Friday, 19 May 2023, 11:07
Often considered Britain's national dish, takeaway shops selling fish and chips first appeared in the UK in the middle of the 19th century, and by the beginning of the next century, there were over 25,000. By the 1930s, the number had risen to 35,000, but at the turn of the 21st century, there were only approximately 10,000: the others had been forced out of business by the gargantuan number of fast-food franchises that opened outlets in all major towns and cities during the last quarter of the 20th century.
However, this downturn in the British appetite for crispy battered cod and the deep-fried potato chip drenched in malt vinegar did not deter one enthusiastic business owner from opening what she claims is the "only traditional fish and chip shop in Marbella".
Originally from Brighton, East Sussex, Francesca Jones, or Frankie, as she has been known since birth, has lived in Marbella for 17 years, and she came to the Costa del Sol "due to the weather". She has had a long career in hospitality, which helped when opening the fish and chip shop, but this was not her first venture into the hospitality business in Marbella.
"I have always worked in hospitality, running numerous bars, restaurants and hotels. When the opportunity to open a hostel in the Old Town arose, it was a great opportunity to start a business from scratch and build it. We expanded to two hostels before we decided to move on to new exciting opportunities," Frankie told SUR in English.
Frankie's Fish and Chips opened its doors to the public at the end of October 2022, which, as she points out, gave her the opportunity to spend more time with her husband, Craig, and "the love of their lives", their dog, Harry.
"The hostels kept me so busy; I didn't have much time to enjoy our beautiful surroundings and spend time with my husband, and our dog, Harry. Opening Frankie's appealed, because it gave us a little more time with more structured hours, and also incorporated my strength in hospitality," she said.
With the insight of their "secret weapon", Phil, the chef, the shop began to attract a steady flow of both locals and visiting tourists, seeing as there had not been a business of its kind in Marbella for many years.
The local Spanish residents were also intrigued by the English version of the classic coastal speciality of 'pescado frito', the secret of which, Frankie claims, is the "simple, crispy batter".
"As Marbella had not had a traditional fish and chip shop for, I think, more than 25 years, I felt that there was a need. We have as many Spanish clients as British. Because Marbella has so many nationalities, we have quite a mixture. The Spanish love the English version, and many other items on our menu, which they have never come across before," Frankie explained.
Of course, when one thinks of a traditional British chip shop, memories of newspaper-wrapped, battered cod and hake, scraps, pickled eggs and fish cakes spring to mind. With the exception of the wrapping, Frankie's offers all the usual trimmings, along with other traditional British cuisine. She also offers gluten and lactose free food to order, which she says is "very important today".
Serving decent fish and chips is something of an art. Traditional frying uses beef dripping or lard; however, today, vegetable oils, such as palm oil, rapeseed, or peanut oil – used because of its high smoke point – are often used.
Frankie claims that the aspects which make her business so authentic and popular is the "quality of the products" used, and because it is cooked to order and "always piping hot".
"Our fish is a secret between us and our supplier as it is the very best quality. We also sourced the best potatoes for our chips. We triple cook each batch to create perfection: crispy on the outside and fluffy inside."
Even though many people today have become conscious of the food they consume, usually avoiding too much fast-food, especially deep-fried, Frankie believes that with the correct knowledge of the cooking process, she is able to offer her clients peace of mind when tucking into a plate of Britain's traditional dish.
"There is always a worry for health-conscious clients, but sometimes people just want comfort food. Once they have tasted our food, they realise it is not greasy, due to the oil used and how it is cooked," Frankie said.
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