As I began to write this post I was overcome by a huge wave of nostalgia; so much so that I began to look at Airbnb listings for London. This is not because I am so desperate to go back and eat fish and chips at the Laughing Halibut; it is because beginning to describe why we ate there at all took me back to everything we loved about our three months in London this spring. Courtesy my employers, we lived in a smart flat in Westminster. This was great in almost every way: a 15 walk to St James’ Park—where we went with the boys every other day; a 15 minute walk to Tate Britain (though we didn’t go as often as we should have); pretty much in the shadow of Westminster Abbey (though we only went a few days before we left); a 10 minute walk from the St. James’ Park and Westminster tube stations, a 20 minute walk from Victoria station; within easy reach of pretty much everywhere in central London. It wasn’t so good for for food though.
Yes, both Quilon and the Cinnamon Club were within walking distance but we couldn’t afford to eat at either place very often. Almost everything else in reach was aimed at office workers on lunch breaks or at tourists walking between Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and/or the houses of parliament. Our “oh shit, we haven’t cooked” saviour was therefore the Laughing Halibut, which was a scant two minute walk from our flat. It too caters largely to office lunch breakers and tourists—indeed, it isn’t even open on Sundays and closes at 8 pm on weeknights and 4 pm on Saturdays. But they do a good fish and chips.
It’s a family-run operation, I think. And I’d guess that the family is of middle-eastern origin, which is great symbolism in the age of Brexit. They do the full gamut of fish: cod, haddock, rock, plaice, skate and the titular halibut. We tried them all except the titular halibut (it is twice the price of the rest and spending a lot of money was never our desire while getting food from there). They also have a range of burgers, which, based on appearances, I’d advise against. I’d also advise against the rookie mistake I made when ordering our first takeaway meal: I got chips with every order of fish and it turned out that one order of chips was probably enough for our family of four.I will also advise against their scampi—the batter to tiny shrimp ratio is approximately 500:1 (though this was also true at the truck outside Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit). Portions are large but if you’re greedy they offer a full complement of traditional English side dishes, of which we once got the mushy peas (good!) and the saveloy (fancy name for what turns out to be an elongated frankfurter in a tight casing).
The restaurant itself is spacious enough—it’s located at one end of Strutton Ground, which is filled with food trucks during the lunch hour on weekdays—and service is friendly but we mostly got fish and chips to go. At this point I’d like to advance the probably controversial view that fish and chips are better as takeaway after having sat in a paper bag for a couple of minutes than freshly served at a table. Maybe it’s because the anticipation builds, maybe because the batter, while still crisp, begins to soften a little. Feel free to shout at me.
Feel free as well to look at these pictures.
I would not tell you to go out of your way to eat at the Laughing Halibut—or indeed at any other place that slings fish and chips. Their fish and chips were among the best we ate in the UK though—not that we ate so much fish and chips. Certainly, if you’re doing the Buckingham Palace-Big Ben-Westminster Abbey-parliament thing and don’t want to eat at an outpost of Itsu (which you shouldn’t) you could do far worse for a quick lunch.
In a few weeks I’ll have write-ups of two other places we ate at in the neighbourhood, one Sichuan, one putatively German; next week, however, it’ll be back to eating in Scotland. Have a good weekend—I’m going to go back to scouring Airbnb for flats we can’t afford!