Saturday, 13 December 2008

Fingers Crossed

MY culinary horizon widened beyond recognition at the age of nine when I befriended a girl called Ruth.
In our matching shell-suits we were like Pepsi and Shirley, and soon I was wanting to eat tea at her house every night.
Having only eaten my mum's home cooking and my gran's roast dinners, I was suddenly introduced to a world of Nik Naks, cheese and baked bean toasties and fish fingers sandwiches.
I remember first witnessing Ruth tucking into a fish finger sandwich (FFS), saturated with tomato ketchup, and - even at that age - balking at its lack of nutritional value.
'That's not a proper meal,' my mum confirmed, after I had reported back one night.
But biting into my first FFS was a different matter. Captain Birdseye's breaded fish fingers, grilled until crisp, sandwiched between thick white sliced bread with lashings of ketchup... what could be better?
Now this 80s classic is getting a bit of a renaissance and seems to be a menu staple of anywhere daring to call itself a gastropub or gourmet burger joint.
But few get it right. And last night's meal was point in question.
After a mug of mulled wine or two at Birmingham's German Market, four of us headed off to the Handmade Burger Company on Brindley Place's canalside, for a decent bite to eat.
Browsing the menu, I was delighted to see that they'd added the FFS since I'd last been.
A fan of the small chain, I had faith they'd get it right as usually their burgers are top notch.
But I'm sad to say that I was fiercely disappointed when faced with my food.
Like many places serving the FFS, they'd fallen prey to the common evil of trying too hard.
The crisp, breadcrumb-covered cod fingers I'd been dreaming of had been replaced with battered strips of fish which, while crunchy, tasted of little else than the fat they'd been deep fried in. And rather than flaky white protein, tender and mild, the fish was slimy and bland.
However, the sesame-topped white roll the fish was sandwiched between was delicious and a fair substitute for the thick sliced bread I remembered. And there was plenty of Heinz Tomato Ketchup to add as required.
But good components doth not a good FFS make, and not only was a left with the bitter taste of disappointment but also of oily chip fat.
Fortunately, my fellow diners went for the fail safe options of good old beef burgers and were none the wiser to my discontent.
So now the search is on for an authentic 80s FFS. Fingers crossed I find one soon.
Where do you suggest does the best FFS? I need your help in tracking one down.
Handmade Burger Company on Urbanspoon

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