It was a long time ago, and since then there have been all kinds of trendy, new-wave chippies that have opened across the country. But there can surely be few better than the famous Maggie’s Fish & Chips in Hastings Old Town fishing quarter.
For the charm of the place alone it wins bonus points - how many cafes have a miniature railway running underneath them, or a market where fish fresh off the nearby boats are piled on to a conveyor belt for grading? It is hard to imagine a restaurant that could be more closely linked to the sea, perched as it is among the net shops and fishermen’s huts. To say it’s a bit of an institution would be an understatement - Margaret Banfield opened the cafe three decades ago, and when she retired five years ago sold the business to Lionel Copley and Stan Krezelok, who continue to run it in her tradition, “carrying on her legacy”. And I can honestly say I’ve never eaten better fish and chips - even tastier than that Whitby fish supper fried in heart-testing beef dripping.
You climb up wooden steps and find yourself in a humbly-decorated dining area with pub-style, spindle-back chairs and blue and white tablecloths. Even the clock on the wall looks like it’s come from a cafe from the 1970s. But this isn’t a place that needs to rely on decor to bring in customers - that’s more than taken care of by word of mouth. The waitress arrives and tells me they have sold out of huss and skate (caught by Hastings’ beach-launched fishing fleet 100 yards away), so I go for cod and chips (£9.50). The food is fried to order (by Maggie’s granddaughter in the open kitchen) and arrives quickly with a ramekin of home-made tartare sauce.
The fish is beautifully fresh, sweet and flakey, and wrapped in a light, crunchy batter. It has spent just the right amount of time in the fryer, so that the flesh is still moist and soft in the mouth (a far cry from the dry, rubbery texture you get in chippies that use frozen fish). The chips are perfect - not like the greasy, soft, soggy offerings you get in most chip shops, but double, perhaps triple-cooked so they are crispy and light. The chunky tartare is the perfect accompaniment and has just the right amount of sour notes to complement the fish. The waitress returns and asks me if I want a home-made lemon posset dessert (£4.50), but I can barely move; the meal was so delicious and big.
The eatery also runs a nearby street food business called Maggie’s At The Boat, set in half an upended old boat. It sells dishes like charcoal-battered cod in a bap (£6) and smoked fish chowder (£5.50), but I’ll leave that for a future review.
Maggie’s Fish & Chips, Fishmarket Road, Rock-A-Nore Road, Hastings, TN34 3DW
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