on September 28, 2010
I’d been recommended the Cottage fish and chip shop by the owner of the B&B that I stayed in. He suggested that it was the best in town and that seemed like such an impressive accolade that I decided to give it a go. Now it’s not in the centre of the town so you do need transport to get there and I thankfully had my Satnav. I say thankfully because it seemed somewhat difficult to find and even with the navigation system I had to ask a local for specific directions. It’s a little off the beaten track and is a fairly inconspicuous place.The Cottage was built way back in 1856 as a farm house by Christopher Johnson and originally had a far more glamorous name as "Flag Causeway Farm". Apparently Christopher made daily visits with his horse and cart to the to pick up cobble stones with which he built his home. These were covered over for generations but the current owners have uncovered the old cobblestone walls for all to see in the restaurant which was Christopher Johnson’s living room. It wasn’t until 1920 that the Cottage operated as a fish shop when Jane Ann Quinn was granted a covenant by the landlords to "conduct the business of fish and chip retailer". She also sold "wet fish" out of her kitchen window. The story goes that the job of peeling the potatoes for the business was "contracted out" to an old woman who lived in a gypsy caravan next to the cottage. She is purported to have selected the big ones to cut into giant chips which she battered sold to local children for an old penny. These large chips became known as penny fingers. Well that makes sense!It was a couple called Stansfield that really put the Cottage "on the map". Mr Stansfield was a fish merchant from Fleetwood who believed his fish was the best in town and his wife invited the stars from the "end of pier shows" for fish and chip suppers. The enterprising bit of this offer was that The Cottage stayed open until 2-3am to allow the celebrities sometime to enjoy their meal and relax after the shows.Throughout the restaurant (which also offers a take-away service) there are loads of signed photographs of the stars giving their appreciation for the meal that they enjoyed at The Cottage. I was told that these were only a small percentage of the famous who had eaten there and that many photographs have disappeared over time, perhaps taken by autograph hunters and the like.Jay Patel took over from the Stansfields and he owned the Cottage for twenty years, saying that his proudest moment was when he served fish & chips to the then Prime Minister, John Major. In 2007 the current owners took over and apparently they needed to do a fair bit of work to bring the building "into the 21st Century". The amazing thing about this restaurant is that from the outside it looks quite small and I wondered, when I entered if I should have booked. But there are rooms lined up and it seems to go on to infinity. I exaggerate a little!!So I sat in the place where many a famous celebrity had sat. The restaurant is basically furnished, but it’s comfortable and with cobbled walls, original beams,a slate floor and converted oil lamps it really looks the part. All the fish is brought in freshly from the nearby fishing harbour of Fleetwood. As well as the conventional fish and chip shop fish (Cod, Haddock and Plaice) you can enjoy Haddock, Hake, Halibut and daily specials which include Turbot, Brill, Seabass, Catfish, Skate, Lemon and Dover Sole and even fresh locally caught Calamari. I decided to go with a traditional Fish and Chips meal so opted for The Cottage Special which was a large Haddock served with chips, mushy peas, bread and butter with a pot of tea. There were alternatives to fish and this included sausage, chicken, a variety of pies.The service wasn’t rapid and I did seem to wait for a long time before the meal arrived but when it did it filled the plate. It was extremely tasty and although I requested tartar sauce it came disappointingly late. The waitress, undeterred left it on the table but I left it untouched. Perhaps she’ll realise it arrived too late.This was a traditional meal in a traditional looking fish and chip shop. The Cottage is not a particularly exciting venue but to experience good quality fish and chips in pleasant surroundings it has to be well worth a visit.
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