Godfrey’s Fish and Chips
Anyone want to read about dieting? No, me neither, so let’s talk about fish and chips instead! Fish and chips are enjoying a revival in our local area; like buses, not one, but two good new fish and chip shops have come along at once.
Open for just two months, Godfrey’s in Harpenden has been doing a roaring trade. Even during a midweek lunchtime this stylish, modern new chippy is busy. And it’s everything we land-locked people could wish for; you can buy delicious crunchy, fluffy chips and fish wrapped in thin, crispy batter for very reasonable prices.
I first met Luke Godfrey (“Chief fryer and potato peeler”) at the St Albans Food and Drink Festival back in October when he had a vintage van set up in the town centre selling his fish and chips and spreading the word. It has taken the best part of a year for Luke to get the permission required to open his shop but thankfully he did not give up. The result is a very smart, fresh shop, with pretty tiled floors and walls, and a lovely bay window that allows the light to stream in, and a wide windowsill for people to perch until the restaurant opens.
The fish and chips are excellent but is all the extra touches that make Godfrey’s really stand out from the competition. There are no weird little sachets of tartare sauce that bear no relation to the original; instead you get a complimentary pot of Luke’s fresh home-made tartare sauce. As Luke explained: “I can’t eat fish and chips without tartare sauce so we include it for free”. You can also choose homemade fish cakes, fishfinger sandwiches, fresh coleslaw, minted crushed peas, and pulled pork (as long as it hasn’t sold out).
And the pies. These are not ordinary chip shop pies. These are handmade by Luke’s Dad Mark, who used to be a chef in the Navy. The Beef and Ale pies are made with 21-day aged beef from Woodwards farm in Huntingdon, and joined with Hope and Glory beer from Tring brewery. The chicken and leek ones contain free-range chicken. The pastry is crisp too, rather than the strange soggy stuff you can find elsewhere. And they cost just £4.50 which is good value for the quality. On the day I went in a very well-dressed lady came in to buy pies to take home to heat later for dinner. I think Luke could do well selling his pies alone!
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK
Luke has a pedigree in fish and chips as his parents used to own a shop in Kent. He started helping them when he was 12, peeling potatoes and cutting the chips. When he was a student he would go home to run the shop when his parents went on holiday, so he knows his stuff. Mum Sue has been coming up to help at the weekends, and likes Harpenden so much is thinking of coming up to live!
Luke is now refurbishing the two floors upstairs to open as a restaurant. The back of the building has beautiful Tudor beams, and should be able to seat up to 60, and I am sure will be very popular. I think there are plans to serve grilled mackerel too, and you will be able to buy wine and local Tring beer.
Does this quality come at a high price? Perhaps surprisingly, no. Prices at Godfrey’s are very fair and lower than some other places I have been to locally – cod and haddock are £3.50-5.50 and chips cut at the shop from Maris Piper potatoes are £1.20-2.40. Luke explained that he wanted his shop to be reasonable, with good food as he wants it done, and not “poncey”. He could charge a lot more, but it’s great that he doesn’t, and the loyal customers already show it is working. His standards are very high – he explained that he doesn’t do battered sausages as it would mean putting the meat in the fryer, which is not fair on vegetarians (apparently this is not uncommon in other fish and chip shops). You can get tasty looking grilled local sausages (minus the batter).
Luke lives in St Albans and it would be great if he opens another branch there too (hint hint) but if you don’t live in Harpenden, don’t worry. My fish and chips survived the drive back to St Albans in their cardboard box, still hot and crispy (though a few chips got eaten on the way). At some point Godfrey’s van may appear in St Albans, but at the moment Luke has plenty to do getting the restaurant open.
About six months ago Sea Salt opened on Redbourn High Street, much to the delight of many of the villagers. Again, this is a stylish, smart shop, that has a dedicated following. We enjoyed fluffy fish and crisp chips at a very good price of £4.50 on a Saturday lunchtime. It is a more conventional shop, with tinfoil pies, sausage and batter, but is a welcome addition to Redbourn. I think it is only fair that you go and try both.
41 High Street, Harpenden, AL5 2SD
Opening times 12-2, 4-9.
50 High Street, Redbourn, AL3 7LN
Opening times Tues-Sat 12-2, 5-9.30 (longer hours coming soon).