The Brown Room is one of those places that qualifies to be one of the best fish and chip shops in the known world. I don’t actually think I could ever single out the best chippy ever because fish and chips are like beers and pork pies, there are loads of really good ones out there, but they are all slightly different. Like you can’t compare cheese and apples, you can’t directly compare porter against pale ale or Melton Mowbray pies against proper ones, and pubs are exactly the same. In fact you can’t judge them unless you have a standard to check against. That’s why we have standards for beer judging, which means, if you are doing it right, you can actually score a beer very highly, even if you don’t prefer that style or even compare the brewers art between porter and pale ale.
CAMRA have a standard with which you can judge pubs, I’ve used it and it works, albeit it with a CAMRA bias. I’m sure I could actually come up with my own standard for judging pubs. Perhaps it exists, somewhere in the windmills of my mind, I might try sometime, but even then, it would have my own bias. Having said that, my bias might be similar to others as I agree with other commentators on many things, but not all. Maybe I should undertake some post graduate study in an attempt to define a formula of pubiness. I’m sure someone’s already done it?
I would predict that any independently, without bias, pubiness formula derived through pure scientific research would end up having a strong leaning to mainstream/premier lager brands and large (larger the better) cheap (cheapest is bestest) meals, because, let’s face it, that’s what most folk go for. Unless it’s Thursday to Friday night in a town centre when again lager type drinks and possibly cocktails prevail, along with other agendas, although the premise of largest and cheapest may still apply here? This sort of brings me down to earth and I have to understand that I am a very small minority, as are organisations like CAMRA, which to my reckoning has a membership representing around 0.3% of the UK’s estimated population (60 millions) and maybe what I like isn’t exactly mainstream?
Getting back to The Brown Room, it’s exactly what a Yorkshire chip shop should be, clean and tidy, friendly, traditional, unpretentious, and the finest example of the fish fryers art. Although, I do recognise that some folk prefer different levels of crispiness in their batter, I think they get it right here with a consistent delicate balance of lightness and crispiness. I don’t like the thick crispy batters that scratch your gums, nor the sad doughy type that falls off the fish.
There’s a big tradition theme going on here, as a family we’ve been visiting for years and in the same way The Brown Room has been owned by the same people for as long as I can remember. Okay, the original ‘old man’ has retired, but he turned up just before closing when we were in the other day, just to make sure everything was okay. I’m pretty sure that most, if not all, of the staff are part of a single large extended family, if not biologically then socially. Reassuringly a nice mix of mostly mature, exceptionally friendly, professional and efficient adults with a smattering of carefully watched apprentices. No ‘back from Uni for the summer, clever but not much practicality and even less interest (apart from the money) lasses’ here.
I like the way it styles itself, “Fish and Chips, Cafe or Takeaway”. No pretensions of being a restaurant, not even an acute accent on the e. Immune from silly trendiness, it still has formica topped tables, ketchup squirters and proper vinegar bottles. No sachets here just pure functionality. Tea comes in tea pots, with even more hot water and a milk jug. I’m not a big fan of tea, but this is one of the few places I drink it. It just complements fish and chips, tannins cutting through the fat leaving faint floral notes to liven the palate.
There’s another well known fish and chip restaurant nearby. I’ve eaten there and the food is pretty good too, all served up in modern surroundings. Thing is, you don’t have a slice of lemon with fish and chips on the East coast of Yorkshire, you don’t want your peas in a separate ramekin thingy (think how much gets left in the pot) and you definitely don’t want an alcoholic drink with it. Neither do you want lobster or crab from a fish fryers, you go to see a chef for that.
I think readers will get where I’m coming from and realise that most people will rave about the other place with the plastic fisherman stood outside. I’m thankful though that I’m not actually in the minority and there’s still a lot of people out there who want proper fish and chips served by proper people in a proper chip ‘oyle.
Hopefully I will still be going to The Brown Room in twenty years time, and with a bit of good fortune, then maybe some more. If any grand bairns arrive on the scene then I’ll take them, just like my kids were taken by my parents. With a bit of luck, after a day on the beach, we’ll all be able to go to a proper pub for a couple of pints of proper beer before we go for our tea. I hope you will still have to queue up for a table.