Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ladywell Lunch

I picked up the aroma literally seconds after I stepped off the train.

My father had told me when I was young that the best way of locating a good fish and chip shop was to follow your nose, and it's generally proved to be sound advice.

It was by complete accident that I found myself in Ladywell at lunchtime anyway - I was just returning from a meeting in Croydon in the morning and the train didn't stop where I wanted it to. Ladywell is a hotbed of inconvenience like that. Last time I was there it was only because they terminated a bus early. Bastards.

And workday lunchtime is hardly the standard window for eating fish and chips, is it? Indeed I can't actually remember ever having done so previously, preferring my battered haddock on a day out to the seaside, or late in the evening after a few pints  - not that many proper chippies stay open after closing time these days.

But I was hungry and it smelt good, so the Village Fish Bar for lunch it was.

Does the taste live up to the aroma?

I took the option of waiting for them to freshly cook a Haddock, rather than succumbing to the cod on display - another bit of Dad's chip shop advice, that - and it proved worthwhile waiting the ten minutes or so it took to cook it.

Nothing fishy about the unassuming frontage
It was a very generous piece of fish, irregularly-shaped with one side rounder and plumper than t'other, which I took to be a positive sign. Irregular shapes in food normally mean stuff hasn't been processed or regulated too much. It was nicely cooked too, with the batter perfectly crunchy, with just the right amount of give.

The chips were excellent - proper chunky buggers for the most part with a few crispy end pieces for good measure.

It's not the cheapest chippie in London, but not too horrendous, given that Haddock and regular chips, a pickled gherkin and a tin of Ginger Ale set me back around £8.50, and filled me up rather more comprehensively than I would normally deem acceptable at lunchtime.

The condiments are crap, of course, but then condiments always are in chippies. No matter how good the food is, they'll always offer to sprinkle on stuff that would be more at home in a laboratory.

My addition to my fathers words of wisdom would be to eschew the offer of table salt and 'non-brewed condiment', and take your fish and chips home if at all possible, where you can use sea salt, real malt vinegar, and a good tartare sauce.

Whatever kind of day I had envisaged when I got up this morning, I certainly wasn't expecting to encounter the best fish and chips I've had for some time, and the best I've had in London for years. 

Best Fish Bar in the world?
As for the best ever? Well, this divides opinion in our household as Mrs B-V and I visited the Pisces Fish Bar in Fleetwood last Summer, which has awards coming out of its batter, and which is regarded by many as the best in Britain (and, presumbly by extension, the world, given that few other countries actually do fish and chips).

Aside from having to use the sub-standard condiments, I thought it was pretty damn good, but the wife didn't enjoy it much and was then horribly ill for the next few days. I'd blame the fake vinegar, but she doesn't have vinegar, so I'll blame the fact that she went for the cod, and had ketchup with it, both of which are crimes against fish and chips in my book.

As Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall keeps reminding us, cod is over-fished but I also think that it's overrated. Much better to go with Haddock, and it would be nice if more chippies took up Hugh's suggestion of Pouting which is more interesting, less vulnerable and less expensive.

Maybe I'll suggest it if I ever become established as a regular customer at the Village Fish Bar, because on today's showing, I probably will!

Where to find it...

Village Fish Bar
52 Ladywell Road
SE13 7UZ (map)


  1. I'm sure I would have advised the eschewal of NBC as well.

  2. I have very fond memories of the Fish Inn on the London Road (opposite Iceland) in Leigh-on-Sea. Actually bought what was probably a large cod (I tend to stick to haddock these days, though). It hung off the edge of Mum's largest plate and tasted fresh and delicious to boot! Wonderful stuff.

  3. Back again. When (if ever) are you going to look at Pie & Mash? I believe there's an establishment not far from B-V Towers?

  4. Hmm, I seem to have an in-built fear and suspicion of traditional Pie & Mash shops, possibly entirely unfounded. Could be an interest subject for a blog if I cross the frontier and try one.

  5. Greets!

    I from Germany. I enjoy your food bog very much. Sorry my english not good and I still learning.

    What I want to say is that Fish and Chips is a good dish, and me bladad that zee hitler did not vin ze war. If he did, then it would be Fish and sauerkraut!! LAUGHLAUGHLAUGH!!!!

    i like hadcock and place. But I don't bladad cod. I shall never bladad cod.

    Yours faithfully



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