Lunch There's stiff competition but this chippy is hard to fault
Smiley's Plaice 73 East Street, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 4HB. Tel 0117 953 2792.
Quite frankly the best fish and chips I've ever had in the UK" was the verdict of one reader after a recent visit to the amusingly named Smiley's Plaice.
With plaudits like that, I simply had to make a beeline for this Bedminster chippy, which opened just over a year ago in the former General Elliot pub.
Sadly, apart from the impressive bowed double doors, there isn't much left of the old pub. OK, the pub had seen better days by the time it closed but it was a striking Victorian corner boozer and one that must have seen its fair share of knees-ups in its heyday.
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In some ways, the only real reminders of the old pub are the large jars of pickled eggs and pickled onions on the counter at Smiley's Plaice, which has a separate dining area for those who want to eat off a plate, rather than out of a paper bag walking down East Street (never a good look). BS3 is well served with good fish and chip shops – The Argus in nearby West Street has won national awards and Fishminster in Southville has its followers – so Smiley's Plaice has much to live up to. If there's one thing the people of Bemmy know, it's a good "cod lot" when they see it.
If fish isn't your thing, there is a range of chicken options, pies, pasties and sausages (the jumbo battered banger with chips, £2.95, seemed a popular choice). There are also ten different permutations when it comes to chips – everything from a cone (£1) to chilli and chips (£2.75), although I imagine the cheesy chips (£2.50) and curry and chips (£2.45) are the best sellers.
You can order each fish on its own, with chips or with additional peas. Prices peak at £6.95, which could buy you a large cod, chips and peas – a decent price for a hot meal of such enormous proportions.
I wasn't quite sure if the Golden Oldies Special (small cod and chips, £3.95) listed on the menu was aimed at people over 65 or it was simply referring to the fact it was a classic dish at a special price. Perhaps the young Turkish girl serving just thought I looked like a senior citizen anyway and felt sorry for me as she didn't question it and didn't ask to see my bus pass.
Served straight from the fryer to the plate, it was piping hot, the batter crisp, if a little greasy. The cod was good quality, with large white flakes, and the chips were hand-cut, fluffy inside and crisp on the edges. For £3.95, it was pretty faultless tucker.
In an area well served with good fish and chip shops, Smiley's Plaice is another chippy worth a detour.