Long before we had Chinese takeaways, curry houses, kebab shops, McDonalds or KFC, the fast food of choice for most Britons was fish and chips: haddock (or cod) deep fried in batter with a large portion of thick-cut chips, often accompanied by a carton of 'mushy' peas, all drenched in plenty of salt and malt vinegar. It used to be a regular Saturday dinner-time (ie: lunchtime!) treat for our family when I was a child. We'd walk down to the nearest 'chippie' and queue, hurrying the treasure home wrapped in greaseproof paper overwrapped with large sheets of newspaper. It was hot and heavy and smelled enticing. We'd hope it hadn't gone cold by the time we got it home, because the batter went soft if you had to reheat it.
When I first came to Yorkshire as a student, I was taken as a treat to Harry Ramsden's fish restaurant in Guiseley. Dining on humble fish and chips (accompanied by bread and butter and huge pots of tea) under beautiful chandeliers, seemed somehow thrilling and different. The restaurant, opened in 1928, thrived for years, a regular stop-off for coach trippers. They even had a resident pianist 'tinkling the ivories' while you dined.
In the 1980s the business was sold and expanded, developing franchise operations in the UK and abroad. By 2011 however, the original Guiseley restaurant had hit trouble and was closed, causing considerable dismay and quite an outcry locally. Happily, it was bought by the Wetherby Whaler group and given a full refurbishment, retaining the opulent feel with wall-to-wall carpets, the 1920s stained glass windows and oak panelling and those glorious chandeliers. They still have a resident pianist playing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
We had a lunch out from work the other day, to mark a colleague's leaving the team. I can tell you that The Wetherby Whaler's fish and chips are Very Good Indeed! They even do gluten-free batter if you ask, so for the first time for years I was able to enjoy the whole meal and not just pick the fish out from the batter. Yummy - though I was so full afterwards that I didn't need another meal for about three days!