Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Plenty more fish in the sea

You know you've made it as a hyper local blogger when you get invited to review a new restaurant (as opposed to begging/bribing or forcing your way in). So when I was invited by a jazzy PR firm to visit and review a snazzy new local eatery, I really did think "Yes I've made it! I've finally landed!" I mean no irony when I elaborate further to explain that it was, in fact, for a fish and chip shop; Kerbisher & Malt.

No really, there is no irony. This was the best fish and chips I've eaten in years and the four weeks young business, which offers a traditional fish and chips menu, to take away or eat in, has the smartest and most simply designed shop fronts and interiors I've seen in a long time.

So last night I took advantage of my invitation and introduced myself to one of the founder-owners Nick across the counter where he was busy serving a steady flow of very W6 customers. NewMan had accompanied me for the ride (and a big feed) and we were very warmly welcomed. We three chatted briefly before being unable to ignore the always tempting fumes of fried battered fish. NewMan ordered cod, I ordered plaice and because they were recommended so highly by him, Nick effectively ordered us some sides of mushy peas and a special fennel and dill salad ("It's very healthy!" says Nick. "I think you've misunderstood us," jokes a consistently unhealthy Bird and NewMan ).

The other owner and founder of Kerbsiher & Malt is Saul, who is Nick's brother in law and an already well-established chef (having previously worked in the Oxo Tower and Racine). He runs the show in the kitchen, which is part visible from the service counter, however just above our table was a screen relaying black and white CCTV-style footage of the kitchen. NewMan and I thought it was a nice touch and Nick explained later that it was because your traditional fish and chip shop would have the fryers visible, so this way they still are. We just liked the opportunity to be nosey.

It is very clear that the traditional concept fish and chips is at the heart of this operation. Nick explained that he wanted to recreate the experience of getting fish and chips as a child and I agreed with him when he said that the experience doesn’t really exist anymore in a lot of areas, particularly within London. Speaking as someone who as a child used to go to the village chippy to get fish and chips near enough every Friday and as a student went to University in a seafront town, I quickly realised the experience had been missing from my life for a long time. 

Do not be mistaken though; Kerbisher & Malt are not about white coats, hair nets and scraps. There is a real class to how they have captured the tradition with a modern flair; the clean and polished interior, the fishing boat style lighting, the framed black and white photographs of local sights. 

So why Brook Green? Yes it’s an affluent area and yes, there are local businesses in Hammersmith to cater for, but first and foremost Nick and Saul wanted a London location with a village atmosphere. They wanted their fish and chip shop to feature in a village high street along side a post office and a pub.

And what about the food? It was very, very, very good; light, crisp batter, melt in the mouth quality fish and home made twice cooked chips. I'm no expert in fish (sorry Nick!) but you really could taste how fresh these fish were. Our side dishes, like the menu, were an interesting mix of the traditional and the new (“Fish Finger Butty”) and I gazed longingly at a nearby diner’s “Crispy Calamari”. I could have bought a barrel of their homemade tartare sauce.

The fish is bought daily from two suppliers based in Billingsgate and there is an important but not overstated emphasis on the fish being sourced sustainably (so yes, there really are more fish in the sea!). As NewMan and I soothed our full stomachs Nick told us more about the research that he and Saul had done (including one of them working “undercover” in another fish and chip shop) to get it right and it is fair to say I never thought somebody could be as passionate or as informed about fish and chips as Nick (and I’m sure Saul) is. It really shouldn’t be a surprise therefore that what they’re doing is working. Within just a few hours on their opening night they’d completely sold out of fish and Nick claims that some of their take away customers, which make up around 60% of their business, have been back as many as 10 times.

Just as I was mentally drafting a positive review and NewMan was picking at my leftover chips, the night took an interesting turn when a bustling Boris Johnson walked through the door and took a seat at the table next to us. He asked for a glass of red wine but Nick politely explained, as he had to us, that they’ve not yet got their alcohol license through. Boris settled for a cup of tea instead and perused the menu.

With an alcohol license and a “Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, sat here” sign over that chair, still to come there is little doubt in my local mind that Kerbisher & Malt will do swimmingly.

(Was that a bad fish joke? Not really the time or the plaice I suppose) (Oh Cod) (Sorry).

Bird and NewMan were very well fed at Kerbisher & Malt164 Shepherds Bush Road, London W6 7PB, which is open Tuesday - Sunday lunchtimes and evenings.

Thank you to Nick for your time, Saul for your delicious fish and chips and to Alice from Sauce Communications for putting us in touch.


  1. It looks great and I can't wait to try it. Any idea how much it costs? They don't list their prices on their website or the menu they put through my door.

  2. Food is priced between £3 and around £8.00 depending on what you order... Very, very reasonably priced for the quality you get!

    Bird x

  3. The menu pictured in the review has prices for at least that day.

  4. When I came to this country I was horrified at the quality of fish and chips available in the supposed "land of fish n chips". All heat lamps and godawful food. I saw this advertised not too long ago and I have yet to visit but have been salivating ever since.
    Might go tomorrow... but it looks awesome. Thanks for the pic of the menu so I can see the prices... perfect!