Eric's Fish and Chip Shop, Thornham, a finalist in 2018 Fish and Chip Awards

PUBLISHED: 15:16 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:16 10 November 2017

Beer battered king prawns with chips served in take away boxes at Eric's Fish and Chips shop in Thornham. Photo by Emily Revell.

Beer battered king prawns with chips served in take away boxes at Eric's Fish and Chips shop in Thornham. Photo by Emily Revell.

Emily Revell.

Eric's Fish and Chips, Thornham is shortlisted in the national Fish and Chip Awards 2018.

“People travel for good fish and chips,” says Eric Snaith. And I can vouch for that. When my own family get a hankering for the Friday favourite we’ll often drive 20 miles or more to get our mitts on a bag of piping hot spuds and battered cod.

For Eric, whose north Norfolk chippy Eric’s Fish and Chips (in Thornham) has just been named one of the six finalists in the 2018 Seafish Fish and Chip Awards, when he opened his place three years ago, he had his grandma at the forefront of his mind. “When it came to fish and chip shops I remember she would say “I go to that one” and that was it. People will drive past a handful of other chip shops to get to their favourite, and they stick by it. We have regulars come from Norwich and Eye, amazingly. It’s just a fun environment and brilliant for kids and families. We have four generations come and eat together here.”

Eric’s fish and chip business is entirely different from the much-acclaimed dining experience he and his team offer at Titchwell Manor.

“I always thought although there’s a great number of gastropubs along the coast, the coast was lacking something a bit different, and it appealed to me, doing something completely different to the hotel.

“There was a bit of a gap in the market for approaching fish and chips in a different way, doing each element as well as we could, without trying to be too clever about it.

“I wanted the chips to be like chip shop chips. We weren’t going to try and be all cheffy, but we wanted to use local beer in the batter. And we started to make our own curry sauce from scratch, and different condiments – a black garlic mayonnaise, buffalo sauce and a seafood sauce, made to our unique recipes.”

Fish (cod and haddock frozen fresh at sea, with some seasonal fresh additions such as crab and mackerel) is dunked in a rich Greene King IPA batter and cooked to order in beef dripping (or vegetable oil if you prefer) with gluten-free options available seven days a week.

Eric could have stopped with classic fish and chips – but he didn’t, even offering a typically Roman snack as an alternative for vegetarians. “Our arancini have been a huge success and one of our biggest sellers,” the chef says.

“They’re risotto with gruyere cheese running through. We ball them, breadcrumb and fry them, then help yourself to one of the sauces. The black garlic mayonnaise goes amazingly well with these. We ferment the garlic ourselves so it’s got an almost liquorice edge and add some squid ink in there and seaweed powder for depth of flavour and that interesting black colour.”

Another success story is the fish burger. But this isn’t some mushy slap-dash medley of potato and flaked fish. No, it’s battered fish, served in a brioche bun with a sriracha mayonnaise, pickled mooli and salty flecks of bonito (flakes of dried, fermented smoked tuna used as a seasoning in Asia).

Sausages are higher welfare from Dingley Dell in Suffolk.

And Eric made sure the eatery was licensed so visitors can sit and drink a glass of beer of wine while their fish and chips are cooked to order, but says one of the bestsellers is the tea, from the Rare Tea Company, which produces some of the best loose-leaf tea around (it’s used in world-famous restaurant Noma).

If all that wasn’t enough to make you pack your bags and head for the coast, wallet in hand, Eric’s puts the icing on the cake when it comes to dessert.

“We offer build-your-own sundaes. Order a scoop of ice cream and then you can choose our caramelised cornflakes, nutty crumb, our own chocolate sauce. People really like the fun element – we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

The team at Eric’s Fish and Chips is waiting for a judge to come on an announced visit as the final part of the award process, with the winner announced on January 25, but says he’s also excited the shop’s being judged in Seafish’s Staff Development and Training Awards too. “We’ve got two members of staff who’ve been with us from day one and we’ve trained them up from junior food producers to now run the shop. We’ve got a young team of hard workers. I’m really proud.”

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