Fish 'n' Chips

I don’t see how they can be allowed to get away with it – what with truth in advertising and all that. Claim they have the best chips – or is it fries – in the nation. Some sun-drenched, stereotypically knockabout Aussie beach-type lads walking towards a car, skylarking over a cup of chips (or fries), with a voice over making that claim. The good life = KFC chips. How can they be the most delectable in the country – what proof is there? What surveys have been done? Just gives me the pip.

Advertising is yet another reason free to air television annoys the heebies out of me – well at least on the commercial channels. It’s no wonder the punters are turning off in droves. And now it seems you cannot enjoy a quarter of footy without them trying to squeeze in not one, but two, ads after each goal. To my mind people would be so peed off that they’d deliberately not go out and buy that product. Sure there are ads with a modicum of intelligence about them – the Jeep campaign for instance – but any effectiveness they might have are killed off by repeated exposure. But having inanities shouted at you after each six-pointer – that is just beyond the pale. But enough of railing about that – I’m off topic. That rubbish from the Colonel – that’s what I need to be focused on.

I suppose, really, I should put it to the test and actually buy some of them before I rant away – but I haven’t been in a KFC, or a Maccas, this century and I don’t plan to start now. I do not have a great deal of respect for my stomach in terms of what I put in it, but going to any one of those generic fast-food outlets is a step too far over to the dark side. But I like fish ‘n’ chips, I really do. I envy Dave O’Neil who, when he’s not scribing about all the great pub rock bands he saw back in the day when he and they were in their pomp, he’s rattling on about what he can stick in his ample gut. He’s a great columnist though, I reckon. He usually raises a smile or more from me. Living, as he does, in Melbourne, he can still seek out the old fashioned variety of fish ‘n’ chips – the type I yearn for. He has to drive a distance for it, though, to get to a place where ‘…the man behind the counter dumped a big load of flake and chips on the paper and shaked salt over the fried goodness.’ Read the attached article ‘Fish and Chip Heartbreak Served Without Salt’. If you’re pining, like me, for the good ol’ days, it’ll take you back. It sure took me back.


I’m a Burnie boy and proud of it. But back when I was a lad every ‘burb, big or small, had them – the take-away shop, usually run by Greeks or Italians. These served up fish ‘n’ chips in the way that has all but disappeared. Salt, of course, was a given – the only choice then was vinegar or no vinegar. I remember the one I used to frequent, way back in the mists when I was in primary school. I can picture it now. After class had finished for the day I made a beeline for it. You could never see what was on offer from the outside as the plate glass was so steamed up from the hot expectant breath of dozens of children waiting, the younger ones repeatedly forced to the back by the pushy grade sixers. Then there were the super hot vats of boiling, infrequently-changed, oil to increase the fug. But you didn’t need to see in – just open the door, feel the exhale of warmth, particularly if it was winter, then make your way, as best you could, to order your shilling’s worth at the counter. Flake was not affordable, reserved for family occasions on the weekend. There would be dark haired, swarthy men in singlets serving it all out, the sweat oozing down from hairy armpits, what with the effort required to keep up with demand. It was like the six o’clock swill in the pubs of the day. A bob’s worth in the chilly season would keep you toasty all the way up the hill to home – no helicopter parenting in those days. And they were wrapped in raw newspaper, soon to be punctured at the top for hand dipping. In cold weather you would tuck the package under your jacket. This would serve two purposes – firstly to protect it from the elements and secondly, to warm you from the chill winds. You’d wonder how the chips would be on any given occasion. Would they be exquisitely soggy, or deliciously crunch-inducing? If you came up with a particularly long one you’d show it to your mates to see if they could outdo it from their yesterday’s news package. Some chips would invariably have big black spots of god only knows what on their skins. The finicky would chuck them – I wasn’t finicky. And when you had scoffed them all down, at the bottom would be more delight – the salty, oily scrag ends and crumbs.


During my uni days, in the seventies, it was still possible to enjoy the same binge as I had the previous decade. From my residential hall there was the ten o’clock nightly run down to the Monaco on Sandy Bay Road. There’d be a rota, orders were taken and if it was your turn, off you’d go, returning with a steaming mass of chip orders. If you were flush, added to it would be dim sims, chicko rolls and flake. If not, probably a potato cake or two. A scallop was pure ecstasy

When I finally moved back to Hobs, a few years ago now, there was a place along the Main Road, at Austin’s Ferry, that still retained a semblance of the old ways. From his stock, though, you could tell the sole owner was struggling. He eventually merged with the pizza place next door, but the last time I looked both had gone the way of so many small businesses these days.

maning reef

Yes, ‘…slices of lemon are the new potato cakes and it all comes in small cardboard boxes.’ Leigh and I have gone with the flow and now frequent a ‘Fish and Chippery’, as Dave puts it. Ours isn’t bad. Sure, it’s not like the old days, but the blokes who run it, John Caire and Giovanni Bertelle, are friendly, the prices are not over-inflated and what they produce is tasty – not old-fashioned tasty, but good enough. It still warms the cockles and is probably a darn sight healthier. And it also takes me back to Sandy Bay Road – 479 in fact. Like Dave O’N’s new place, it is a bit of a drive from our abode by the river in Bridgewater, but we combine lunch there with a trip to the casino once every couple of months or so. Leigh can have a flutter and I take my newspapers to enjoy the river views from the Sportsman’s Bar. If you’re in those parts you could do worse that a cheap repast at the old petrol station, the site for our tucker on such occasions. Leigh reckons their pizzas are pretty delectable as well, but I’ll stick to my simple ‘two pieces of flake, battered, with chips.’ The light tempura batter is not the same as the floury overload of earlier times. Its all fried in cotton seed oil, regularly changed, which I guess is a bonus on the cholesterol. And I’ve even taken to their sweet potato cakes. Despite my yearnings, Maning Reef Cafe, licensed, does it for me. I’ll see if they’re interested in putting Thai fish cakes with dill sauce on the menu.

Dave O’Neil’s column =

Maning Reef Cafe website =

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