Harry Ramsden has this special place in the area of my brain reserved for sepia-toned nostalgic childhood memories.
I remember being in Blackpool when I was little and it was a really big deal that we went there – it was decorated really ornately and they fried their chips in something fancy for extra flavour. My sister dropped some of hers on the seafront in a minor spat with a seagull, resulting in a tense standoff as she tried to scoop them back into the paper. It was fun times, peak chips.
That's the sort of feeling that Harry trades on as it welcomes you over, puts a hand behind your back and feels around your pockets for your wallet. It's the perfect fit for a motorway service station really, I should have seen all of this coming from miles away, the signs were all there.
There are some beloved brands that call back to rosier times but have adapted to meet the newest ones – take Bisto for example. Or World War I.
Harry Ramsden’s is not one of those brands. I’m not sure I really have any time for cynical and exploitative marketing-led concerns like this. In a strange quirk of motorway services arrangement, the concession next door is called Tossed, which Harry clearly couldn't be.
The chips are of canteen quality rather than authentic chip ship stature – they taste like they’ve been partially pre-cooked then fried to finish on site, a little extra oil clinging to the skin to help things along a smidge.
You shuffle sideways along the counter with your fellow temporary inmates, watching a dazzling display of choreography from the Saturday job wardens. They look extremely busy doing nothing in particular. Perhaps someone has told a mid-level executive in the company that perceived value for money is directly related to the waiting time.
The food is served on a square plate with school canteen cutlery and a frayed plastic tray in a bright shade of red that should serve as an immediate warning. But the real horror awaits at the till – £7.99 for a small plate of sausage and chips is the slap in the face you could do without, but £1.99 for a little beaker of Pepsi is like a shiv to the gut.
I’ve never understood why things at service stations are more expensive than anywhere else – they literally have to drive past them on the motorway to deliver to proper places. I don’t much like fish, but given that it's basically the same price for that as two domestic-sized sausages I should really have just gone and got more value for my money.
The real thing with Harry Ramsden is that it has turned its back on the core values of the great British chip shop – cheap, tasty snacks for the hard-working masses. When it comes to motorway fare, there are plenty of other outlets that do the job properly. Sad times.
Value for money: 2/10
Verdict: Keep driving, you're nearly there.