Frying tonight: Pattaya’s love affair with fish and chips isn’t codswallop

Shaun Sharples with some of his fully-trained staff at “Sharples” traditional fish and chip shop at Pattaya’s Tree Tops.

Pattaya’s first dedicated fish and chip shop goes back to the early 1990s. But the enterprising pioneers – Simons, Curry and Chips, Jolly Friar amongst others – all came to a sticky end for one reason and another. Of course, more or less any cook can create a British fry-up called fish and chips. But the many poor versions in the UK probably explain why chicken tikka masala has overtaken the dish in the eternal battle to be the nation’s favorite supper. That’s according to some polls at least.

The newest Pattaya cod (sorry, kid) on the block is British northerner Shaun Sharples, a vivacious and personable guy who has very recently opened a traditional fish and chip restaurant and take-away “Sharples” with a Thai business partner. It’s in an ideal spot in the Tree Tops complex on Soi Buakhao. Now Shaun reckons he knows a thing or two about the business as his family back home have opened six outlets throughout north west England.

“The important thing is to maintain quality and consistency in the product,” he says. “You have to know which potatoes are suitable, and which aren’t, train staff fully about the temperature of the quality oil and know your fish backwards.” The location is another key. Soi Buakhao has now assumed the mantle of Pattaya’s favorite after-dark haunt and Tree Tops is the very heart of the action. It’s full of short term and expat foreigners, including legions of Brits, who are looking for a taste of home as well as Pattaya’s own particular brand of delicacies.

Keith Fortt (left) and Barry Kenyon take a day off tiresome dieting to enjoy a plate of fish and chips at the Caddy Shack restaurant.

Shaun reckons there’s a gap in the market. “Fish and chips are a menu item in some very good Pattaya restaurants, but “Sharples” is a traditional stand-alone chippy British-style.” In addition to a choice of cod or haddock, you’ll find on offer the necessary extras-from-home including mushy peas, jumbo sausages, a curry or tartare sauce, lashings of salt and vinegar and – coming soon – Holland’s authentic puddings. There’s no Thai food and no separate menu. A combo meal will cost you 299 baht. Incidentally there’s no Dory because what often passes for this expensive fish in Thailand is actually a rather tasteless and best-avoided Pangasius.

Meanwhile, across the resort, there’s a huge selection of restaurants promising fish and chips. Somebody on a Facebook blog site estimates the number at around 700. They vary on standards from first-rate to absolutely awful, the latter often confusing French fries with real chips and failing to understand the true meaning of beer batter. Those are mortal sins in the real fish fryer’s world. No wonder fish and chips helped Britain win Hitler’s war.

Inevitably, the internet houses near-daily jousts to find the best fish and chips in Pattaya, mirrored by a similar sport known as “the best British breakfast” with or without a black pudding. There can never be a firm answer as each blogger brings his or her own culinary preferences and personal loyalties to bear. As Keith Fortt at the popular Caddy Shack says, “The best fish and chips in Pattaya are hand-crafted chips and imported cod with crispy beer batter. They are, of course, fried to perfection by my wife and kitchen staff.” Well, he would say that wouldn’t he?