Thursday, 10 February 2011

Micky's, Holborn


Until very recently, there was a little kebab shop on High Holborn called Safadi Express. I'm not going to pretend it was great, because it wasn't, but given the choice between that and Eat and Pret and Eat and Pret ad infinitum in this part of town, it was clean and friendly, served nice fresh charcoal-grilled chicken wraps and did a generous portion of hummus and warm flatbread for £3.50. I went there quite often and never had cause to complain. Then one day last week, I popped down to street level at lunchtime and noticed it was all boarded up with a sign saying 'closed for refurbishment'. And barely a couple of days later, a garish blue frontage had replaced the old one, declaring the new resident to be Micky's Fish Restaurant and Takeaway, "Established 1962", "As seen on Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection". Presumably that refers to a different branch somewhere else as I know for a fact this one has been open 5 days, not 5 decades. I thought I'd give it a try anyway, as a decent fish & chip place is a very valuable thing to have within seconds of the office.


If the speed of the "refurbishment" and change of tenant was surprising from the outside, once inside it all made sense. Apart from new heat lamps for the fried products, and the addition of a bottle of malt vinegar on every table, barely anything had changed from the old place. There was still a glass cabinet selling trays of baklava, the tables and chairs were the same, and the ropes and tills and queuing process seemed identical. Even more weirdly, the staff seemed largely the same, too, as if they'd turned up for work as normal on a Monday morning only to be told they'd be serving fish and chips instead of kebabs from now on, and to get on with it. And if all that wasn't strange enough, I was handed a menu, which was exactly the same size and shape, with the same font and layout as Safadi Express. And then the penny dropped - the similarities between the two enterprises were just too great for Micky's to be anything other than a new venture from the same company, who clearly think that knocking out fish & chips requires exactly the same skill set and attitude as hummus and flatbread. How wrong they are.


I knew the fish was wrong even as I queued to pay - they looked limp and sad under the heat lamps, and there was something worryingly... rubbery about the way they moved when picked up to be boxed for order. But I was past the point of no return by now, so ploughed on anyway paying my £8 and taking the box back up to the office.


The haddock was, as I'm sure you have suspected from the rather protracted build-up, a disaster. Overcooked to a formless, dry paste inside and encased in soggy, chewy batter that required quite a bit of sawing to get through, it was lucky I had a proper metal knife from the office kitchen to use as the supplied plastic utensils wouldn't have been anywhere near up to the task. There was also a faintly funky smell from the hardly fresh fish, as if I needed any more reason to hate the thing. In the interests of fairness, the chips were fine, a good shape and creamy inside, although I detected hardly any of the requested salt & vinegar. Yeah, I'm clutching at straws. It was bad.


So there we have it, another mediocre London fish & chip shop to add to the long list of others to avoid but, you're possibly thinking, hardly worth getting so upset about. Why make an example of this place in a town where it's not even close to being the worst way of spending your lunch money? Maybe it's just something about the way it came into being; a careless, hastily rebranded corporate exercise by a group of suits who one day decided the profit margins were better from battered sausages than falafel. And perhaps also it's what the whole sorry affair says about the British attitude to eating out - that if you can't make it a franchise and farm it out to untrained grease monkeys on a minimum wage then it's not worth doing at all. But mainly, it's because I paid £8 for very poor fish and chips. And that makes me sad.

2/10

Micky's on Urbanspoon

20 comments:

roym said...

why did you have a proper knife on you?

the smell would have made me put the thing straight into the bin!

M said...

How depressing. Decent fish & chips should be easy to come by in London, surely?!

I live in Balham and the chippy 2 minutes from Clapham South appears to have been gutted, which I'm less than happy about. There is another one down on Bedford Hill, but this one was rather good (in my very humble opinion - possibly swayed by the terribly cheerful family who owned it and the charming 80s decor) and I fear it's going to be replaced with another fried chicken place or something.

Kavey said...

And I would feel sad too, paying £8 for that crap. :(

Tim M said...

I feel for you, it's the same old experience. The best place I've ever found is right near where I live in Clapham Junction - Maria's Fish and Chips on Falcon Road. If you call ahead they fry the Haddock fresh, and the portions are huge - it's about £4.50 for a large Haddock and Chips, and I can barely finish it (i've got a huge appetite). No bones in the fish either - that's got to be the worst thing in the world...!

Kedi said...

Sounds horrendous! I can't find decent f&c anywhere near me in clerkenwell.

. said...

Kennedy's of London on Goswell Road is worth a visit.

Love the review by the way Chris..

Livstoeat said...

I know exactly how you feel. Safadi was the only moderately good place on High Holborn - I almost cried when I saw it was gone!

Krista said...

Don't even bother with Poppies Chris, same issue ... bleurghhh....

Anonymous said...

M - The two crazy Thai ladies on Bedford Hill are closing? Nooooooo!!! I'd agree the fish and chips were average, but they made it worthwhile when I lived around there.

Lizzie said...

Rather than sad, I'd be pretty mad.

(Don't tell me you didn't have any mushy peas?!)

Eva Lai said...

Yeah that's spooky, so many aspects of the new thing that're the same as the old... It should be a good idea to change everything round for dynamism's sake, to stimulate the local folks... oh I hate soggy batter...

Kitchen Stools Direct said...

What a shame! This is one of my favorite meals, normally!

Tom said...

Paid this new joint a visit and from my experience I enjoyed a very decent lunch. Service was extremely fast for the queue that was inside. Had a delicious cod + chips. They are the same group as the one in paddington, norfolk place.

Miss safadi express though :-(

Defo worth the visit

Anonymous said...

For F&C try The Fryer's Delight on Theobald. The decor ain't to great, but the food is fresh...

Anonymous said...

We almost cried when we realised Safadi had gone. It was the only place round here that served halal food that's not deep fried chicken, so was always full too.

Fryer's delight on Theobald's Road smells disgusting (do they fry the chips in free lard from the butchers' shop next door?).

Tim M is right about Maria's. I used to work just off Falcon Rd and Maria's was our usual Friday lunch. My husband loves it so much that if we ever go down to South London, we HAVE to stop there, even if it means a huge detour. They do proper curry sauce too. I wish they delivered to West London..........

Anonymous said...

Haha it's so funny. I was wondering what was going on and noticed it looked like all the same staff before I read your blog. What were they thinking?!?!?!? Glad I read this because we were going to try it with the heston comments!!! glad we didn't. I thought the kebabs were the best in the area. crazy.

Maria Espasandin said...

I went to 'Micky's, established since 1962' (barf!) a couple of weeks ago. Surprise was an understatement. Since when does a kebab shop become a fish and chip shop? Well, obviously after a very brief 'refurbishment'. What a very sad and depressing experience. We were ignored when we entered the shop. When finally they acknowledged our presence, we were given a menu. I ordered grilled fish, which took a total (no lie) of 40 minutes to arrive! Admittedly, it was nice and the chips were great, but 40 minutes for food in a fish and chip shop??? Come on??!! Their excuse was they had to wait for grill to heat up! I definitely won't be going again!

esme said...

We're going to try this place out on Friday so we'll see if it has improved since your post! I hope so fingers crossed.

Have you tried the new Burito place a little further down the road? It's a bit like subway but with chorizo sausage rather than olives.

Meat and Two Veg said...

This closed down now, to be replaced with a new Lebanese place with different owners

Anonymous said...

I'll sound like a professional northerner-in-London here (and looking at the post date I'm a year out of date), but EIGHT QUID for haddock and chips!?