Posted: 8/3/2009


        Harry Ramsden's is a world famous institution in Guiseley, Yorkshire which has now been franchised around the British Empire and even in airports, but the original site still stands and is the worlds's biggest fish and chip shop and restaurant, with coach parties bringing tourists daily and lines around the building. It was opened by Harry in 1931 and he wanted it to look like The Ritz, a 5 star palace for his guests. On the 21st birthday a record 10,000 customers were served.

         Fish and Chips, or steak fries as they might be called in North America, thicker than those found at McDonald's for example, became popular in Britain during the second half of the 19th Century, although Charles Dickens mentioned fried fish and cooked 'shaved' potatoes in newspapers in his novel 'Oliver Twist', published in 1837.

        When I was young you could go to the local 'chippie' and buy fish & chips for about 9 pence, (about 5p or 8 cents), wrapped in white greaseproof paper and then a page of newspaper.  Due to health and safety issue, and the fact that ink in those days smudged, newspapers are no longer used. You shook salt and vinegar onto your meal and sometimes I was allowed a bottle of 'Vimpto' a poor man's coca-cola which was unheard of this side of the pond.

      Nowadays Fish & Chips as a take out meal will cost about 4.00 depending on location. Eating in at Harry Ramsden's will set you back about 8.50 with as many refills of chips as you want and his Harry's Big Fish Challenge is 11.99. The potatoes are very important, with 'Maris Piper' being the favourite.  It's best to shake the vinegar on first, so that it doesn't wash away the salt. I also like mushy peas, which are dried marrowfat peas, boiled until frog-green, and not to be confused with guacamole!!   I used to enjoy Bryan's in Headingley which was opened in 1934 and still popular with the locals including students at Leeds Met Carnegie campus.

      Cod or haddock are the most popular fish, and the fillets are cooked in white batter and then at a high temperature in oil. However, cod stocks in the North Sea are a threatened species and haddock is just as good if not better. There are about 11,000 'chippies' in the UK, while New York City has only four, the first one opened call 'A Salt & Battery'.  One of my favourites is in Otley, the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales and birthplace of Thomas Chippendale, the famous furniture maker, called 'Chip 'N Dales'.

     Harry Ramsden's will have a Elvis Tribute Night on September 12th, Rock & Roll and shake the vinegar!!