I recently lost a bet in Toronto. My friend with whom I was staying bet that his local fish and chip shop would beat anything London had to offer. ‘Are you insane?’ was my response. ‘We invented the stuff. It’ll be cooked in maple syrup batter or have Canadian bacon mushy peas’.
So I thought I was safe. How foolish; such hubris.
For anyone travelling to Toronto, I insist you take a little time out of your schedule to try Olde Yorke. It’s in the Leslieville district; a pleasant suburb in the east of the city, but by no means central, and situated opposite a run-of-the-mill shopping mall. Blink, and you’d miss it. Inside, it’s all make believe Ye English Tavern, but homely.
We went at lunchtime and the place was over half full, and was noticeable by the absence of the smell of fried food. ‘Hmm’, I thought, ‘That’s intriguing’. A friendly-genuinely so-waitress showed us to our table, and a quick browse of the menu convinced me to go for the classic Cod and Chips. ‘We’ll see who’s the daddy’, I thought.
It was delivered in a short space of time with another genuine smile, and at first glance, my emotions were conflicted. On the one hand, I was openly drooling like some geriatric spaniel at the perfectly cooked vision in front of me. On the other hand I was cursing the perfectly cooked vision in front of me. ‘Damn and delicious’.
As you’ve gathered by now, it was superb. The batter was the thinnest, lightest and driest I’ve ever had. The cod was done to perfection and sea spray fresh. The chips, hand cut from actual potato on the premises, were the Cistine Chapel ceiling of fries. To cap it all, the tartar sauce was home made.
I was speechless, largely because my mouth was full. I could not look up at my friend as I can’t bear a gloater.
The point of this narrative is not a plug for Olde Yorke though a free haddock and chips would be nice, thank you. It occurred to me that in fashion, too, overseas operators are better at being British than the Brits themselves. I’m thinking of Ralph Lauren, who perfected the English Country House look and then sold it back to us.
It will be interesting to see how the current crop of Chinese owned British change under their new owners. Will they be another Olde Yorke? We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, I want their tartare sauce recipe…