The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt: The Rosebud

The Rosebud Fishfinger Sandwich. The secret is in the peas.


It’s been a while since I went out for a decent fishfinger sandwich, infact some previous outings had rather put me off the idea for a spell. Not so this week, when the Mr and I found ourselves out for a local pint and a spot of dinner. As a holiday treat, we head to our closest favourite The Rosebud where we could rely on an array of fresh seafood delights to tantalise our tastebuds. Blame the cooler evenings and a day of drinking for us being faced with their stunning menu and both rather sheepishly admitting that amidst all this haute cuisine glory we could right go a fishfinger sandwich. 

Well.

Two fat cod fingers battered and measured to exactly fill a perfectly warmed ciabatta roll, gloriously topped with a slightly sweet tartare that I suspect has a mystery ingredient or two. All good, all lovely in fact but the winning touch, the piece de resistance, the stroke of simple bloody genius was the layer of seasoned crushed peas across the bottom half of the roll. I have no idea how they manage this without residual sogginess, but to be honest I don’t need to know. 

Inspired. 

Incredible.

Lots of other complimentary ‘I’ words.

I award a score of roughly 28 out of 10 and that’s before you consider the side of Godzilla-esque chunky chips and plate price of just six of your English pounds. The search might finally be over.

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The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt: Three Wise Monkeys

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Some time ago I said some pretty good things about Three Wise Monkeys in Colchester. I fear I won’t be repeating many of them here.
It isn’t an easy decision to reverse a recommendation but I can’t help feeling that TWM has overlooked quality for quantity and in expanding the menu this far have stretched their commitment too thinly. To paraphrase a recent Michelin starred twitter conversation- sometimes the trick with a menu is to know where to stop.
Recent visits have shown that TWM serve some mean brisket and a decent sausage, but also a bland, if crunchy, Po boy sub. I’ve eaten excellent ribs here and also ones resembling antique shoe leather in sauce. The hotwings these days are a sour and abrasive experience and this is not me being chilliphobic- I love a good hot sauce, they have just stopped serving one. The TWM onion rings surpass any others I have ever eaten (sorry Pops) and they probably run the best modern beer menu in and around Colchester. A satisfactory customer experience is so much more than a decent pint with a mediocre meal and their fish finger sub (not a sub, BTW) is consistent with the Po Boy and boot strap ribs.

One should certainly abbreviate to FFS.

Three points go out for the prescribed sides of well executed chips in a bucket, house slaw and the TWM standard tiny pile of tiny pickle slices as served on a tin-plate-tray thing. We want more pickles, dammit! A kilo jar of Mrs Elswood wouldn’t have saved the sandwich though. White bread that was either old or had sat under a too hot heat lamp for some time- it was positively dessicated and tasted only of its own powdery texture. Disappointing.
Inside the bun a reasonable smear of punchy tartare sauce, so they can still make a sauce and get a point for that. Expected salad addition of lettuce. Then, the fish fingers.
Wow.
Life note- always fear a woman who takes a meaningful pause then says ‘wow’.
The fishfingers,  and the person who cooked them, can fuck off. It is entirely possible that they did actually fuck off to check their emails, take a smoke break and run a cheeky half marathon while the fishfingers were in the fryer. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve lived in Scotland. Shrunken, blackened and over cooked to the point of requiring two hands to get a knife through one. The general taste impression of fine, fatty gravel with a soft inner layer that had separated into sad, compressed flakes of white something that sticks to your teeth.
Ghastly. Just bloody ghastly, and I paid nine quid for it. Thank God for the beer.
I should add at this point that my co diners spoke highly of the portobello mushroom burger and southern fried chicken sub but that somehow makes this Fishfinger Sandwich fail worse.
It is not hard to make a Fishfinger Sandwich. It’s ridiculously bloody easy to cook a fish finger and keep fresh bread available. I wasted more calories than I had to spare on that meal and as I sit here now I can’t quite belive I didn’t send it back. Call it my inner Britishness and national desire to not cause a scene. I might have mentioned the mass over cookery had anyone actually asked us how our meals were but the first floor staff have clearly learned it’s is better to just enquire if the punters are finished, rather than if they enjoyed everything.

Three and a half out of ten for the sides and tartare and I think that’s generous. Get it together,  TWM. It’s not like we don’t know you can do it better.

The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- Bill’s of Richmond

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Bill’s beer! It’s a blond apparently. I know little of beer, but this is a goodun.

Bill’s: pleasing multi site eatery to be found in various trendy locations with the rather lovely tag line of Breakfast to Bedtime. They serve good, uncomplicated food all day and are generally worth a visit, based on my experience of a couple of stops in their Covent Garden site and now also just over the river in Richmond.

To set the scene, it was early, it was rugby day, and some robust stomach lining was in order. We arrived for the popular Saturday brunch service just before noon.

Urgh. Seriously who came up with ‘brunch’? I usually love a hybrid word but ‘brunch’ can bugger off. Scrambled egg after midday is still lunch I don’t care how pretentious or hungover you are. It’s lunch time. You don’t have cornflakes at half eight at night and call it ‘br-upper’. That is all.

Anyway it was just getting busy as we arrived and the boys all had their eyes on one of the breakfast dishes (served until 1 on the weekends to accommodate that B word crowd). I must say it all looked very tempting, especially the eggs florentine and/or benedict. For a moment I was almost swayed by a mackerel MLT special which looked very special indeed but in my heart of hearts, almost everything on the menu was a non-starter. It’s Bill’s. You have a bloody mary and a fishfinger sandwich at Bill’s. At least I always have in the past, however a pre order trip to the loo meant returning to a Bill’s beer, as selected by my father and what a good call that was. I don’t know much about beer, I know what I like and that is reasonably limited but Bill’s Beer in a frozen glass gets a big thumbs up from me.

Moving on, the boys had breakfasts served after the official commencement of the luncheon hour and the girls had fishfinger sandwiches.

FFS a la Bill's

FFS a la Bill’s

The bread: a toasted sour dough, good enough.

The fish: Smallish goujons of cod in a very crunchy crumb.

The innards: rocket (good call), ketchup and tartare sauce. Extra point for having the wisdom to combine these in the perfect set up of tartare on the bottom under the salad, ketchup on the top slice. I’d have done this myself if it wasn’t served like it! The tartare could have done with a little more tart.

The chips: You don’t order chips separately here, they come with and this is another point for wisdom in serving. A fishfinger sandwich should always come with chips. Skinny fries at Bill’s, in a cheery little red bucket. Good little fries, adequate but unremarkable, nice presentation though.

The garnish: Lemon wedge and unnecessary herbage.

Verdict: Oh it’s good, and I knew it would be. Bill’s get quite a lot of things right and they are yet to fail me on a fishfinger sandwich. The fish bits are great and the sandwich construction near on faultless but for a mild case of over toasting on the bread which overdid for the crunch in the texture of a mouthful. It’s a nice, comfy atmosphere and if there hadn’t been all the beer I would my Dad would have had change from £9 on this which isn’t bad for a good, freshly cooked lunch in Richmond.

In summary, I’m giving them 8.2 out of 10 (losses for the over toast and the slightly feeble tartare sauce) and heartily recommend them for a stop in for your chosen meal time if you are in the area.

 

Next!

 

The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- The Merchant at Bishopsgate.

I’ll start off straight away by awarding two friendly points here to account for the fact that I had the beginnings of a terrible bout of rhinovirus infection when this chapter of the search for the ultimate fishfinger sarnie began to unfold.

To set the scene, it was cold, it was Saturday and lunch was required before a scoot across London to an all afternoon drinking affair. Exit the train at Liverpool St and promptly enter The Merchant Of Bishopsgate– a surprisingly unassuming eat-and-drinkery in Liverpool St Station. I was initially thrilled to be out of the external climate, then further pleased to see that this establishment had taken a definite step out of unwritten rule of charging 20-50% over a honest reasonable rate for anything just because you happen to be consuming it in central London. In fact before my lunching companions disembarked the 1-35 from Hatfield Peverel I was able to soothe my flu-like symptoms with a coffee and a cognac and get change from six quid. Imagine that!

Moving on, the others turned up, lunch was ordered, and this is what we got:

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Fishfinger sandwich, chips, bit of salad, beverage. About a tenner, so a point there and another couple for presentation in this well executed example of modern pub grub.

The bread: A standard white farmhouse, probably at least a week old and toasted to an impressively powdery finish.

The fish: Good sized chunks, properly cooked in an unremarkable batter.

The chips: Woeful and, if prepared as to the advertised method, undercooked no less than three times before serving!

The garnish: Good round lettuce in the sandwich with a suitable crunch, ever so slightly sad side salad. Put a garnish on the plate (or chopping board) people! Why put hardly any salad in a little bowl that just makes it more obvious that it’s too small to be an actual side dish????

Again my friends, disappointment. Do I ask too much? Am I forever to find fault? Have I inadvertently already eaten the perfect fishfinger sandwich without knowledge and now have to live with the fact that it’s not ever going to get any better? I refuse to believe so!

Points to the venue though, it’s a really nice establishment and I will happily return there on the next occasion that time and geography allow it, though I am more likely to go for their Super Salad as demolished by my Mr who can now be smug about how his nice healthy lunch was better than my sinful carb heavy sandwich and triple under-fried chips. Good for him.

Overall, five out of ten.

The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- The Kings Arms

A week or so ago, Mr and myself celebrated two years of blissful union. Awww. Do you know when I first met that boy, he’d never had a fishfinger sandwich? Can you imagine! I put an end to that lack of experience for him quite swiftly on our second date, where we went for a long walk and a happy lunch at the Kings Arms in sunny Colchester. Being short on readies and creativity, we decided to stumble back here for an anniversary lunch. He had some kind of chicken-bacon-cheese bake thing and I, well, I couldn’t help myself.

a winning first impression

a winning first impression

I have to say, it looked pretty bloody marvellous: crispy fried haddock goujons and fresh lettuce served in some kind of artisan type bread, basil and lime mayo on the side for optional bread smearing and the skin on chips that are always a winner at this particular establishment. Beautifully turned out, the proverbial first bite as taken by the eye was most satisfying indeed. And something of a false promise it turned out, because the first bite with my actual eating bits was disappointingly flat. The bread was dense and white, the goujons were hot and crunchy on the outside, softly fleshy on the inside. The lettuce was fresh and crisp and made a satisfying snap as bitten into. The lime basil mayo didn’t taste of lime or mayo. This my friends was a precision exercise in presentation and texture but sadly forlorn when it came to flavour.

I’m not sure what went wrong really, there was just nothing there, other than the chips which were excellent as usual. Maybe their potatoey mojo robbed the other items on the plate, forced them to be a dull background noise next to the glorious symphony of twice fried sticks of spud. But I don’t think so. I see here rather a beautiful example of how form means bugger all without function and that six quid is not a good price to pay for a lunch that tastes like textured air with chips.

A shame, and something of a shock as I’m used to getting good grub at this particular ale house and in the past their FFS efforts have been up there with the best. I will return at a later date and hope to all that is foodie that this was a one off and normal service will be resumed.

A gloomy five out of ten in summary, most of which is for the presentation and the aforementioned kickass chips. One bonus point for super quick service.

The Perfect Fishfinger Sandwich Hunt- The Purple Dog

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Hello, and welcome to The Purple Dog in central Colchester. It’s a pub and it has history and beams and a beer garden and stuff. I’ve spent many a rowdy evening and one too many boozy afternoons there in my time due to it’s comfy ambience, indie friendly sway on musical matters and pleasing range of food and drink on offer. The Mr and I finished off our first date there in fact, but it was convenience that chose The Purple Dog for lunch this Sunday just gone rather than any kind of romantic nostalgia, I promise you.

So to set the scene yes, it was a sunny Sunday, towards the end of the lunch shift, and sustenance was required before Mr Me began his perilous journey back to the wilds of Maldon. He ordered a jacket with curry no, wait chilli. Yes chilli thanks. Rather obviously, I had a fish finger sandwich.

I shall make a point of saying that I like this pub, and have never been disappointed by their edible offerings previously.

Does this look like a £7.40 lunch to you? No. Me either.

Does this look like a £7.40 lunch to you? No. Me either.

My fish finger sandwich came after a substantially long wait  in a pannini which was a wee bit over done, as were the mega crunchy fishy fingers inside. Standard frozen sort, nothing special there, smear of tartare sauce in the bottom. No salad, no discernible seasoning. Somewhat worrying as the chips on the above photographic evidence were purchased in addition to the £4.75 I paid for my sandwich. If there had been no chips then what, this sad and harshly textured example of joyless calories on a mostly empty plate? Credit where due though, nice plate.

On the whole, unacceptable Mr Purple (or is it just Dog?). I can’t even drag out more words on the subject. Over done bread and a bit of sauce. Passable chips. Not much change out of eight quid. This is why people are eating out less and less, especially in the mid level eateries like your local pub. A little presentation can end up costing so much in these circumstances, if I had never eaten at this pub before this lunch, I wouldn’t ever do so again.

Overall, four out of ten. A standard pub garnish of three curled lettuce leaves plus two slices of cucumber and half a tomato under a thin drizzle of dressing would have increased this substantially. Take away the near cremated state of the fish fingers and this might have made a seven.  I might just stick to boozing next time.

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The Perfect Fish Finger Sandwich Hunt- River Lodge Colchester.

Tis the season and all that but all the festive cheer in the world wasn’t going to avert this disaster. I’m not even sure I can bring myself to review it properly.

ffs riverlodgeThe scene was The River Lodge Pub, early on a Wednesday night in December where pre-entertainment sustenance was in order. It’s a pub, I wasn’t expecting miracles. I wasn’t quite expecting this either.

The chips were passable. The fishfingers were of a frozen standard variety, could have fitted another one in there though to my mind. The bread, oh, the bread. It was just bread, white sliced. No salad, no seasoning, no smear of low fat butter substitute. Just bread. It was a crime against sandwiches, I did not enjoy it and based on the experiences of my co-diners I probably wont eat there again. A shame! But good reason to find the next fish finger sandwich as soon as possible and erase this from my memory.

Overall, 2 out of 10. It would have been a three but I’m also outraged by paying four quid for a pint of lager so they lost one for that too.