Editor's note: The esteemed David Valiante, our long-time food columnist, is on a leave of absence from his writing here at Patch to follow some other pursuits. We wish him the best and thank him for his fine work—but somebody's got to keep eating around here.
Join us in welcoming husband-and-wife dining team, Jamie and Jessica Blanchard, who will be continuing the work begun by David and taking it in their own direction. We present: The Collingswood Foodies.
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When it comes down to it, we simply love to eat.
We are constantly on the lookout for new food and restaurants wherever we go. We've tasted regional cuisines in England, Scotland, Austria, Germany, Canada, Mexico, and all over the United States. Along our journeys we've eaten at places both truly excellent and truly disappointing.
In this column, we'll take you through the places in our area as we taste them along with you. We judge our experiences along the five things we look for in every restaurant meal—ambiance, service, authenticity, quality, and value.
Mind the Gap
Although we have many great culinary memories, the U.K. experience is one for which we have a fondness. So we begin our eating journey with you at the British Chip Shop—a charming B.Y.O.B. and bakery located on Kings Highway in Haddonfield.
Its cozy interior is a cross between a traditional restaurant and a pub, with dark wood, faux brick walls, and quirky British-themed decor. We immediately appreciated the "Mind the Gap" sign and British rock and pop music, which told us the owner has not only a love of Britannia, but also a sense of humor.
(If you're wondering about authenticity, every table is set with a bottle of Sarson's malt vinegar and HP sauce. They've nailed the ambiance so far.)
A friendly server offered our choice of tables and provided recommendations from the menu. When we asked about Yorkshire pudding—something we've been on the lookout for all over New Jersey—she told us about an upcoming "Sunday Supper" event that includes the dish.
At $15 per person, the restaurant hosts weekly special events where they offer more traditional British dishes not found on the normal menu. We were chuffed to see a Doctor Who theme night, which the server says may be offered again in the future given enough interest. The service level was on the better side of good, so we're batting pretty well right now.
Let's talk food. We started the meal with bacon crisps (potato chips), which are served with a tasty aioli for dipping. The portion was small, but can't be beat for a $2 pub snack. For our entrees, we decided to stray from the expected fish and chips route for different, albeit traditional, meals.
Jamie ordered bangers and mash, a pub-grub meal of sausages and mashed potatoes covered in brown onion gravy. Having eaten in British pubs, we can say that the dish was authentic and appropriately bland.
That may sound like an insult, but it's not at all. British pub food is often simple and under-spiced. Unlike some French cuisine, for example, there aren't many layers of the flavor profile. What you see is what you get, and in this case, it's meat and potatoes. We recommend finding the appropriate level of salt or pepper as you work your way towards what you prefer; you may not need some at all. Most importantly, the quality of the dish was very high and much better than typical pub/bar food.
Jessica ordered the iconic ploughman's lunch, a platter of tavern ham, Irish cheese, bread and butter, and dressed greens. The only thing missing was a pint of beer, which is our fault and not the restaurant's. A side of mushy peas rounded out the meal, simply because we wanted to taste the oft-mentioned dish. Both entrees were exceptionally priced, and portions were hearty and filling.
A real standout of The British Chip Shop menu is the desserts. You've got your choice of homemade bakery items, like sponge cake and treacle tarts, or a list of the more substantial sticky toffee pudding or apple and rhubarb crumble.
With so many options, you may laugh at Jamie's choice of a fried Mars bar. It was the ultimate in comfort food of gooey chocolate in a fried shell. Jessica ordered the bakewell tart, a shortcrust pastry with strawberry jam and almond filling that she'd had in Scotland and thought impossible to replicate. It exceeded even these expectations.
We'll be back to try other traditional offerings like the Cornish pasty and cottage pie (and hopefully the Yorkshire pudding). Overall, The British Chip Shop is a real treat and a must-do for something different.