When the owner, Peter Scott, agreed to have a chat with TGS, I was suitably eager and after months of trying to arrange something, finally got my act together enough for a good old-fashioned Fish supper. Peter himself is a man who came into food in a roundabout way, and he strikes me as someone who simply talks straight. Get the basics right, and everything else will follow. In food, that’s a golden rule.
During the course of the evening, we discussed trade in Headingley, the clientele he receives, and of course, the food. He explained how the light, crispy batter remains so, thus removing the heaviness that can prevail in batter occasionally, and where his fish comes from – although decency won’t allow me to divulge those secrets here.
We began with a heap of fried Whitebait, silver-skinned and bristling with the lightest of flour-dust; doused in salt and lemon, they didn’t disappoint in that great lip-stinging way. Of course, Haddock and Chips came next -what is there to say? Creamy, clean fish encased in crisp, tasty batter. Home-made tartare sauce, thick with capers and gherkins, and a large dollop of mushy peas (hand-made, of course, the proper way). All very simple, all very wonderful. A taste of home.
One thing that stuck out for me was Peter’s admission that there are no “chefs” at Bretts. Fryers make your meal, and friendly, smiling staff bring it to you. And that’s the point - Fryers (and there’s not many who would call themselves that) are in every way masters of that devilishly hot machine, from the preparation of the fish to the filtering and selection of the oil or fat that makes the humble fish what it is. All food is cooked to order, regardless of how busy the restaurant gets. This applies to the takeaway too, which is an extension of the restaurant, rather than a neon-lit hole for post-drink fodder. Judging by the distance people travel simply to order fish and chips I’d like to think this isn’t lost on the people of Leeds.
Bretts doesn’t advertise – it isn’t needed. Peter pulls out a guest book loaded with gushing comments from visitors from Canada, India, The States and South Africa, no doubt regaling their countrymen with tales of the mysterious ‘Fish and Chips’ we Brits love so much. So I’m taking this opportunity to highlight simply what many people already know. The local and national cricket and rugby teams know how good it is, the press in general love to come here, and now you know.
I'd like to think it testament to my amatuerishness, or maybe the fact that I don't do sit-down interviews that much that prompted me do forget to take any pictures of the actual food. But in reality the food was simply too good from the start and as soon as we started eating it was game over - Food time. Apologies - it won't happen again. You'll have to go have a meal to see the goods.
Bretts Fish Restaurant
12-14 North Lane,
Headingley, LEEDS LS6 3HE
Tel 0113 232 3344