Colman’s of South Shields, Ocean Road

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I DON’T think there’s a finer dish than fish and chips.

Nostalgia is packed into every bite – summers by the seaside or a warming treat for Friday tea.

There must be hundreds of chip shops across the North East, but Colman’s has got to be among those vying for the golden crown.

The restaurant and takeaway in Ocean Road boasts a clutch of awards and a host of loyal customers, which now includes me.

It dares to be little bit different, but it’s proud of its roots.

Our four-strong party, plus baby, were practically put on first-name terms with our fishes.

And our expansive menu educated us about everything from the origins of the business to how tips were distributed among staff.

We knew which boat brought them in, how they were caught and were able to decide whether they were smothered in batter or lightly grilled.

I chose to have my haddock without the golden coating – sacrilege maybe, but one of the tenderest, most flavour-packed fish I’ve eaten.

Even swapping chips for salad wasn’t a disappointment, as it came stuffed with unusual additions including olives, sundried tomatoes and palm hearts.

My nod to old-style chippy tea was a miniature silver bucket filled with superb homemade mushy peas.

Two of my friends kept it totally traditional with cod and chips, while the other experimented with calamari and a sweet chilli sauce.

Praise all round – everything tasted fresh and “clean” – no overused oil here.

Even the bread buns won points for coming from a local supplier, served with real butter and low-fat margarine.

The only complaint was Fanta served in a can, rather than a glass – better suited to a truck stop, they thought.

Baby didn’t say much, but was happy with a few gigantic chips to smear about.

It wasn’t cheap, with my fish and a cuppa coming to £13.65.

Staff usually won’t split the bill between diners, though they made an exception for us on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

So because the bill doesn’t specify what you’ve eaten, you need a good memory or a laid-back approach to paying your share.

Jane O’Neill

Twitter: @janethejourno