We celebrated the start of the Australia Day long weekend by driving out to Brighton le Sands on Botany Bay for some fish and chips on the beach after work on Friday. I grew up in a seaside holiday town, so I am no stranger to fish and chips. Here, then, are my reflections after a year and a bit in Oz. It boils down to this:
Chips. Aussies can’t do chips. Well, OK, that’s a little unfair - and they often produce something considerably superior to “fries” - but they cannot do chips as well as the Brits and Irish. There is a reason that “chippy” or “chipper” are common affectionate slang for fish and chip shops - you cannot beat chips from a good chippy. Big, fat, slightly greasy chips with salt and vinegar. Yum. It may not be the most healthy thing but it’s one of the few food items that I really miss.
Indeed, the rest of the fayre on offer is somewhat secondary and fish are only one of a number of different accompaniments for your chips. Pies, kebabs, scampi, burgers and all sorts of unhealthy items like battered sausage (or nowadays, a battered anything) are on offer.
The best chips ever? Well, Leo Burdock in Dublin stakes a good claim on that one.
Fish. As indicated, the average British or Irish fish and chip shop does not focus so much on the fish, and there are usually only 3 or 4 different types of fish available (cod, haddock and some kind of flat fish such as plaice or sole being most common, I think) in addition to scampi. In Australia, the choice of fish can be quite overwhelming, and will include several other kinds of seafood (calamari, prawns, oysters etc.).
Conclusion. The overal verdict, therefore, is a draw. If you fancy chips, then Australia’s not the place. (Although the wdespread availability of chicken salt does go some way in terms of compensation.) However, if you want a good selection of really fresh, tasty fish, I think Australia is the winner. (Unless, I suspect, you are away from the coast - but more that 85% of Aussies live within 50km of the coast.