I say! You, yes you over there! Read this review, won’t you? There’s a good chap.
Cowes, in the run-up to Cowes Week, is just like that. Everything is vying for your attention. Nowhere else on the Island can one gain such a concentrated sample of the ‘yachty set’. Shouts from the well-heeled ring across the bustling High Street; shops appear suddenly with names like KooBooToo and Yimsy, selling unidentifiable objects at unfathomable prices. Beggars and pedlars appear unaccountably on the streets. Every man is either attired in a football shirt, or deck-shoes and cargo shorts. Every woman has the leathery over-tanned complexion of ‘Skullrika’ Jonsson, and a massive pair of sunglasses. It’s a delightful place to visit – for mainlanders, obviously, but also for Islanders. Matt and Cat love to go and bask in the Cowes summer atmosphere. It’s like a little world of its own, even if the town falls over itself to reinforce its own stereotypes.
So, this week M & C were in Cowes on the way to an evening appointment and enjoying the Cowes Week ambience. With only a short time to eat, they reluctantly decided against old favourite the Red Duster – that needs time to fully appreciate. On the way up the hill they spotted Corries Cabin – the original fish and chip shop which spawned a namesake in Ryde that Matt is quite partial to. Usually it’s the welcome job of Matt and his lads to sort out the chip shops – Cat is not too keen on them. But Corries Cabin in Cowes looked so tempting that before she knew it, the Cat had been shooed inside and shown into a chair by her eager consort.
And thus is revealed a key feature of this well-situated fish and chip shop – as well as a classic takeaway counter it also has a sit-down restaurant area: and quite a nice one at that. Separate from the frying vats and queueing punters, diners are treated to a smart and clean environment, with fresh flowers on show and the ubiquitous pastelly paintings of vaguely maritime things. A smartly-dressed waiter greeted Matt and Cat and indicated a table to them, then came and took drinks orders – yes, Corries has a drinks licence too. Pretty impressive for a chip shop.
The restaurant area is a teeny triangular room, and Corries has managed to squeeze quite a few tables in. So much so, in fact, that people going in and out, or getting up, involved quite a bit of shuffling about; and when one party brought in a pushchair this eventually had to be accommodated out in the street. The chap sat behind Cat had his chair unavoidably pushed so far into hers that she could feel his peristalsis. So don’t go there with a party of 14 and expect to sit down – unless you’ve booked the place.
Matt and Cat read through the menu, and were delighted to see it was written in the distinctive caustic style of Corries’ proprietor and celebrated local stand-up comedian Richard Quigley. Luckily it was not quite as profane as his normal act, but still raised a smile with menu items such as “Scampi: I don’t know anyone that’s seen a real scampi, but these little fellas are great”; “Huss: we can’t call it Rock any more”; and “Classic fish and chips: you know you want it”.
Matt, never a one to resist temptation – especially when spelt out so plainly – ordered large haddock and chips. Cat didn’t want fish, so chose a cheese burger “with a slice of cheese lovingly placed on the top”. There wasn’t too long a wait whilst the fryers next door got to work, and soon two plates of food arrived. “Can I get you anything else?” asked the waiter politely. Cat asked for some mayonnaise – the usual chip-shop staples of salt, vinegar and ketchup were already on the table, and not in those nasty sachets either. By this time the little restaurant had filled up and the single member of staff was rushed off his feet attending to everyone – and eventually Cat had to go and ask about the mayonnaise again. At one point the poor fellow had a queue of three different parties waiting for his attention; but to his credit, he remained professional and unflustered. Still, he perhaps could have done with some help.
So, to the food. Matt’s haddock was a fair-sized portion and he savoured the luxury of fish straight from the fryer. Even the best-cooked take-away fish doesn’t have the crispness and moistness of fish put straight onto the plate. This haddock was a fine example, with big, bubbly flakes of batter surrounding delightfully moist and scaldingly-hot fish; even sizzling slightly as it arrived. The chips too were splendid – cooked just right they had an unusual dusting of ‘bits’ which gave them a really good, solid flavour. What’s more, none of the ‘bits’ were burnt, either. A perfect presentation.
Cat’s lovingly-prepared cheeseburger certainly looked good, with the same freshly-fried chips and some fried onion rings it was a pretty good effort. Usually averse to such fried stuff, this was good enough to tempt even Cat to nibble at it, and she soon found herself tucking in with pleasure.
Large haddock & chips £8.25
Cheeseburger & chips £5.60
Shandy bass £1.20
All too soon the plates were empty, it was time for Matt and Cat to take to the lively streets of Cowes again and make their way to their evening date. If you’re enjoying Cowes this summer and fancy a fish supper, you will not go far wrong here. Corries definitely gets the stamp of approval – it’s the best sit-down fish and chips experience Matt and Cat have had on the Island to date.
Corries Cabin, Cowes