Monday, March 30, 2009

fish & chips hunt

My dear boyfriend, only recently fiancé, as I said, is a fish & chips aficionado. Every opportunity he has to eat fish & chips, he will, without doubt, take it. To satisfy his craving, we went on a fish & chips hunt in our recent holiday around WA. Yes, I said craving, I liken his need to a cigarette addiction (without the implication) or a lady’s craving during pregnancy.

Sadly, it was a short holiday of only two weeks, which started on the day before my birthday. To be fair, the holiday wasn’t purely for hunting the best fish & chips, but it sure did feel like it. We managed to go to three different fish & chips shops, in between the REAL restaurants & cafés that I insisted on visiting. And the only time that we did not go to a fish & chips shop, we would be looking for ways to get into one.

Traditional fish & chips - $12.60
Barramundi battered - $10.50
Chilli mussels - $22.00


Cicerello’s has been an icon in Fremantle (if not Australia) for quite some time, and I can totally see why. I had been going to this place steadily for the past ten years and it had become only better with every passing year. The restrooms had been renovated with all the flash appliances, the fish tanks showing colourful tropical fish and service was fast and friendly. All of this paled in comparison to their food. Out of our vast repertoire of fish & chips shops, Cicerello’s, by far, serves the freshest, tastiest and most enjoyable morsels of fish. We ordered the standard fish & chips, plus another snapper. We also ordered a bowl of chilli mussels, which I also utterly enjoyed. Coupled all of these with a bottle of Bundaberg Ginger Beer and we just wouldn’t want to have anything else.

While we were meandering through Margaret River, we accidentally found the Margaret River Fish & Chips. It was only a small shop in a small shopping complex, run by two Koreans, which I did not expect to find in a small town in the South West of WA. I suddenly had a thought, which I should pitch to my Korean friends, that they should make a drama, set in Margaret River, about a Korean couple running a fish & chips shop. OK, maybe that was far-fetched, but who knows? Let’s return to the subject of food. Regrettably, the fish & chips were mediocre at best. They were much too salty for our palate, which made me think that the salt was probably used to mask something. We couldn’t find the fish to be un-fresh, but couldn’t help think that it was.

Fish & chips - $9.80
Salt 'n' pepper squid - $9.50 small, $16.50 medium
Red snapper - $14.00
Barramundi - $11.00


I was flicking through the Western Australia’s Geographe Bay Visitor Guide (2009), and serendipitously found an ad for SquidLips. The ad said that it was a “gourmet” fish & chips shop, purportedly famous for their squid. We made a point of going there to try it out, and I can confirm that the pepper squid was definitely superb. Its texture was smooth, succulently moist and not at all tough, unlike overcooked squid I was used to having. We simply couldn’t get enough of it that we came back two days later to get our hands on some more. The fish & chips were also good, the fish was fresh and the batter crisp.

The unique thing about SquidLips' fish & chips was that they use rice bran oil for frying, which gave the fish a distinct background taste I haven’t found from any other fish & chips shops. The use of rice bran oil was supposedly due to its healthier properties, reflective of the green-conscious, wellbeing-focused, semi-hippie community down in the South West. I should point out that I did ask for less salt when I ordered, learning my lesson from the Margaret River Fish & Chips incident. I can’t tell you how the fish & chips taste with the full dose of salt, but without, I thoroughly enjoyed the full glory of the rice bran flavour.

Cicerello's on Urbanspoon
Cicerello's
Fishermans Wharf
44 Mews Rd
Fremantle WA
Open 7 days 10am-8.30pm

Margaret River Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon
Margaret River Fish & Chips
Shop 8, Town Square
137 Bussell Hwy
Margaret River WA
Open Wednesday-Sunday 4pm-8pm

Squidlips on Urbanspoon
Squidlips
Shop 27a, Dunsborough CentrePoint
51 Dunn Bay Rd
Dunsborough WA
Open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-2.30pm, for dinner 7 days 5pm-late
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