There are few landmarks in Mitcham – you’ve got the Three Kings pond (recently desilted), the Clock Tower (recently moved, broke again and now fixed) and Lidl.
It’s fascinating to see the sort of exhibition they like to put on in the local library where it’s full of old pictures of people doing stuff – the businesses may have changed, but the buildings are thoroughly recognisable. Makes you wonder if in 100 years' time they'll have little staple-gunned noticeboard displays full of people taking selfies at bus stops, as if this was the defining attribute of our era.
Skipper’s (“oh yeah, the chip shop in town”) is a familiar landmark to many, planted reassuringly next to the bus stops that stand ready to whisk you away to pastures greener. It’s a reassuringly solid rock in a roiling sea of change as the centre of town gets a reasonably priced spruce from the local council.
It’s a good old-fashioned greasy spoon sort of place (or ‘restaurant’, as it’s known in Mitcham) with formica tables, beige tiling on the walls and a clientele who look like they live underground. The latter observation isn’t intended as a criticism – in fact, this used to be my local, way back when I lived a few streets away. Gosh, we’re talking four years ago now, a lifetime in London terms, or 28 years if you’re a dog.
Nowadays I’ll stroll through the centre of Mitcham to get some bulbs from Poundland or a book at the charity shop. Yikes, that makes me basically middle-aged. It's been a while since I was last here, but nostalgia assails me as I enter the place, like a fug of hot oil in a barely ventilated chip shop on a warm day. Wait, I think I did that simile wrong.
There’s a sign right in front of you as you enter the cafe – ‘Apologies if any inconveniences caused’ and asking customers to pay on order ‘due to unexpected circumstances’. If those unexpected circumstances were people running off with the food you’d just given them before asking for any money, I’d say those were entirely expectable circumstances, but I’m just old-fashioned like that. Either way, don’t sweat the inconveniences, I’ll live.
This place has delicious chips, even if £1.80 a bag seems like the sort of aspirational lifestyle pricing you might find in a Wimbledon or a Tooting. The waxy potatoes are a charming counterpoint to disappointing recent efforts elsewhere. The chips were the perfect blend of crispy on the outside and light on the inside.
If I had a criticism, it's the tendency towards grease here that could have been avoided with a bit more of a vigorous post-fryer agitation. I don’t mind a chip sliding down my throat, but I certainly don’t want it to feel like a backyard water chute the kids might get out in the summer. Besides, constantly having to dab your fingers dry on the chip paper rather lends you the mien of a Roman emperor, and that’s not always a good look.
Still, we've reached the end of another battle in the arena and it's time for the editor of the game (and it could often have been the emperor in Rome) to decide who lives or dies...
Value for money: 7/10
Verdict: Aye, Skipper.