I think that we have firmly established by now – even on this long-overdue second review – that I love chips.
Don't just take my word for it, either. They are the nation’s number one fast food (fake news alert, I made that up. It could be true though) and have long occupied a special place in the nation’s collectively cholesterol-ridden heart. Sadly that special place in the heart has led to shooting pains down the country’s arm, if I may be permitted to tortuously extend the metaphor, and healthier alternatives have been allowed to sneak their way in. Yuck.
One such popular snack at the moment is popcorn, that overpriced sweetened wall cavity insulation. People have been going crazy for it – women who carry oversized handbags, thinking they’re using up more calories chewing the stuff than eating it, forgetting that the 2,000 calories of syrup and flavouring that encrusts every piece rather cancels out the good intentions. Perhaps crying into the bag will wash some of that away.
I stopped at Sea Star in Southfields on the drive to the cinema in Wandsworth, a striking slice of modern London from suburban slums to penthouse gentrification. A casual rule of thumb for gauging the value of an up-and-coming area is whether there's permit parking and planning permission for a mini Waitrose. And of course the modern cineplex is the temple of criminally hiked up 'corn for the Grand Designs magazine crowd – the £1.40 I spent on a bag of chips would not get you very far there, save for perhaps a few stale shrimps from the pic’n’mix. It doesn't get you that far in some modern British chip shops either – I remember back when a typical portion of chips would cost you 80p, and they wouldn't ask if sir wanted a bag, they’d just get on with it.
The Sea Star chip was a bold shape – chunky, like a trendy supermarket steak-cut oven number, but sadly lacking in flavour when it came down to business. You don’t get massive chips like this very often – this place either has a lazy chopper or it’s trying to write a ballsy cheque that the floury brand of potato can’t cash. A waxier number would have had me lyrical about a masterstroke innovation, but instead we're left with a chip that favours looks over substance. The cloudy acidic whiff as I opened up the bag transported me to my room in the final year of university and that intoxicating blend of damp walls and mould spray.
As I trudge my way through the bag in my car, windows fogging up Titanic-style in a south London side street, I have a quick look online to see what others have been saying about this place. I find Eliza C on Google Maps, who said two years ago that she won't be going back because they gave the last jumbo sausage to someone else. I wonder what's been happening in her life. Did she find a place that would give her the sausage? How did she cope? I can picture Eliza now, sack of salted caramel popcorn on her lap, cursing the world. It’s so sad to think of the human pain a chip shop can cause.
Value for money: 6/10
Verdict: When the chips are down, I’m not sure I can finish these off