You’d think that in a city called London, with a Thames River, a Covent Garden Market and a Victoria Park, people might know a thing or two about serving up England’s favourite treat. You’d be right, but in this London, look to the Dutch, Greeks, Albanians, Algerians and Canadians for a selection of some of the finest fish ‘n’ chips available – crispy battered halibut, haddock and cod alongside chips, coleslaw, tartar sauce and lemon slices. Just don’t call these places “chippies” – they have so much more to offer!
By all accounts, Kipps Lane Fish & Chips is the longest continuously owned and operated (by the same family) fish and chips shop in London. The late John Arp emigrated here from Holland and bought a failing take-out pizza and fish shop on Kipps Lane in 1972. The Arp family built a loyal following for their ultra clean and cheery premises, hand-cut halibut, and cooked-to-order, lightly battered and crispy fish and chips. Lovingly known as the “Codfather”, John devoted most of his life to serving fish to Londoners.
Daughter Jacqueline Arp, now runs the shop for the dinner run Tuesday to Sunday. “This is my tribute to my parents. They opened this when I was a little girl. Running this place helps to keep their memory alive,” she says while wrapping white boxes in newsprint for take-out. There is seating for about a dozen but ninety percent of the business is take-out. The menu now includes seafood poutine, scallops, chowder and more, but it’s the halibut which continues to bring in customers. Good Friday orders are sold out two weeks in advance. Loyal staffers Terry Gurnett and Lorrie Emery come in daily at noon to prep the same way John Arp did – making tartar sauce, coleslaw and chowder from scratch. “We are small but mighty,” smiles Jacqueline. “Our customers are our friends.”
With four locations, Archie’s sells 10,000 pounds of Alaskan halibut a month. Huge, whole, frozen halibut are processed by long-time staffer Chan Dieu, who expertly hand cuts 4-ounce fillets. Known for its family-friendly dine-in atmosphere with a nautical theme, wood paneled walls and consistent offerings, Archie’s is a hit with seniors, young families and everyone in between. It even offers a drive-thru.
Alain and Donna Arroyas opened the first location on Wharncliffe Road 28 years ago. He emigrated here from Algeria. Donna brought her love of fish and chips from Newfoundland. Together they built the business that now employs 100 people and is operated by their son, Tony. Their daughter Nicole is a well-known and talented pastry chef who supplies pies and desserts to Archie’s from her own shop, Petit Paris. The family also owns Auberge du Petit Prince restaurant (there is halibut on the menu there, too). Expect large portions and unsalted hand-cut chips from Huron Chief, potato producers in Grand Bend. Tony says he’s trying to help keep things healthy by letting customers apply their own salt. We did, and everything was delicious!
Every Tuesday and Friday, a Deluxe Fish ‘n’ Chips at Irene’s Seafood Grill on Wellington Road South comes served with creamy, smoky, hearty Albanian Bean Soup. Luan Jonuzi took over the former Irene’s Seafood 21 years ago as a new arrival from Albania. The soup is now so popular that people now phone ahead or request it frozen for later pick-up. The soccer player turned restaurateur has energy to spare, and it shows in the newly renovated dining area and in his menu (he’s added such items as grilled fish in tarragon sauce). Luan loves to serve crowds of young people who often request Bloody Caesars with their fish. He also caters to a loyal following of seniors looking for a cozy getaway for their weekly meal of lightly battered Alaskan halibut, haddock or cod. Luan believes in generous helpings along with friendly service. He can be seen cooking through an open window and he often pops out of the kitchen to greet people. His enthusiasm is evident in the jumbo take-away deals such as family dinners that include seven large pieces of halibut, double fries and double salad for $56. Take your kids and their grandparents. Have yourself a glass of wine. Everyone will be happy. Especially Luan.
Some people are surprised to hear that when Bill and Heidi Vamvalis started Mykonos 40 years ago on Adelaide Street, it had been a fish and chip shop since 1951. “We had fryers where the bar is now and three tables,” recalls Heidi. “Fish is still a staple on the menu.” Now halibut and chips at Mykonos comes with a side of Greek salad, a basket of bread and house-made tartar sauce. The meaty halibut has a delicious crispy coating. The cod has a rich, full flavour. All of it goes very well in the romantic, Greek island themed setting which includes candle-lit tables, clouds painted on the ceilings and strings of lights along the blue walls. With a glass of wine and a hug from Heidi, a trip to Mykonos is a perfect date night or a place to relax over an extended fish and chip experience, which might also include calamari and baklava.
We’d be hard-pressed to find a pub in London that doesn’t offer fish and chips. What we like about The Waltzing Weasel is that fresh beer is served with the beer-battered haddock and halibut. The beer in the batter changes daily depending on the whim of the bartender. With 18 drafts on tap that makes for some interesting fish. Flaky and piping hot, served with both malt and white vinegar on the tables, fish and chips at the Weasel is a great “local” experience.
Walker’s Fish and Chips on Wellington at Horton, and Robbie Walker’s in Sherwood Forest along with HeyDayz downtown are all owned by the same group and offer three different presentations on popular fish and chips. Walker’s, a long-time London original, has changed hands but remains at the same downtown location with black & white awning. The Sherwood Forest location is take-out only and serves families in the west end. HeyDayz is geared to hungry students and pub crawlers looking for some late-night food.
We salute these hard working and dedicated purveyors of comfort food for maintaining — some for decades — quality food which has satisfied generations. Whether your fish and chips comes wrapped in newspaper, with bean soup or Greek salad, consider yourself well-served in this London. We’ve taken this British classic to new levels.
JANE ANTONIAK is an eatdrink writer as well as Manager, Communications & Media Relations, King’s University College, Western University. Her favourite fish ‘n’ chips can be found at the end of a rod, caught in Lake Shebandowan, northwest of Thunder Bay.
BRUCE FYFE is a regular contributing photographer to eatdrink. He is also Librarian, Weldon Library, Western U. Bruce was impressed by the 68 pound halibut he photographed in Archie’s freezer.