas) !! We do have Rick Stein’s posh fish and chip shop in Padstow, but it’s not really the same 🙁

    Ian: Best fish and chips I’ve ever had was in Australia, where they know how to do reeeally good fish and chips (ultra fresh fish of your choice, filleted in front of you before being battered and fried, yummmm)

    Brit: It’s grim oop north – but I did enjoy it!

  5. brigand51@hotmail.com'
    David M.
    October 14, 2010 at 13:15

    I thought that you came across as just a wee bit sniffy. You obviously felt ill at ease in the heathen North. It’s always sunny when I go there but then I expect nothing less. A real local, I’m married to one, would have taken you to The Waterfront where the fish and chips set a standard that few others can reach. It’s all in the batter. As she has constantly pointed out over the years, southerners have no idea how to do proper batter. If you had ventured little further up the coast you would have found The Harbour Fish Bar at Amble equally as good as The Waterfront.

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Hadrian’s Cycleway. (what have the Romans ever done for us!) Those bloody C2C cyclists on the riverside promenade are a menace. Not one of the buggers has a bell yet it is illegal to sell a bicycle without one. Wankers! Admiral Collingwood was the original hard nosed (unsquashed) Geordie brawler. Cheryl Cole, from South Shields, is reportedly quite a formidable scrapper too!

    North Shields has many fine pubs, tattoo joints and also Psychic Academy which is attached to the North East Bureau of Paranormal Investigations! Apart from flea market with replica Nazi “memorabilia” and cheap shite from the Royal Quays outlet stores what more could anyone possibly want?

  6. wormstir@gmail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 13:59

    sniffy? If I was, I didn’t mean it, I said Tynemouth was ‘genteel’, and I said that I loved my fish and chips; they were ‘marvellous’. I had a lovely time.

  7. Gaw
    October 14, 2010 at 14:01

    I find the beef dripping turns me – far too rich. Rich Stein also uses it down in Padstow.

    Lovely sketch. Liked your hairstyle line – I laughed. But did you know that the one anthropological feature that the world’s multifarious civilisations, both living and dead, share is the hairstyle? You may have stumbled on an area of great scientific interest.

  8. mcrean@snowpetrel.net'
    October 14, 2010 at 14:01

    Great post, Worm. I’ve never really seen the point of fish and chips, let alone mushy peas. Why have fish in beef dripping when you can have beef in beef dripping? And the fish in these places is so often flaccid and watery. I’d take a good steak any day. Perhaps fish and chips is one of those things that is really a mistake, but it soon becomes a cultural icon and then after that inertia means that folks have to put up with it for aeons. Like lobscouse, seppuku and the Vatican.

  9. wormstir@gmail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 14:16

    so Gaw, are you saying that each great civilisation is associated with a particular hairstyle? Or that civilisations at their peak are notable as always having people with lots of hair?

    Mark, you may very well be right, as is evidenced by most other countries’ complete mystification as to why we get excited by soggy deep fried fish and potatoes.

  10. Gaw
    October 14, 2010 at 14:36

    No – the hairstyle is a constant in every known human society of whatever size or sophistication. Except for parts of South Shields it seems.

    By the way, my school French exchange pal (i.e. bitter enemy) couldn’t get enough of fish and chips. If you ever wondered where he was or what he was up to it was a safe bet you’d find him outside the chippy wolfing down a cod. He also got his haircut like Paul Weller’s, taking a photo of The Great Mod into the barber’s with him, just to make sure. I think he left for his homeland with a great reverence for Anglo-Saxon civilisation.

  11. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    October 14, 2010 at 14:43

    When you get a top-notch chippy it must be treasured. There are a lot of rubbish ones. There are various awards for chippies and from what I’ve seen they do seem to be a good guide to quality – good idea to find the one in your area that’s won it.

    On the subject of exchange students, my folks used to put them up as we had some spare rooms. The Spanish kid was briefly my hero; the French boy memorably evil.

  12. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 17:24

    Some context…………..
    Worm mentions beach combing among the Black Midden’s delights, used condoms, hypodermics, old copies of Viz and The True Faith. Gazing across the bay enclosed by two piers at the misty delights of the Groin he may have, through the hole in last weeks daily Mirror containing a fishy repast, noticed the remains of an old structure poking out of the water. This was the Lloyds Hailing station where, until the mid nineteen sixties, all vessels entering and leaving the river were ‘hailed’ by loudhailer, ‘what ship are you, where are you bound.’ So maintaining Lloyds register, the bunch of nosey twerps.
    Looking west he would have observed a small hill, topped with Victorian villas, this is the Law Top and was where all of the river pilots and lightermen lived, kind of a watery ghetto. It was home to a good friend of mine, his father had been a captain in the merchant marine, Lloyds invariably employed retired sailors at their hailing stations and this was where Capt Sid thought he could see out his days, puffing on his pipe, shouting at passing Chinkies etc and, a bonus, fishing.

    The crew of the Liberian registered very large tanker parked upstream had other ideas, the chief engineer was, apparently, a car mechanic from the Yemen and had problems starting the engine. A storm blew up, the ships ropes or maybe string snapped, downriver hurtled the boat, CE once again buggered up starting the engine, ship ploughs through the pier connecting station to shore, stranding an indignant Sid.

    Lloyds never repaired the station, closing it down, much to the chagrin of Sid’s missus, having to share the rest of her days with the miserable pipe smoking old sod.

    South shields was famous for its grammar school, we once flogged the Venezuelans two clapped out destroyers, they eventually came back home for a refit, the crews living on board for six months, none of whom were over five feet tall, all ponged of Eau de Cologne, very exotic, or so thought the schools six formers, judging by the number of them who were knocked up.

  13. markcfdbailey@gmail.com'
    October 14, 2010 at 17:39

    “So you have a choice of one other guest for you dinner party, to ensure that everyone is entertained and leaves with a smile on their face and an increase in their sum of human knowledge. Who’s it to be? Dr Johnson? Oscar Wilde? Grouch Marx? Or, God help us, Stephen Fry?”

    And as one they reply. “Malty. It has to be Malty. All those others you mentioned can wait”.

  14. Worm
    October 14, 2010 at 18:23

    I concur! Such commentary is to be treasured!!!

  15. Worm
    October 14, 2010 at 19:54

    I note that Kristians gets good reviews on that thread

  16. brigand51@hotmail.com'
    David M.
    October 14, 2010 at 21:29

    Hi Worm,
    Do try a pub or two and The Waterfront on your next visit.
    I’ll be up there this weekend. Sure beats Guildford!

  17. bugbrit@live.com'
    Banished To A Pompous Land
    October 15, 2010 at 14:54

    Please don’t write about fish and chips you heartless bastards.

    Those deluded souls who say British food is poor need to spend more time in the USA

    (Weeping bitterly)

  18. rosie@rosiebell.co.uk'
    October 15, 2010 at 17:37

    In New Zealand you get brilliant fish and chips. As well as lovely meaty fish, you can get scallops and chips, oysters and chips and abalone (paua) and chips. Everything is fresh cooked instead of sitting in warming drawers. Excepting Anstruther, Scotland has mostly terrible fish and chips.

  19. info@shopcurious.com'
    October 16, 2010 at 07:52

    Wonderful post worm – but for a real taste of the sea, nothing beats a good punnet of whelks

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