When it comes to fish and chips Colmans pretty much batter the opposition.
Serving up Britain’s national dish since 1926, the South Shields chippy’s been keeping fish fans well fed for generations.
Tradition is the dish of the day, every day, at its Ocean Road restaurant, but last year the family firm decided to try something different.
After a £1million investment and nine months of extensive building work, they opened the former Gandhi’s Temple bandstand on South Shields seafront as Colmans Seafood Temple.
With its striking round oyster bar that wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy London hotel, panoramic views of the North Sea and clean design, this is an altogether fancier way to eat your fish and chips. I usually tuck into my fish lot through fingerless gloves on a windswept beach, but this setting makes eating the humble British classic seem like that bit more of an occasion.
We visited on a Saturday night where the restaurant, which still retains its elegant classical columns from its days as a bandstand, had a real weekend buzz about it.
Taking our seats at the opulent oyster bar we tucked into a couple of the molluscs, served as either natural or crispy with tartare sauce, which are harvested up the coast in Lindisfarne.
They’re a premium appetiser at £2 a go but visit during happy hour (Monday to Friday 4pm to 6pm) and you can knock them back for £1 a shuck.
Appetites whetted we took our seat at one of the window tables which offer uninterrupted views of the coast - you’ll be hard pushed to find a Shields restaurant with a finer vista.
The fish and chip faithful needn’t fret, it’s still a staple part of the menu with cod (£9.45) and haddock options (£10.45), which you can order with local favourite sides, such as chip shop curry sauce (£2) and a stottie for a quid. But there’s also some more inventive fish fare, such as Malaysian-inspired seafood curry (£14.95).
I chose the potted salmon terrine to start (£7). This pretty-in-pink starter was beautifully-presented as a thick slab of velvety terrine punctuated with fleshy chunks and wrapped in silky smoked salmon.
Service-wise, though we couldn’t fault it for friendliness, a blunder with my order meant I was served battered halloumi and chips instead of halloumi salad (£9.95) for mains. We pointed out the mistake and were soon compensated with the free extra main and a couple of gratis glasses of Picpoul - a perfect accompaniment to fish dishes and one of a good range of wines on the menu.
Once it arrived, my salad was loaded with flavour, but I couldn’t help eyeing up the fresh cod and chips opposite me. I didn’t need asking twice if I wanted to try the fluffy chips with just the right bite and perfectly-flaky cod. Sublime. No wonder Colmans has been reeling them in for decades.
Five other seafood ‘plaices’ to try
•Downey’s, Seaham and Roker, Sunderland
Expect classic cod and haddock at this favourite which started life in Seaham before opening branches elsewhere in the area. Its sit-in restaurant overlooking Roker Pier is a particularly popular choice for fish and chips fans.
•Latimer’s, Whitburn Bents Road, Sunderland
Some of the best produce the North Sea has to offer can be found at this coast road fishmongers. If you’d rather not cook it yourself, there’s also an in house cafe with plenty of parking.
•Daniela’s Fish Bar, Front Street, East Boldon, South Tyneside
This fish shop its famed for its trendy decor, as well as its top-notch food. It’s also built up a firm following thanks to its hearty portion sizes. As well as takeaway, there’s also an option to sit inside.
•Riley’s Fish Shack, King Edward’s Bay, Tynemouth
One of the region’s most Instagrammed fish restaurants, Riley’s offers a stunning beach location. Wrap up warm and tuck into a good selection of seafood choices.
•Minchella’s, Seaburn, Sunderland
If you fancy eating your fish and chips as you stroll along the beach you can’t do much better than Minchella’s. Just be prepared to queue in the cold during peak times.