We've got batter in the blood

Published date: 20 February 2014 |
Published by: Rhian Waller 
Read more articles by Rhian Waller  Email reporter


THEY come from miles around for a bit of fried potato.

Antony Cappiello, 41, owner of Rose’s Plaice in Drury has served customers from Leeswood, Chester and Mold, despite the little chippy being miles out of their way.

People get awfully passionate about their chips. One little old lady, according to Antony and wife Sharon, sends her son out every Saturday for a large serving. She's 97.

The couple, with the help of their staff – including Vicky Ince, 34, who has worked at Rose’s for half her life, have tackled an order for 65 fish and chips, and have found customers waiting outside the door on Boxing Day.

That doesn’t sound too bad until you realise they aren’t open on Boxing Day.

“I’ve got chips in the blood,” said Antony, whose mother ran a number of successful fish and chip shops across Wales. He started in the business aged 10, hauling sacks of potatoes to the machine that skins the spuds. The sack would have outweighed him.

“I grew up living over a chip shop. I served my apprenticeship with mum,” said Antony. “I cook pretty much identically to how I saw her cook. It works.”

There’s more to fish and chips than meets the eye.

“There’s a bit of snobbery about it,” said Antony. “You say you work in a fish and chip shop and people look at you a certain way. You say you own it and all of a sudden they are all friendly.

“But to be honest, it’s still a craft like any other.”

As with many things, the  tricks of the trade look easy from the outside, but there are dozens of little quirks and ways of doing things that a customer wouldn’t necessarily notice.

For instance, do you know that you should drop the fish in the oil a certain way to stop it curling up? That you need just the right amount of batter to make sure it doesn’t puff up too much or go so thin the fish burns?

Or that there’s an art to wrapping up a serving of chips and sausage in such a way that the paper doesn’t tear?

Antony said: “We do our chips from fresh potatoes. They are brought in, peeled, we remove the eyes, slice them up and then cook them straight away.

“We don’t pre-boil them or triple-cook them. There’s no point. If the ingredients are good, then you’ll get a good chip. And it’ll be less fatty, too.”

After roiling in the oil for a few minutes, the sliced spuds surfaced, gold and crispy.

Fish, of course, is synonymous with chips.

Rose’s Plaice, despite the name, mostly serves haddock - the white, subtle-flavoured flesh, not the yellow, smoked fish.

“Cod is getting scarce,” said Antony. “I think the sea stocks need time to recover.

They’ve been depleted, and I’m not sure I want to be part of that.

“After all, if there’s no fish, there’s no fish ‘n’chips.

“We do try other things. I’ll always ask the fishmonger if there’s anything new, and people can be curious, but generally that fades after a while, and we’re back to haddock.”

The staff are scrupulously clean, thanks to a mixture of EU directives (which are perhaps a bit extreme – staff have to use a piece of tissue to turn the tap off after washing their hands) and old-fashioned common sense.

They also sell pies, burgers and chicken wings, but mostly the time-worn favourites, like scallops. It’s a limited menu.

They make their own mushy peas by soaking and mashing marrowfat peas, and they mix their own batter, but were coy about the ingredients.

“It’s a secret,” said Vicky. “We can’t let on.”

Antony added: “We’d have wrapped the chips in newspaper back in the day, but that stopped because the ink was supposedly toxic.

“Also, people started to realise that a lot of the time, customers would read newspapers on the, er, khazi. And then they’d hand them in for the chippy to use...”

Sharon and Vicky laughed and made faces.

“It’s not a glamorous job,” said Sharon. “You go home smelling of grease. I know people who do beauty work, painting nails and doing make-up. This isn’t like that.

“But it’s a good job. You get to know people well. Vicky and I get regulars who ask for “the usual” and we know exactly what they want.

“There are dinner clubs for elderly people who will put an order in with us.

“I think that’s lovely, because these are people who are normally housebound. They get to meet up and eat their favourite food.”

Midweek is meant to be quiet, but the phone rang frequently, and a steady trickle of workers filed in for their fish and chips.

As British institutions go, the chippy is one that deserves to stay.

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