A London Fish and Chips Story: Sometimes, You Can’t Go Back, But You Can Go Forward

London is just so London – Foggy day or not, I love it!

I’m an Anglophile

Glover Gardens followers know that I love London. I have for a long, long time. I’ve been an anglophile since reading The Secret Garden and Great Expectations as a child. My first actual foray into that foggy town was in 1997, and I’ve probably been there 20 times since. Every time I get into London, I’m torn between retracing my steps and trying something new.

Tell me – how does a gal decide between serendipity and going back to enjoy a beloved spot once again?

Retracing My Steps to Geales

Serendipity often wins, but last December, I finally went back to a cozy little seafood restaurant I had happened upon early in 2004 and returned to several times that year as part of a series of business trips. Just off the beaten path in Kensington near Notting Hill Gate, Geales has been open since 1939. That’s 80 years of serving seafood – they know what they’re doing!

From the Geales website

More Posh Than I Remembered

It was cold and drizzly on that December 2018 evening when I went back to Geales, and a little spot at a corner table was just what I needed to warm up. The place was more sophisticated than I remembered; back in 2004 it was loud and crowded, had a fisherman’s-wharf / corner market feel with fish and chips served in newspaper, and maybe even red-checked oilcloth on the tables. Travel-weary and in T-shirt and jeans, I felt a little underdressed in the genteel surroundings; you’ll note how smartly dressed the folks at the next table are.

View from my corner table; I did some people-watching and got caught (by the lady)

While researching Geales to write this post, I learned that there was a big revamp done in 2007 and a change of ownership, which explains the more upscale decor (slick but unfussy).

Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
This photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
Photo from Geales via USA Today article

Let’s Talk about the Food

But let’s put the decor aside and talk about the food. The menu has definitely been updated. How updated? Well, alongside classics like mussels, fish and chips, fish pie and fish cakes, there are choices like lobster linguini with sun-dried tomatoes, and wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil. I’d have dressed better if I’d known that!

Lobster linguini from the Geales Facebook page

My first course was taramasalata. It was an excellent version of this special cod roe-based spread, very light and creamy, and not dyed an artificial pink like so many are. I’m pretty sure that Geales didn’t have taramasalata back in the early 2000s; that’s part of its new sophistication.

Taramasalata with grilled flatbread

My dish of choice back in 2004 was usually mussels served in a tin bucket, but I went for the grilled fish this time. However, it was my waitperson’s second day on the job, and she brought me fish and chips instead. She was delightful, young and earnest, and I didn’t have the heart to complain. So I ate it. Wouldn’t you? When in London…

Fish and chips with mushy peas

I almost never eat fried food, but the fish and chips were delicious, and the mushy peas were the perfect accompaniment. So very British. Breaking with tradition, I went for Tabasco instead of malt vinegar, threatening my Anglophile status. But hey, Tabasco is a global thing, right?

A Worthy Fish and Chips Experience

I didn’t realize until I was writing this post that Geales was ranked #3 on USA Today’s article, the 10 Best London Fish and Chips Restaurants. Perhaps I was meant to have fish and chips on that rainy London night. Serendipity.

All-in-all, it was a nice meal and worthy experience. While I was expecting the homey warmth and fish-market ambience that I had enjoyed in the earlier version of Geales, I got over my surprise at its more upscale vibe pretty quickly as I savored the food and the people-watching. (People-watching was always good at Geales.)

The Serendipity of the Unknown and Surprising

My conclusion is that sometimes, you can’t go back. What was there before no longer exists in the same form. But if you take a step back, look at it as something new, an opportunity, perhaps you can go forward. When the known and comfortable becomes the unknown and surprising, it can be serendipity.

Haiku: The Chip Shop

serendipitous
mushy peas and fish and chips
unspoiled by poshness

National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo)

Note: because February is National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) and I’m a habitual haiku-er (is that a word?), all posts will have a related haiku. For more Glover Gardens haiku, click here.

© 2019 Glover Gardens

3 thoughts on “A London Fish and Chips Story: Sometimes, You Can’t Go Back, But You Can Go Forward

  1. I always have Tabasco with chips so you are in good company 😉.

    As for mushy peas, not all Brits recognise them. There’s a story, possibly apocryphal, about Peter Mandelson, a rather snooty politician, expressing surprise at the guacamole served with his fish and chips.

    1. That’s a fantastic story! I didn’t realize mushy peas weren’t completely ubiquitous in the U.K. I had a funny comment on Facebook from someone who thought the green stuff was wasabi. 😄 Your Tabasco consumption proves the point: it’s seriously international. 🌶

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