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Sitwell stirs it up

Perfect batter and fat, fluffy chips are a win for William

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William goes for fish and chips in Harrods

I have a nostalgia for Harrods, having had a holiday job there in my late teens in the run-up to Christmas. I was stationed on the ground floor in Smokers’ Requisites, a term that slides off the tongue almost as revoltingl­y as ‘moist’ or ‘doilies’. So we decided to use other expression­s when the phone rang: ‘Smokers and jokers, fags and gags!’ was one preferred greeting. But given that on the shelves behind me were also a strange collection of toy owls dressed as professors, or firemen, or astronauts, I preferred to say, ‘Good morning. Owl department!’ Considerin­g Harrods was the sort of place where one could buy a loaf of bread, a holiday or a yacht, an owl didn’t seem too far-fetched.

If one thought that Harrods was snazzy in those days, today it’s mesmerisin­g. All the more so, personally, because I don’t often go shopping – my idea of torture – and the past year has rendered us all devoid of such experience­s. So to enter Harrods, with its gleaming concession­s and lifts and seemingly never-ending rooms and chambers, made me feel like a kid in a sweet shop, albeit selling only sickly sweet ones I wouldn’t want anywhere near my mouth.

Truthfully, such places actually fill me with anxiety: all that stuff, everywhere, and so much of it. But psychologi­cal trauma aside, the food halls are incredible. Recently refurbishe­d, even the bread loaves, displayed on dark shelves glowing under spotlights, look like unattainab­le gems.

Now into this mix comes Tom Kerridge. Don’t think he has a restaurant here, it’s a concession – like everyone else, of course. But tucked into a corner of the even more chic dining area it’s a slick, dark, stylishly-lit set of kitchen, bar and booths. All one needed was a flight to board… indeed he should get this idea into airports, and maybe that’s the plan.

You may have read about this place: headlines screaming about how this pirate from the West Country has been selling fish and chips for £800 a plate, or something (OK, £35). Doubtless, that sort of PR is perfect to attract the sort of people who come to town in August and, parking their limousines around Knightsbri­dge, seek out the world’s most expensive cake, or burger, or fish and chips. I doubt it was on chef Kerridge’s bucket list as a nipper. ‘One day, Dad, I want to serve fish and chips in Harrods,’ he says, before Dad slaps him around the chops and orders him back out to the violent Cornish sea for 12 days.

Still, cost aside, his fish and chips are manifestly the best version I have ever tasted. Fresh, soft plaice in perfect crisp batter and not a hint of old oil. The fat chips, again, perfectly crisp and fluffy inside. And all of it glowing in that gorgeous half-light, that light that can confuse – you’d never know if it was midnight or dawn, snowing or a heatwave while you’re in there.

There was a good little gem salad, too, with a tasty but light dressing. My pal was eating lobster; a small one and at £55 quite steep, if that’s an issue for you. We had also started well with a choice of anchovies – salted or marinated with freshly baked sourdough – a lively beginning to whet one’s lips. But the Morecombe Bay shrimps didn’t work. Mr Kerridge has doubtless had so many he felt he should liven them up, so douses them in paprika. This makes me weep for the shrimp virgin. Nothing is better than to eat them simply in butter. Paprika should be an option. I’m still coughing and crying on the inside at the travesty.

But this one aberration aside, this place is a hugely fun, tasty and memorable treat.

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