We went to Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley, Leeds this weekend. Fish and chips on a Sunday lunchtime has turned into an occasional habit, which is fine with me. At around midday on a Sunday, somebody will tentatively ask what we’re going to have for lunch, knowing that the others have already decided exactly what they want and where they want to get it from.
It’s never the kids who ask.
Harry Ramsden’s is the original super-fish and chip shop as far as my family is concerned. There are other pretenders to this crown, and there always have been, but only Bryan’s in Headingley comes anywhere close. I’ve been going to Harry’s since I was a child, when fish knives were exotic, unusual and unfathomable and sliced bread, mixed white and brown, served in a pile, always arrived seemingly buttered on both sides. We saw this as nothing short of amazing. You had to queue to get a table, so the place must have been good.
Harry Ramsden’s restaurant, inspired by the Ritz, was what passed as glamorous to my siblings and I. Remember that this was Yorkshire in the late seventies and eighties.
Glamour hadn’t been invented yet.
Talk of somewhere like Leeds becoming the Knightsbridge of the North would have been met with derision. Bread buttered on both sides and funny shaped knives were the height of sophistication to us kids.
Harry’s trades heavily on it’s heritage, having first opened in 1928 in a hut in the corner of the car park of the massive Guiseley restaurant. From these beginnings have grown a fish and chip empire, if you can actually have a fish and chip empire, that spans the country. Well, mainly the country’s seaside resorts/pensioner havens. The company’s history is retold everywhere, and any post about Harry Ramsden’s has to include the fact that on the enterprise’s 21st anniversary in 1952, 10,000 portions of fish and chips were sold. You’re reminded of this on the side of every single take away carton.
The fish of choice in Yorkshire and at Harry’s is haddock, although cod is available, but presumably not for much longer given it’s endangered status. Harry’s also serve pollack for their ‘special’ presumably because no cod or haddock can produce a suitably large fillet any more.
Our fish and chips were excellent this time. I say ‘this time’ because other times the food has been terrible – overcooked chips, scrappy and crunchy, served by people who really didn’t want to be serving anybody anything at all. This time, we ate excellent chips straight from the fryer, crisp but fluffy, made from quality potatoes. The fish was a chunky piece of haddock, with delicate flakes cooked well. Crisp batter, not too thick and no skin, as is traditional in Yorkshire.
Perfect fish and chips.