Best of British

Rachel Walker sees the keenly contested 2015 National Fish & Chip Awards ceremony first hand, and raises her glass to the worthy winner of the top prize: Frankie’s.

Nigel Barden presents the top award to John Gold, Valarie Johnson and Carlyn Kearney of Frankie’s.

Smoked Norwegian cod, curly kale, rosti potato, baby leeks, baby onion and Champagne sauce: it’s an unexpected main course to have on the menu at the 27th National Fish & Chip Awards. Where’s the battered haddock, the tartare sauce, the mushy peas?

“We couldn’t possibly serve fish and chips,” laughs one of the organisers. “It’d be far too competitive, far too controversial!” It’s true. As the tables fill up with finalists from every corner of Britain, it’d take a brave – or bonkers – chef to rattle out 500 portions of fish and chips to this roomful of connoisseurs.

Though delicious, it wasn’t lunch that we were all here for, of course. And when Nigel Barden took to the stage to introduce the main event, the mood became palpably more intense. There were 15 awards in total, including two welcome additions, recognising the best for healthy eating and school lunches.

There were enormous cheers as Rachel Tweedale from Lincolnshire Elite Fish and Chips won Young Fish Frier of the Year, one of the most coveted awards. And the cheers grew even louder when an emotional Jo and Georgina came to the stage to collect the Best Newcomer prize for their Cumbrian chip shop Shap Chippy.

Finally, Nigel Barden came to the last award: the big one. The award that saw last year’s winners, Quayside, double their business: the Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year.

The ten regional finalists were clapped to the stage. Every one have them had been through a rigorous, multi-stage judging process over the last few months, culminating in a Dragon’s Den style pitch the day before as they fought to win. Cheers filled the room as Papa’s Barn in Kent were awarded the bronze medal. Simpsons in Gloucester came in second. But the 2015 winner was the wonderful Frankie’s in Shetland, Britain’s most northerly fish and chip shop – and now, officially, its best. That they had already scooped the Most Sustainable Seafood Award was the icing on the cake, demonstrating that responsible sourcing is fundamental to what they do – and indeed to being a winning chippy today.

The kilted and emotional manager John Gold picked up the award. “It’s my birthday today,” he said, voice cracking. “And this is the best birthday present I ever could have wished for.” Cue cheers and a spirited rendition of “happy birthday” from the audience.

“We now get to go home to Shetland and say that our fish and chips are the best in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – without exception,” said owner Valarie Johnson. “How amazing is that? This is the highlight of my working life. I can’t thank [event organiser] Seafish and my brilliant team enough. You’re a credit to the seafood industry. 2015 is Frankie’s year.”

The National Fish & Chip Awards in full

Independent Takeaway Fish & Chip Shop of the Year

Frankie’s Fish and Chips

2nd place:
Simpsons Fish and Chips

3rd place:
Papa’s Barn

Best Newcomer
Shap Chippy

“Good Catch” Sustainable Seafood Award
Frankie’s Fish and Chips

Healthy Eating Award
Towngate Fisheries

From Field To Frier Award
Simpsons Fish and Chips

Marketing Innovation Award
Poppies Fish and Chips Restaurant and Takeaway

Independent Fish & Chip Restaurant of the Year
Burton Road Chippy

Staff Training and Development Award
Burton Road Chippy

Best Seasonal Fish & Chip Operator Award
Dodson’s Fresh Catch

The Great Fish & Chip School Lunch Award
Holy Trinity Primary School

Community Contribution Award

Best Multiple Foodservice Operator
Greene King with Flame Grill

Best Multiple Operator
Rockfish Devon

NFFF Fish & Chip Quality Award
Kingfisher Fish and Chips

Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year
Rachel Tweedale
The Elite Fish and Chip Company

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