Food: Fish & Chips Recipe from the Star Tavern in London
NOTE: Ever wonder how to make authentic English fish & chips? Back in 2003, I was in London and attended a beer dinner, sponsored by Fuller’s, at the Star Tavern, a very famous Fuller’s pub in a now-tony part of London. We did a tasting of the Fuller’s real ales , all served on handpump upstairs at the Star. (There’s also a bar downstairs.) The Star by the way was the Campaign for Real Ale’s West London Pub of the Year 2005/06.
When it was over, I got the recipe below from the landlord and landlady at the Star.
Note 2: One change. Young’s has moved out of London. So Fuller’s remains the only large brewer in the city.
By William Brand
We were sitting at a long table at the Star Tavern, a pub in London that was old when America was young. A pint of Fuller’s London Pride drawn moments before from a handpump in front of me, I checked the dinner menu.
For a pub, it was an impressive menu and most of my companions _ on this tour sponsored by Fuller’s _ asked for steak, seafood or exotic pastas. But I ignored the fancy dishes and ordered “fish and chips.”
And why not? This was England, wasn’t it – the home of this much-maligned dish. Wasn’t I sitting in a pub famous for its food as well as its beer.
I did not go wrong. The fish came coated in a thick, light golden crust. Inside, the fish was moist and tender. The chips (French fries to us) were perfect. Crisp, tasty _ not a trace of oil. (American fast food franchisees take note.)
It was no surprise to Anthony Fuller, one of my tablemates. Fuller is chairman of Fuller, Smith & Turner _ the London brewer of Fuller’s beer and he also ordered fish and chips.
The Star, which opened in 1703, is owned by Fuller’s.
It’s listed in most guides to good pub food in Britain and _ as a purveyor of real ale _ that, is, non-pasteurized ale served on a handpump, it has been listed in every edition of the Campaign for Real Ale’s annual Good Beer Guide.
There are a number of small, locally distributed, craft brewers in London. But Fuller’s and Young and Co. are the last two large, family-owned, real ale brewers in Greater London, a city once famous for its ales and porters.
Both Young’s and Fuller’s are established in the United States, but too often their brands are lost in the dozens of American brands and imports from the big beer companies like Heineken, Interbrew (Stella Artois, Bass, Boddington’s) and Germany’s Paulaner.
There are four bottled Fuller’s beers available currently at good beer stores in the Bay Area:
Fuller’s ESB. ***** Fuller’s Extra Special Bitter or ESB _ fostered a style of beer and here in the U.S. most craft brewers offer an ESB in their range. The original is a dark, malty classic. It has a complex aroma, hints of caramel malt, English Fuggles and Goldings hops and an earthy note from the house yeast. The hops come on strong in the follow, along with a haunting, teasing yeast background.
Fuller’s London Porter. **** This is a fine porter, just arriving in the U.S. I haven’t found it yet, but I’m still looking an hoping. It’s a blend of p;ale, brown and chocolate malts. The nose is simply wild _ hints of chocolate and coffee. The taste is sweetly malty with a long, chocolately follow. Delicious.
Fuller’s London Pride ***. The number one cask ale in the United Kingdom. In bottles in the U.S. it’s filtered and pasteurized, but it remains a delicious beer made for sipping. The nose is malty with a tangy, hoppy background. The taste is dry, not sweet, which fades into a long, gentle, hoppy follow.
Fuller’s 1845 ****. This is Fuller’s bottle-conditioned beer _ a bit of fresh yeast is added when it’s bottling, allowing fermentation to continue, an ancient way of preserving the beer. It was launched in 1995 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the brewery. Because the beer changes and matures as it ages, it’s vintage dated. It’s possible to find older versions at good beer stores in the Bay Area. Buy two of each, drink one now, keep the other for five years.
It’s worth the search. At Fuller’s brewery in Cheswick on the edge of London, we tasted several “vintatges”. The best, I thought, was vintage 1999 *****. It was the only vintage made with Fuggles hops and it has a huge, brandy nose and deserves to be sampled only in a tulip-shaped brandy glass.
There’s a lot of malt sweetness remaining _ showing this is a beer that is still maturing. Great stuff.
Fuller’s is owned entirely by the three founding families, the Fullers, the Turners and and, I understand, a single Smith heir. The three-family partnership was founded in 1845 to operate a brewery that apparently was founded before 1660.
The brewery is still located on the site in Cheswick, on the edge of London.
I care mostly about the beer, not a brewer’s history, but to understand and appreciate the beer, it’s important to understand the history.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, beer companies began to merge and consolidate and famous, small brewers were dropping like flies. The larger brewers found non-pasteurized ale, matured in casks cumbersome, non-stable and uneconomical.
They rapidly switched to pasteurized keg beer and bottles. By the early 1970s Fuller’s and Young’s were the only remaining cask beer brewers. Fuller’s was in decline, sales had dropped to 70,000 barrels a year.
Something remarkable happened. A group of journalists and English beer drinkers enthusiasts realized they were on the verge of losing a great tradition: cask ale. They started a revolution, or should I say a “devolution” that became the Campaign for Real Ale.
It saved Fuller’s and Young’s. “We went from 70,000 barrels and a decline to 200,000 barrels in a short time,” brewery director Richard Turner says.
CAMRA did more than save a couple of breweries _ the campaign preserved beers with interesting, unique tastes, concoctions using ancient yeasts and curious malt blends. Unfortunately, aside from a couple of special festivals, Fuller’s cask ale doesn’t make it to America.
But the bottled beers are excellent.
Now, about that fish and chips. Here’s the recipe from T.J. and Christine Connell, landlord and landlady of the Star Tavern.
Traditional Fish and Chips
- 1/2 lb x 4 Cod Fillets (fresh is best)
- 2 1/2 pounds Chips (potatoes sliced French fry size)
- 4 1/4 oz. Tartar Sauce
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 Lemon, cut into wedges.
- 1/2 pound Peas
4 whole eggs
6 oz. (approx) London Pride Beer
2 cups Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 x Suitable Salad Garnishes
(The Star Tavern served the dish with a small salad of mixed lettuce greens with a light vinegar and oil dressing.
- 1. Preheat deep fat fryer or sturdy frying pan with cooking oil to about 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- 2. Mix salt and pepper with the flour. Whisk in the eggs, then add enough beer to make a thick batter. Let stand 10 to 20 minutes.
- 3. Place 1/2 cup flour on a shallow dish. Dip cod fillets into the flour, then into the batter mix, and then straight into the fryer taking care not to splash yourself with hot oil. Cook until golden brown and a core temperature of 160 degrees is reached.
- 4. Deep fry chips until golden brown and place with the fish on a plate with the tartar sauce, salad garnish and lemon wedges.
- 5. Heat peas in water brought to a simmer for a couple of minutes and place on a plate.
The Star Tavern used a prepared tartar sauce. If you wish to make your own, here’s a recipe my family likes.
- 1 c. light mayonnaise
- 2 TB. dill pickles, chopped
- 2 TB. stuffed olives, chopped
- 1 TB. onion, grated
- 1 TB. capers
- Juice of one lime or lemon.
- 1/4 tsp. salt