Brit & Chips
My husband, who had been to Montreal before, had been excited for me, who had never been before, to spend some time in Old Montreal. Known in French as Vieux Montreal, this is the section of town where the historic city began, the part of town still containing the old world feel and architecture, and the part of this charming, vibrant city, that most feels like walking through the cobbled streets of Paris, or any other medieval European city. Outdoor dining patios, cobbled lanes, clock towers, cafes and coffee shops, and all the other things you think about when you picture old European cities, that’s exactly what you find in Old Montreal. After a morning of exploring the beautiful Basilica de Notre Dame and an archaeological museum to discover the origins of Montreal, my husband and I were ready for a little lunch.
Being Old Montreal, with that classic European vibe, where else would you expect to find a fish & chips place? Seriously though, while a little out of place, admittedly, my husband and I had read about this great fish & chips place that even a lot of Brits said either reminded them of the same kind of fish & chips they could get back home, or some even said it was better than the fish & chips you could find across the pond. With that kind of reputation, we needed to check this place out. Besides, dining at a fish & chips place seemed like the perfect contrarion meal to have while in Montreal, completely opposite of the type of food you’d expect to be munching down on. So, off to find Brit & Chips and get our English food fix.
Walking into Brit & Chips, it really felt like you were walking into an English fish & chips place that you’d expect to find down by the docks in England. The establishment is more of what you’d think of an American-style diner, rather than a restaurant. Brit & Chip’s describes itself as a place that captures the best aspects of a traditional Chippy while adding some of the local flavor that Montreal is known for. As the brainchild of a team of Montreal’s finest experts in English cuisine and culture, Brit & Chips was created to bring the best of a traditional English fish & chips shop to French Canada. As they say, they are an “amazing amalgamation of the best that Britain has to offer, with a little Quebecois spice.”
As you walk into Brit & Chips, side of this narrow, long eatery, you see an open kitchen where you can watch your fish & chips being made. You can watch the cooks batter and deep fry your fish using the various unique batters they offer and you can also watch your chips, or fries, being fried to a perfect golden, crispy brown. Nothing is made until you order it.
On the other side of the eatery is seating area. There are some small tables towards the back of the eatery, but the front is dominated by long tiled bar tops with bar stools set up in a communal dining environment. When you step into the eatery, you find yourself any open seat along the bar and settle yourself in. Menu’s are provided for you among the malt vinegar and salt and pepper shakers sitting on the table, or above the kitchen there are blackboards with the menu handwritten. There’s a variety of different types of fish and different types of batters for you to choose from for your fish & chips. Then when the waitress appears by your side, you place your order, sit back and relax and await some of England’s finest traditions to be presented to you piping hot out of the deep fryer.
After perusing through the menu, I chose to go with the haddock with the maple syrup batter. I figured we were in the heart of Canada, a country known worldwide for its amazing maple syrup. Here is where the best of England comes together with the best of Canada to create an amazing combination. Of course, I couldn’t just get the fish, though you could, I had to get the whole fish & chips combo. Like a traditional fish & chips place, your meal is brought to you straight out of the fry basket into a newspaper liked basket and served with a wedge of lemon and a saucer of tartar sauce. I love that Brit & Chips keeps the tradition by printing basket liners made to look like old newspapers so you get the feeling that your fish & chips really is being served on newspapers. You also get a toothpick staked through your “chips,” for you to use as utensil to stab your chips rather than digging in and stuffing your mouth with your fingers. The haddock was amazingly light, and flaky and the maple syrup batter was perfect. It added a nice hint of sweetness to the flaky white fish. The batter was perfectly fried to a nice golden, crispy, crunchy brown. Squeeze on a bit of lemon juice and this may have been the best fish & chips I’ve ever enjoyed, and I’ve had fish & chips in England and Ireland before. It was obvious that Brit & Chips knew what they were doing, and that added touch of Canadian flair with the maple syrup really hit the nail on the head. This was exactly the kind of lunch that hit the spot for me.
My husband decided for his fish & chips that he’d order the hake with orange crush batter, which was advertised as being gluten free. First off, I had to even ask what hake was because neither my husband nor I had ever heard of this type of fish. We were told that it was a white fish similar to cod or haddock. The orange crush batter is really what caught my husband’s attention. I don’t think he could pass up an opportunity to have fish battered in orange crush soda. In the end, my husband said that he couldn’t actually taste or distinguish the taste of the orange crush, but that he really loved his fish. I presume that the orange crush creates a lighter, fluffier batter due to the carbonation in the drink, kind of like making tempura batter with club soda. I would also guess that the orange crush, rather than flavoring the fish with an orange flavor really just adds a hint of sweetness to the batter, much the way that my maple syrup did for my batter, but perhaps on a more subtle scale. Either way, my husband loved his deep-fried fish and couldn’t get enough of it.
We were rather surprised that we were actually kind of full from our fish & chips lunch baskets. My husband finished his off entirely, but I left a few chips left in my basket. When the waitress asked us if we were finished with our meals or if we were interested in dessert, we were about to say we were done until we couldn’t help but ask what kind of dessert Brit & Chips had. She explained that they served up a dessert called “deep-fried whatever.” Ok, you can’t say words like that to two people who love deep-fried foods and not expect us to be intrigued. The waitress explained that the dessert was made using a whole chocolate candy bar dipped in batter and deep-fried, hence the reference to “whatever.” If you wanted, the dessert could also be served a la mode.
Alright, we had to give this bad boy a try. Our options for the deep-fried candy bar included Snickers, Twix and Three Musketeers. I like Twix and not Three Musketeers and my husband is the exact opposite. Therefore, we decided to share a deep-fried Snickers bar. A candy bar we could both agree on. Served a la mode, of course. After all, 2 of us were splitting one candy bar, I think we could throw a little ice cream into the mix. First off, when the dessert basket was brought to the table, we couldn’t help laughing at the ridiculousness of having ordered a deep-fried Snickers bar. With the battering and deep frying, the Snickers bar looked more like a golden-brown and crunchy amoeba. The first thing we had to do was cut the candy bar in half, after all, we wanted to see what it looked like inside and we had to have a way to split my portion from my husband’s portion because we’re not good at sharing. For the most part, the candy bar was kind of intact. The outer layer of chocolate was melty and gooey, which was terrific, but the creamy inside and peanuts seemed to have held their shape. Let me tell you, that deep-fried Snickers bar was awesome. The melted chocolate and the crunchy batter were a perfect combination, and the heat from the fryer really caused the inside of the candy bar to be soft and melty and it all just seemed to melt in my mouth. A bite of deep-fried Snickers bar chased by a cold, cool spoonful of silky vanilla ice cream was just perfect. What a delicious dessert.
We were looking for something a little different from the normal when we walked into Brit & Chips after having explored most of Old Montreal in the morning. And we got exactly what we were looking for, classic, terrific old world English fish & chips in the heart of French Canada. The little flair of “Quebecois,” as they call it, with the maple syrup batter and even the orange crush batter was unexpected, but fantastic, none the less. And finally, ending our deep-fried fish & chips meal with a deep-fried candy bar was the perfect ending to an amazing, fun and different lunch. If you’ve ever wanted to get your hands on some great fish & chips in Montreal, Brit & Chips is not to be missed!