On a hill outside of London is a restaurant, a famous place known for its fish and chips. Toff's has won several awards and is really proud of them. Haddock, skate, cod, plaice, eel, salmon, sole, halibut, trout or sea bass, they seem to have all kinds of fish prepared in the traditional British way.
Established in 1968, Toff's is an award winning fish and chip shop. The restaurant in Muswell Hill prides itself on serving fresh food at reasonable prices.
Historically, the marriage of fish and chips dates back to 1860 in Northern England near one of the many fish docks. Traditionally, fish and chips were flavored with salt and vinegar and consumed with your fingers straight out of the newspaper in which they were wrapped. Cod and chips is the Londoners favorite, but that's not true for the whole country. Ask for fish and chips in Grimsby, and they will serve you haddock, however in Wales you will most probably receive plaice. Fish and chips became essential to the diet of ordinary men and women and are now as fashionable as ever.
The restaurant is a small place in a busy neighborhood and hosts a couple of tables facing the open kitchen. It looks old and still has the same cachet it used to have back in the Sixties. But wait, up on the first floor are more dining spaces, two rooms which are opened on occasions. Brown wood takes over the space with lots of posters and mirrors making the space look bigger.
On the menu:
- First course (hot or cold)
- Main course
- Side orders
- The bar
We had the honor of having the owner around: Mr. Costas Giorgiou. Lunch started with an introduction by the family who took over the place in 1999. They are proud to have their own guys who send them the fish from the docks, fresh and straight to the restaurant. The fish is caught in Scandinavia so the ones we are having today were caught two days ago.
The fish is taken at 6am, checked and weighed, washed in icy water and cut into portions. It's then deboned carefully and left aside in the fridge before being cooked in batter, floured and fried in groundnut oil, not vegetable oil which has a bad odor.
The fish is fried at very high temperature. The chips are called chips and not fries, please don't call them fries. The chips are peeled by a peeler, checked one by one to remove the imperfections, cut and prepared, to be consumed the same day.
Toff's name comes from the gentleman called Andrea Toffalini who started this very shop. In 1988 the shop won an award for the best fish and chips. Today we will eat haddock which has a fishier taste, while the cod tastes milder, but has a flakier heart.
It was all fresh smelling fried fish... Lunch was being served.
- The Cod Fish: Every plate had a portion of four pieces, golden colored, fried to perfection and ready to be devoured. An extremely crunchy fish fried with its skin which looks and feels like salmon skin. The crunch of the skin was excellent before you reached the heart. Inside is a moist heart of pure white fish. Add lemon on top to enjoy it even more or dip in some tartar sauce. They don't taste of fried oil and that's the most important thing. Really good, simple fish and chips I've never had before.
- Next to that are the chips. Light colored, not crispy, but well cooked thickly cut potatoes. Those don't look appetizing, but are very good. Try the mashed green peas as well, they're smoothness and rich, pure taste is something I enjoyed.
- Haddock: The haddock is softer, less crunchy, with a softer skin and a heart that's even moister. It is indeed more flavorful. If you don't focus on the textures, but add tartar sauce and lemon automatically, you won't feel much of a difference between that and the cod. Anyway, both are good.
Fish and chips, as good as you'd expect, the way they like it on the island but to come all the way here you have to be a fan of this fried meal. If you're a fish and chips junky, this is a place to visit.