I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Great Tassie Fish & Chip Roundup

Ahhh, the sea! There is just something about ocean towns which makes one want to run out and eat hot, crisp chips while the sea air blows and the seagulls shout "more! more!" DH and I, being avid "chiss and fipps" eaters in many an ocean town, were very excited to see not one or two but FIVE fish and chip purveryors on Constitution Dock. All of these were within about 15 feet of each other.

Since we were planning on being in Hobart for five days...and there were five such shops...well, stands to reason, doesn't it? This required a one-a-day habit, surely? To do a proper blog-worthy round up, we had to first establish The Rules. Rule One: The order had to include one serving of calamari and chips and 2 pieces of prawns. Rule Two: Regardless of what else we ordered, we could only judge on those items. Rule Three: When placing the order, DH had to verbally say, "Please cook the chips to well done. Hot, crispy, crunchy, WELL COOKED chips." So onwards we embarked, with a specific baseline established (for comparison purposes.)

Mako's was the first one we tried. We had high hopes - it was the closest (geographically) to open water. Sadly for us, Mako's was more like Flop-o's. Cons: pre-crumbed calamari from a bag, processed prawn cutlets, chips not well done *and* the damn chips were thin sort of shoe-string type (a pet hate of DH's.) Plus the tartare was one of those horrid plastic square thingies from Heinz. Pros: Tartare and wedge of lemon included, and interesting menu items like coriander mayo. Overall score: 5

Second up was Fishy Business. They won some bonus points with us! Cons: That crappy Kraft tartare sauce again, chips decidedly average. Pros: Real prawns (not processed), calamari still pre-crumbed from a bag but obviously a better supplier. Lemon and tartare supplied. Overall score: 6

It was at this point that DH and I came to a somewhat sad conclusion. Fish purveyors numbers three and four were actually selling fresh fish, not heart-attack-on-a-plate fish. DH's sunny attitude had him saying, "Ah well, at least now we have an instant short list!" I on the other hand, was irritated at the whole plan being wrecked. 5 shops, 5 days - it was perfect! *sigh* Onwards and upwards, we decided to try Number 3 (previously No. 5) which was the furthest away from open sea.

Flippers has a sense of humour - the pontoon built in the shape of a fish is pretty funny, you must admit. However, a GSOH never cooked fish, obviously. Pros: Best calamari by far - plump, tasty, crisp! Prawns were real, not processed. Pineapple fritter on the menu, which the guy offered to make up fresh for us. Cons: No lemon, no tartare provided. Worst con: Chips so disgusting, DH and I didn't finish them. Seriously, these chips were gross! (and I for one believe that at heart, all chips are good chips until proven otherwise.) Overall score: 6

At this point DH and I were feeling very dejected. NONE of these sea-faring fish and chip pontoons were good. In fact they were all really average. So we did what any self-respecting foodies would do, and we headed to the middle of the dock for the most expensive fish and chip shop around - Mure's. It's been there for 20 years, and it's not floating on a pontoon...so surely they've got to get it right?

Firstly, take a look at that menu. "From the wok" ... seriously? For a fish and chip shop? It gets better. This place also has a choose-your-own toppings oyster bar, a formal upstairs dining restaurant, a gift shop, *and* they sell fresh fish. In fact, you can PICK what fish you want from the display and they'll cook it right then and there. With all that in mind, the Cons: You can't order just one of something (like one prawn). The price is a good $2-4 dollars more expensive than the other places. No tartare provided. Pros: They LISTENED about the chips! They were crisp, well-done and seriously good. The seafood is REAL seafood. As in those were fresh calamari and fresh prawns. The real deal. (See picture at the top.) Overall score: 8

Sadly, though, DH and I were left very unsatisfied by the meal at Mure's. It's not really a fish and chip shop. It's a restaurant that serves fried stuff. While we enjoyed it, and the quality was great... it just sort of lacked character. Like the fifth tasting sense of 'umami', fish and chip shops clearly have another facet to the experience: character. There is just something so wrong about eating fried fish out of a basket. On a fancy chair. A chair which sits on a clean floor. There were even leather couches to sit on, if one so desired.

Sorry to say, dear readers, but fish and chips in Hobart leaves a lot to be desired. Maybe the problem is that we picked places in a touristy area. Maybe we should have gone further inland? I guess I never thought it would be quite so hard to cook chips properly - so thanks, dear Hobartian fry cooks, for teaching me that there is an art to your craft. Sadly, an art you need to practice just a smidge more. And please, please, GET RID of the disgusting Kraft tartare!

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