The food: Fish and chips in London
During my recent visit to London, I went to see the current West End revival of Oliver! Oliver! is not one of my favorite musicals, but what better venue to see a show based on a Dickens novel, with a score written by an English composer, than at the historic Drury Lane theatre in the city where the show is set?
When I read in reviews beforehand that the crucial roles of Nancy and Oliver had been cast through a British reality television show called I’d Do Anything, I was even more dubious, but the show I saw was worth every penny of the discount orchestra (stalls) ticket I bought for 38 pounds at the Leicester Square TKTS ticket booth.
Never in all my show-going days have I seen such a lavish production – there were at least 50 talented and energetic cast members singing their hearts out in and around breathtaking, complex sets that depicted a romanticized but vividly realized version of Victorian London. And Lionel Bart’s score was more pleasingly melodic and packed with bright and shiny pop tunes (some of which can be heard here) than I’d remembered – especially notable this time was the haunting counterpoint of Who Will Buy.
In keeping with the spirit of Oliver! I felt compelled to eat at least one traditional English meal in London, which is how E and I ended up one evening at Fishbone, a slightly shabby chippie in Fitzrovia that I’d read good things about in London’s Time Out magazine that happened to be a 5 minute walk from our hotel.
The weather was fine enough (and the interior of the shop depressing enough) that we sat outside at a sidewalk table to wait (and wait) for E’s haddock (fried in a matzo meal batter) and chips, my conventionally battered plaice and chips, a tomato and onion salad, and some coleslaw billed as homemade.
Turns out the 20 minute wait was because the cook had freshly battered and cooked our fish (not for us the prefried cod sitting under heat lamps that several people picked up for takeaway while we waited). Sure enough, the fish was sweet and flaky, the batters crisp, not greasy. The chips were also crisp, if bland – they lacked the soft center I look for in fries, while the fresh-tasting salads added a welcome light counterpoint of their own to the fried food. Who will buy, indeed.