Umbertos fish and chip shop. Never in Preston has there been such a passionate division of opinion, aside from the daily Team Dog Walkers vs Team Cyclists kerfuffle.Advertisement
My mother Yvonne and I finally got over our sadness at Mr Umberto’s retirement enough to visit the business under its new owners, albeit with some trepidation due to a number of reviewers expressing unhappiness about the comparative price and difference of the food now being served.
In addition to the battered or baked fish, the menu contained quite a few other interesting items, so in the interest of research I ordered an ungodly pile of them.
Of course there had to be a battered fish in there. It was in a light, crispy batter and had all the qualities necessary in a good chippy fish, being white, flakey, and clearly very fresh as it carried only the mildest fishy smell. It wasn’t cheap at £7 for the smallest size without any accompaniments, increasing to £9.50 for a medium and £12.50 for a large.
As good as it was, I probably wouldn’t visit Umberto’s again solely for the fish due to the price. There are other fish and chip shops that are cheaper but still serve excellent fish and chips, such as Bill and Ben’s; the recent winners of a Blog Preston Top Scran Award.
Top Scran Awards: The best chips and gravy in Preston
But, and it’s a huge but… I would definitely return to the new Umberto’s because their differences to other fish and chip shops is where they excel.
I ordered a steak and stilton pie with chips and mushy peas for £7.75, and it was magnificent. The pie was clearly homemade with a thin crispy pastry, and packed to the brim with lean steak, gravy, and a noticeable amount of stilton.
The mushy peas were also homemade and came in a much larger tub than those used by other chippies. The hefty portion of chips had the browner hue that was the norm in the 1970s when chips were cooked in a huge battered and blackened pan of solidified beef dripping, as the children waited, terrified, in another room because they’d recently watched a public information film about a chip pan fire.
They were the old-fashioned style of chips that would make a sturdy meal between two slices of white bread and butter and some brown sauce at your Grandma’s house, as long as it didn’t get back to your mum. So much better than a small bunch of skinny, anaemic potato floppers offered by so many takeaways today.
We ordered chips with homemade beef chilli, guacamole, jalapeno chillies and sour cream for £7.80. The chilli was quite mild, almost like a spicy bolognese, but had plenty of flavour. Once again the portion was big enough for two to share as a main meal.
A portion of battered, deep-fried, herby haggis bites that I ordered simply out of curiosity were thinly battered and crunchy on the outside and, in true haggis form, denser than a black hole on the inside. I ate all of them trying to work out if I actually liked them, then I tried the last one with a bit of piccalilli on the side which swung it to a resounding yes. The menu actually offers homemade sauces such as jalapeño tartar sauce and Edinburgh chip shop sauce, so next time I’ll be adding one of those to my order.
Last but not least, we had a large bratwurst, chips and curry sauce for £7, and again the portion was huge. Although it possessed the classic texture and bounce of a chip shop saveloy, it was made by a local butcher to the new Umberto’s-own recipe, so eating this more refined bratwurst didn’t ignite the yawning horror of speculation about what that spongy bit might be, or whose toe that was. I’d have liked to have the option to get it on a hotdog bun with ketchup and mustard, but as I already had to wade through four other meals it was probably best that I couldn’t.
The curry sauce had the hint of star anise that’s found in a traditional chip shop curry sauce, but was more intensely spiced and fruity. Like almost everything else on the menu, it was noticeably homemade.
I was ridiculously excited when we unwrapped all of our food, because it was obvious just by the look of it that a great deal of time and effort had gone into its creation. It came to £30.50 in total and would have been enough for at least six people. In fact, I froze the loaded chilli fries because of how much was left over. Umberto’s also uses cardboard packaging, so as well as being more environmentally friendly, the fried items stay nice and crispy.
We know that the price of fish has skyrocketed, meaning that a portion of fish and chips are no longer a cheap, nutritional Friday treat. However, Umberto’s sells so many other cracking options that it would be a great pity to miss out on some fantastic value, good quality and delicious alternatives because their fish may be a little more expensive than that of regular fish and chip shops.
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It goes without saying that Umberto’s is well worth supporting as another local, independent business fighting back against corporate chains, and making Preston a foodie destination whilst keeping money and employment in our city.
But even if not for that, for being a takeaway that uses local suppliers for their fish and other ingredients and sells some fantastic homemade pies and more, with whopping portions of traditional beef dripping chips and mushy peas.
Have you every found an unknown body part in your saveloy? Contact Injury Lawyers 4 U to find out if you could be owed ten grand and a new sausage.
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