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Not so humble

THERE wouldn’t be too many people who have spent a summer in Perth without enjoying a tasty meal of fish and chips at the beach.

You know the drill. Your skin feels a little tight and sore after too long in the sun and salt water, the afternoon sea breeze is well and truly in, and you need a little something in the belly before heading home.

What better to do the job than some fish and chips, wrapped in the obligatory butcher’s paper.

Well, times are a changin’, although fish and chips is still as popular as ever. It’s just that, in recent times, many of the humble fish and chips shops throughout the suburbs of Perth have undergone a transformation into boutique gourmet outlets.

Think grilled Cajun-style snapper or Thai squid. And there’s even a health focus, with battered fillets deep fried in oil that has been approved by the Heart Foundation. It’s just not cricket … how can you have fish and chips that are not only tasty, but also good for you?

As everybody believes that their local chippy is the best around I decided to take all the advice in, put it in the memory vault, and do a bit of investigating.

First stop was at the renowned City Beach outlet The Groper and His Wife, which has become something of a landmark in the area. When you head out to this well-established chippy make sure it is at the beginning of the housekeeping week, as it is not the cheapest in town. The produce, on the other hand, is top quality and I am led to believe that the only frozen fish served is the stock standard hake.

The evening we visited the place was buzzing with a shop full of customers eagerly awaiting their orders. We placed an order for a serve of standard fish (hake) and chips $8, the pink snapper $12.50 and the Italian squid, which is sauteed in a hearty tomato sauce $9.00. Each of the pieces of fish was deep-fried. The quality of the produce was beyond doubt, but I still find it hard to hand over the best part of a crisp $50 bill when dining on fish and chips.

Next stop was a winner with all in attendance. The delights of Sweetlips in Oxford Street, Leederville, were testament to the rewards you can find dining from a tablecloth of butcher’s paper. Part owner Stephen Gangemi explained to me that “there are a few fundamental requirements in producing fabulous fish and chips”.

The first is the quality of oil used, which may slightly increase the overall cost, but is one of the secret ingredients well worth spending that little bit extra on. Stephen says you also need to filter your oil on a daily basis and will need to change the oil completely every few days.

The expression “cheap as chips” doesn’t ring true at Sweetlips. Stephen tells me that producing top-notch chips is another additional cost influencing a top quality product. Sweetlips uses only an expensive A-grade chip, he says.

The traditional serve of fish and chips is still the most popular choice at Sweetlips, with a small costing $6 and large $12. They also have a range of gourmet lines, such a the tempting Thai fish cakes. Stephen told me that the gourmet lines are what customers want to see in the shop.

“While gourmet lines do not make up a significant part of our turnover, they do set us apart from other shops,” he says.

Besides the traditional serve, the next most popular request is for the snapper and chips.

“The major difference with many of the better outlets is that they will only use very good produce, which is why many of these places have fish and chips that command a higher price, which does actually make a difference,” Stephen says.



Sweetlips 125 Oxford Street, Leederville, 9242 5745. Open 9am-9pm, seven days.

The Groper and His Wife Shop, 14 City Beach Boulevard Shopping Centre, 9385 7384. Open seven days 11am-8.30pm.

Swish and Chips, U5/71 Walcott Street, Mount Lawley, 9227 8132. Open seven days, 11am-2.30pm, 4.30pm-8.30pm.

Splash’s Fish House, Carine Glades Shopping Centre, Beach Road, Duncraig, 9447 7133. Open seven days, 8am-8pm.

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