Comfort Food Scottish-Style

Just before Christmas, The Daily Meal published its list of top 25 restaurants in England and Scotland. Among the obvious, not to say high and mighty, (The Fat Duck, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and St. John Bar & Restaurant), was a humble chipper (trans: fish and chip shop) on the east coast of Scotland called the Anstruther Fish Bar.

Located in the Fife town of Anstruther, the award-winning restaurant goes like a fair, to use the Scots version of “busy as heck.”Among other gongs, it garnered the UK’s National Fish and Chip of the Year award in 2008, so when we visited my husband’s family in Carnoustie (further north up the coast) in 2010, I insisted on a pilgrimage to Anstruther to try these reported fabulous fish and chips.

My daily breakfast always includes Marmite on toast and coffee in my Anstruther Fish Bar mug!

The lunchtime we were there, the place was packed with customers lined up to order for take-out what the Scots refer to at any time of day as a “fish supper” (fish and chips). We opted to eat in because, as is the case every time we return to Scotland, neither of us had felt warm since we got off the plane in Glasgow and, as usual, horizontal rain was blowing in from the North Sea!

The restaurant’s owned by Robert and Alison Smith whose family have been in the fish business since the 1600s. As well as the usual items you’d expect in a Scottish chipper (haddock and chips, sausage, haggis, white pudding and curry—really), there are more esoteric offerings on the menu, including fresh local crab, fish cakes and smoked haddock (known as smokies in Scotland).

A massive portion of haddock came in a light-as-air batter alongside blisteringly hot, chunky chips. With a plate of bread and butter and a hot drink, it will set you back about $13, and you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

The teensy wine list was a surprise. While the south of England is now producing some respectable sparkling wines, when it comes to climate, Scotland is hardly Bordeaux or Niagara so I was intrigued by a wine called Winter Oak, from the Cairn o’ Mohr winery further north on the banks of the River Tay.

Pointing to the wine list, I turned to our waiter, an older man with a wonderfully dour Scottish gruffness and asked, “What would you suggest to go with the fish and chips?” “Carlsberg” came the reply. And, of course, he was right. I ordered the wine; one sip and it was left on the table. Ghastly stuff. But, boy, the fish and chips were good!

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