Fish and chips is arguably Britain’s most famous dish. Flakes of soft white cod cocooned in crispy homemade batter with a truck-load of chips smothered in malt vinegar – it’s a real showstopper, one that has stood the test of time.
Hackney-based fish and chip shop Sutton & Sons has been serving up the traditional deal for some time, but it recently made waves in London after opening a fully vegan experience.
While Food Spark has seen tofu versions of the dish in pubs around the country, Sutton & Sons has opted for the more unusual option of banana blossoms to mimic the age-old British staple – to great success, judging by the queues.
So how did the kitchen come up with its signature dish? And why the move to 100% vegan?
You snooze you lose
Daniel Sutton, founder of Sutton & Sons, tells Food Spark that the new vegan branch – the fourth in the armada – was first mooted as an answer to a different dietary problem entirely.
“Initially, it was about wanting to make the step to go gluten-free, but it’s almost impossible to maintain that effectively in a proper fish and chip shop, what with all the batter flying around,” says Sutton.
“With the popularity of veganism at the moment, it’s a bit ‘snooze you lose’ with the food industry!”“We had a couple of vegan things on the menu across our three sites which were pretty popular, so when a new site became available just down the road from our other Hackney branch, we thought that it was the right time to enter the vegan market and combine gluten-free and vegan all under one roof.
In order to come up with a suitable animal-free version of fish and chips, Sutton went vegan for a month. He quickly dismissed tofu as “pretty tasteless,” then cycled through many other options before finally settling on banana blossom.
“I must admit I’d never heard of it before a mate of mine in a nearby restaurant recommended it,” he says. “It’s a bit like an artichoke and it has a similar texture to actual fish. Getting the fish flavour was the tricky bit. But marinating it in samphire, seaweed and a few herbs does the trick.”
Along with the banana blossom n’ chips, Sutton & Son’s vegan menu includes vegan prawns, ‘scampi’ made with a potato starch combination, burgers and fish cakes made with seitan and soya protein, and even a ‘steak’ and ale pie from the local Camden company, Young Vegans.
They also have a vegan tartare sauce and classic jumbo sausages that are, of course, gluten-free and entirely vegan.
Even those who might dismiss the move as a PR stunt can’t deny that it’s been a remarkably successful gambit.
“It was all a bit crazy. The day we opened there were something like 110 posts and articles about us around the world. We even got into the New York Times!” notes Sutton.
“Things have been mental, in a good way, but my wife joked that she’d leave me if I opened another one, so I’m buying up all the banana blossoms I can lay my hands on and hoping for the best!”
Five more venues with vegan fish fare
By Chloe: crispy tofu, mushy peas, chips and tartare sauce
Tell Your Friends: breaded aubergine fillet with cashew tartar sauce
The Veggie Chippy: ‘vish,’ battered ‘vod and ‘vish’ fingers made from soy
Holy Cow: ‘fish’ burger made from celeriac wrapped in seaweed
Horse and Plough: battered tempeh and chips