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Published October 23rd 2011
The Golden Hind has been serving fish and chips in Marylebone Lane (just round the corner from Marylebone High Street) for nearly a century now. It is even more popular than ever and the restaurant has extended into the premises next door in order to accommodate all the discriminating hungry diners who only want to eat the best fish and chips in London.
Although fish and chips is a dish that has long been associated with Britain, the two separate dishes weren't always bedfellows. Fried fish was introduced to this country in the seventeenth century by Sephardic Jewish refugees from Spain and Portugal. The jury is still out on the origin of the humble chip, which is believed to have originated in either France or Belgium and could have been sold in nineteenth-century London as a substitute for fish, and cut into fishy shapes, when the rivers were frozen over. Similarly the debate still rages over who performed the first wedding ceremony between fish and chips; there are tales of the first combination being sold in Lancashire and in London in the 1860s.
Whatever the truth is behind this popular combination of delicious food, it still continues to be associated with Britain, but can boast a multi-national journey. The first fish fryers may well have come from Spain and Portugal, but the business was later taken up by Italian immigrants to the UK, who set up fish shops all over the country. There was also a period around the middle of the twentieth century when many chippies came from Malta, but now it's generally agreed that the best fish and chips are cooked by Greek Cypriots.
Tony Christou hails from Cyprus and has been running the Golden Hind since 2002, having taken over the business from Mr Stavrothendas, who was the boss from 1994. Before them, the restaurant was run by Mr Esposito, who founded the business in 1914, and ran it through two world wars, before passing it on to Mr Morri in 1947. Mr Schiavetti took over in 1955, selling it to Mr Stavrothendas in 1994, marking the changeover from Italian to Greek ownership.
When we popped in on Saturday evening, the restaurant was heaving, not just with Londoners, but with tourists too. We only ever eat rock salmon, so I can't comment on the other fish on the menu, which includes plaice, haddock, skate and cod, but the fish was as moist and delicious as ever and the batter was light and crispy, without a hint of grease. Tony explained that he changes the oil regularly, something many other chippies don't do, and this prevents the batter from tasting greasy. All that we needed that help down our rock and chips was some pickled cucumber and bread and butter, plus lashings of malt vinegar and salt.
We don't eat it every day, or even every week or month, so it's even more of a treat to go there. My husband remembers eating fish and chips there in 1960 and considers it as good now as then. I look forward to their centenary in 2014.