Chamberlains, Birmingham

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Fish & Chips, our great nation’s favourite dish. There’s still something within our psyche (here in the UK) which holds a special place in our hearts for the humble fish & chips meal. I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t actually like fish & chips in some form (veggies can leave out the fish), so I’m constantly looking for good places as a result. Fortunately, I live very locally to Bedders so go there as often as possible for great fish & chips. It was a sad day when Great British Eatery fried their last chips for good, so it was with great interest and pride that I learned of Chamberlains Restaurant winning Best Newcomer in the National Restaurant Awards. No small feat so given it’s within Birmingham, I made plans to head over and sample their wares.

Situated at a busy crossroads on the Wolverhampton Road, you could be forgiven for missing Chamberlains given it’s surrounded by bigger buildings from multinational chains with bright, colourful logos and signs (Yunno, the golden arches for example..). Actually, if memory serves correct, the buildings previous occupants were a Chinese buffet – Which would explain the pseudo-Chinese architecture on the outside, but given it looks quite small from the outside, the restaurant inside is quite spacious. The seats are comfy and the whole place is clean. There was a large party in the night we visited by given it was quite late when we got there, the restaurant wasn’t rushed off their feet but service was still attentive enough. The cutlery could have been polished so there wasn’t such a tide-mark on the knives, but that’s nothing a wipe with one of the napkins couldn’t have resolved.

Food-wise, well we *had* to have fish & chips. I did toy with the idea of getting their fish platter for two, just to see what it was like, but for a first visit, it had to be fish and chips really.. Actually, we decided to go for the Chamberlains Cod and also the Chamberlains Haddock meals purely because for an extra £1 compared to just the fish & chips on their own, you also got to choose a side of choice along with some bread and butter and a pot of tea or coffee. It was pretty much a no-brainer given we both wanted mushy peas to go with our fish & chips anyway. As YKL and I are ruled by our greed more so than our common sense, we also got an extra piece of plaice on the side – Plaice is one of my favourite fishes for fish & chips and I always order it wherever possible, so I wanted to try it here too. Oh, and for starters, we opted to try their Mackerel and Cod Scotch Egg – All in the spirit of trying as much of the menu, you understand…

Menu

First up, the Scotch Egg. They’re quite fashionable these days so it was refreshing to see it on the menu replacing the traditional sausage meat with cod and mackerel. The egg yolk was still runny (just about), the fish surrounding it well seasoned and the breadcrumb outing was crisp. Minor gripe was that they sprinkled on same cracked black pepper which accentuated the colours, in particular the deep orange of the yolk contrasted to the white fish enveloping it, but it didn’t need the extra seasoning really.

Cod and Mackerel Scotch Egg Detail: Cod and Mackerel scotch egg

The table then rapidly filled up with the bread and butter and pots of tea (with 2 teabags in each teapot to give it more oomph), which were then quickly followed by the bowls of mushy peas, the fish & chips and the extra plaice. All the food looked spectacular – large pieces of battered fish alongside a heap of fat chips with a small dollop of tartare sauce and a lemon wedge, we couldn’t wait to tuck in. The peas were nice – nothing too special and even with YKL adding extra mint sauce to her peas, they didn’t detract too much from the main event. Both the cod and the haddock were beautifully fresh – Pearly white flesh which glistened once exposed.

Double bagged! Mushy peas Haddock and Chips Detail: Cod

The plaice was, like the cod and haddock, beautifully fresh and certainly looked the business.

Plaice

Sadly, the batter on all the fish wasn’t as crisp as it could (and should) have been, and none of the fish was particularly seasoned. The batter certainly looked crisp but when we took our knives to it, there wasn’t the expected crunch as you cut through the batter. The chips were nice but I have an idea in my head that any fish & chips cooked in beef dripping (as they are at Chamberlains) taste just that bit better than your standard fare cooked in vegetable oil. That said, the chips were light and crisp and given the amount of food we had on the table, we struggled to finish everything. I only wish that the batter on the fish was as crisp as the chips were. Also, the tartare sauce was delicious; the right level of piquancy with the creamy mayonnaise added a very welcome contrast and flavour to the fish.

So, the fish is certainly fresh and of high quality and the chips were good, but it was all let down by the batter not being particularly crisp. Service was friendly and pleasant, but if they nailed the batter on the fish, it would have been a superb meal. However, I left thinking I had some very good quality fish but the overall feeling was that it could have been better. Perhaps it was just a one-off because we got there so late, but Chamberlains is certainly somewhere you should try – I’ll probably go back to see if the batter is crisp next time. But for now, Bedders still has that extra special place in my heart when it comes to fish & chips.

Demolished!

You can view all my pics from my meal at my Flickr page

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