One door closed on fish & chips – but the latest two remain open
Many expats – and even some locals – just love fish & chips. After a sudden burst on the scene of the places where you could get one of Britain’s favourite fast foods, one of them has closed – but only temporarily, as it seems.
By Martin Pütter
From sigh of relief to cry of exasperation it took just four months. In early March 2015 expats in the Basel area – particularly Brits – were over the moon that a “chippy” had opened. For those who are not familiar with this term: it means a fish & chip shop. However, four months after opening, Tramways, in Steinentorstrasse, has already closed again, and some Brits have already been lamenting the closure on social media. Those laments seem a bit exaggerated: Tramways is allegedly closed until end of July only, because of the high temperatures and school holidays, as TBJ was told.
Typical British cuisine – or perhaps rather British fast food – cannot survive in Basel, locals nevertheless might argue now. But they are wrong. To use an old comparison: it’s like London buses – you wait for ages, and then three come in a row. Only a few weeks after Tramways had opened, Basel got another pub: Flanagan’s at Picassoplatz, and on their menu – yes, you guess correctly – are fish & chips. At the same time the Fish Inn, recently moved from Reinach into the premises at Clarastrasse where “Fair & Square” used to be, finished work on its kitchen. And hey presto – they have fish & chips as well.
Although I am not a Brit by birth I have come to like fish & chips – properly done it is an excellent meal. And as I wrote in my column about little differences, fried perch fillets – a dish many Swiss are very fond of – are just a Swiss version of fish & chips. The difference: it is made with freshwater fish, and served with boiled potatoes. And I have eaten fried perch fillets here, in my adopted home country, that in quality were far below but in price far above some of the fish & chips I have eaten in the United Kingdom.
Now there are (or rather were) five places in Basel I know of that serve(d) fish & chips – and I have eaten in four of them. The odd one out is at the Markthalle – I shall try to change that soon. I ate fish & chips at Paddy Reilly’s at Heuwaage, and was a bit disappointed when the fish turned out to be bland pangasius instead of haddock or cod. Flanagan’s served good quality of cod, the chips were nice – however, the mushy peas reminded me more of mashy peas. And last but not least, my personal (repeat: personal) favourite: the Fish Inn.
So why was the first bus to arrive on the scene after a long wait the first to go out of service? A mixture of reasons, probably. The first couple of weeks the place did good business, many expats could be seen on the premises. When shortly after its opening I tried fish & chips at Tramways the quality was good, and they offered a choice of fish: either haddock, cod, or plaice. But then Tramways probably felt the competition of both Flanagan’s and Fish Inn and of the Kebab shop two doors down. Then also rumours about great swings in quality (depending apparently on who was on shift at Tramways) began to emerge. In the end, as one of the (few remaining) regulars put it on social media, Tramways just did not make any money. With temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86º F) and during school holidays even expats go to cooler places than chippies…
Tramways’ doors are now closed (at least for the moment), but thankfully others have remained open. Yes, fish & chips at Flanagan’s or the Fish Inn are slightly more expensive than what you paid for at the chippy in Steinentorstrasse, but the quality justifies that. So expats fond of fish & chips can issue another sigh of relief.
Picture by Andi Curran