Review: Fish & Chips 21 Dlouha St.
The new restaurant in Old Town brings you the seaside, deep-fried
Posted: March 6, 2013
For many, fish and chips are the ultimate comfort food, and this Old Town eatery aims to please.
I've always figured not having access to the joys of plebian fried seafood in Prague was the price one has to pay for living in such a wonderful, if land-locked, country. But now that the Fish & Chips 21 Dlouha St. has opened, there's somewhere to satisfy that very specific craving - and while it veers from the traditional in some ways and takes a stretch of the imagination to wish up a suitable beach or harbor outside, it does so with success.
With so many bars and clubs in the neighborhood and few easy-eat options, plus the added pull of fish and chips after a beer or two, this place has a strategic appeal. It's also open till 1 a.m. And the prices for a basic portion of cod and chips (which also includes the requisite mushy peas, or "Manchester caviar") are hard to fault considering the size and quality, if not exact authenticity, although some other items are worth a miss. The namesake dish is the best of the lot here, thankfully, so there's little need to dabble too far into the rest of the menu, although a plate of roast beef going past on a recent evening looked mouthwateringly good.
The eatery sticks to the classic look in form and function, with a stainless-steel counter up front for takeaways, although on two visits the warming trays were empty and looked more like they were just for display. The walls are white-tiled, and the back room, which has a few tables and counters for dining, has a large mirror and black-and-white photos of The Beatles and the like. Tables are simple and bare, and are constantly being moved around to cater to groups of different sizes.
The menu has a few problems. The most glaring is the use of "potato chips" in reference to British-style chips, or french fries, and it's a shame the owners didn't check this before printing all the menus. Alcoholic drinks are also quite expensive; a 0.4 L of Budvar costs 50 Kč, and most wines are over 100 Kč by the glass. While they do have a nice selection, it's incongruous with the laid-back chip-shop feel of being served your plate of food on a plastic tray.
Dlouhá 21, Prague 1-Old Town
Tel. 606 881 414 Open daily 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Nonsmoking
Fish soup (small) 85 Kč
Fish cake 85 Kč
Hot dog royal 95 Kč
Beer-battered cod with chips and mushy peas (small) 165 Kč
Herb-battered sea bass with chips and mushy peas (small) 195 Kč
Beer-battered haddock with chips and mushy peas (large) 265 Kč
Frito misto (anchovies, calamari, shrimp) 225 Kč
Coleslaw 75 Kč
Small portion chips 45 Kč
Pickled onions 25 Kč
Curry sauce 35 Kč
0.4 L Budvar 12° 50 Kč
But at last, to the fish. Simply put, it's really, really good. The cod and the haddock were both surprisingly fresh and zesty, with perfectly flaking flesh. And a version with sea bass was excellent, as well, the tender mildness of the white fish complementing the not-too-greasy batter. There was just the right amount of batter, too, with no puffy pieces sticking off the side that required gnawing through, just light and crisp and melt-in-your-mouth. There are two types of batter available, the beer batter, which goes best with a dousing of malt vinegar (they have the Sarson's brand), and a herb batter, which was light and refreshing and needed little else but a spritz of lemon wedge, which comes with each serving.
The fish and chips, like other fried items and sandwiches on the menu, are served on a crumbled waxy paper printed to look like a newspaper, harking to the meal's originally being served in actual newspaper. But it's sufficient nod to nostalgia, for me bringing back memories of childhood visits to the north of England, hurrying home with a bundle of fish and chips, impatient to peel open the warm newspaper sodden with malt vinegar and dip my sticky little fingers in.
The small portion is a bit less than what you'd get at most British or Irish chip shops but is sizeable for one; the large is almost double the amount. The chips were decent, chunky homemade wedges but could have been a bit crispier on the outsides, as some soon saddened. Mushy peas were fresh and tart, a nice variation to lot of versions sampled back on the Isles. They weren't the traditional, starchy marrowfat peas, however, but were half-creamed garden peas. With a squeeze of lemon, though, they were up to the task of cutting between the sharp vinegar notes and the rich batter. I just wish there had been more of them, as the small bowl was soon swiped clean.
The curry sauce, too, ordered on the side, was more upscale and dearly made than the average, but the pickled onions disappointed, as they were merely the jarred local variety of cocktail onions; I had hoped for large, homemade malty ones.
The hot dog royal was a surprise star. Everything about it was loveable: the sweet, buttery potato-bread bun, fluffy, soft and stable; the rich pork sausage; and the tangy, balanced fresh relish of pickled cucumber and onion on top.
Likewise, the fish cake, lightly breaded fried potato and cod, was a bright snack or starter. It too, benefited from the lemon, and would also have suited a number of the available side sauces.
A big disappointment was the fish soup, which contained no chunks of actual fish but was just an unpleasant fishy-flavored tomato broth; the "frito misto" was also lacking and over-fried to dryness, with the various critters, like shrimp and anchovies still in their shells under the batter, reduced to tasting of little but the batter itself.
For those with any room left, the bread pudding was close to incredible: a sweet, spongy, moist square of treacle-y bread, still warm, with a jug of brandy butter to pour on top.
Fish & Chips 21 Dlouha St. is run by the people behind Zdeněk's Oyster Bar, who excel at bringing Prague a step closer to the sea. While this chip shop is a bit more upscale than the average traditional ones people may know from back home, it gets the job done, with some excellent points along the way.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at
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