I find myself in the middle of Mitcham, south London. It’s a pleasant evening in the middle of March and spring is advancing on us with something of a buoyant stride.
I’m not here merely for chips, this is actually where I live. It’s a funny old place – often described as the Mitcham of south London. It has its critics, even among people who don’t live here, but it’s not completely without charm.
I’m standing outside a run-of-the-mill suburban chip shop, the cracked pavement sloping down a hill towards even more London. There’s a pizza place, a Chinese takeaway, a chicken shop and two corner shops specialising in Eastern European fare within a literal stone’s throw, and I have a very weak arm.
So as we start this endeavour, this social experiment to enjoy the humble fried spud more, this mass movement for change we really can believe in, this attempt to comfort-eat our way through the ravages of Brexit Britain, we start with my semi-local. There's another place between here and my house but quality is patchy and I come here a lot.
Finding a good chip shop is a high priority when I'm moving house and I was pleased to find Mitcham's Plaice early on. Of course, normally I would turn my nose up at the egregious pun and walk right past, but this time they can get away with it. It's an establishment of the old school, complete with the de rigueur yellowed, curling, late-90s fish-of-the-British-Isles poster, albeit with the modern flourish of offering burgers and kebabs at the dog food end of the menu.
This is essentially the standard by which I am going to measure other pla[i]ces – this bag of chips I have just purchased has set me back £1.60, which is at the upper end of the scale for chip shops, especially in Mitcham where you can rent a two-bedroom flat for around £6.80 a week. But the fact that it's always rammed is a sign you're in for a treat.
The basics are done well here, and there’s a consistency to what they offer that I find remarkable. So many modern chip shops are hit-and-miss slapdash affairs that take no pride in their work, but the Mitcham’s Plaice team are dedicated to their craft. The chips are crispy with a well-cooked centre, and there’s a delicacy to the crunch of the outer skin that brings to mind a Kinder Bueno.
My litmus test is whether after five chips you want to nuzzle your face into the rest of the bag like a Victorian shire horse. A test this chip shop passes with flying colours. As I rummage through the increasingly soggy paper, scraps and batter are a beautiful surprise and delight feature at the bottom. I hate myself, but I love these chips.
Value for money: 7/10
Verdict: There’s no plaice I’d rather be right now