Belfast Telegraph

The Northern Ireland chippy that's batter than the rest for four years in a row

By Allan Preston

There was a new 'cod' on the block at the National Fish and Chip Awards this week as Dungannon's Dolphin takeaway reached the prestigious grand final.

The honour follows the popular chippy on Georges Street also being named the top 'plaice' for a fish supper in Northern Ireland for the fourth year running.

Owner Malachy Mallon took a moment away from a hungry shoal of customers yesterday to talk about the achievement with the Belfast Telegraph.

"I'm absolutely delighted. I have a real love for what I do but it's all about the team I have behind me, I couldn't do it without them," he said.

Before the glittering awards ceremony in London, entrants were subjected to an anonymous judging visit in August, with the final 10 then invited to Norway to learn how fish is supplied to the UK.

After a final presentation to the judging panel, the overall winner was selected for having the best food quality, sustainability, menu choice, special dietary requirements and customer service.

Krispies Fish and Chips in Exmouth, run by husband-and-wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes, took the top UK prize, with the Dolphin reaching the top 10, as well as taking the regional title.

"We work through a fish supplier in Ardglass and are one of the very few chip shops in Northern Ireland that has fully sustainable status," Malachy explained.

"The secret to the perfect fish supper? It's really 30 years of practice and always sourcing the best quality ingredients that we can get our hands on.

"We know the journey of the product we're working with, the preparation of it and the temperature control, the quality of the fat you cook with."

Healthy living is also on the menu with lighter options such as steamed cod, at just under 350 calories, increasing in popularity.

"We've done a lot of research and development into that side of things and have a lower calorific count than across the rest of the UK," he said.

More than just a trophy, the spotlight of the national awards has brought spectacular benefits to past winners.

Last year's UK champion reported their takings doubled within months. Malachy agrees his four regional titles has more than kept his business afloat.

"We do notice that difference and I would encourage all chip shops across Northern Ireland to get involved in the process," he said.

"It's really good for business, it raises your standards and the profile of fish and chips.

"After the first year of being involved in the awards our business grew by 66%. That was 100% by the end of year two.

"There's also been increased popularity of the Northern Ireland scene across the UK. Food and drink is a fantastic industry to be part of.

"Fish and chips alone employ over 100,000 across the UK. So it's good food for the economy."

With Brexit looming, he remains confident about the future.

"I'm not particularly concerned, I'm an optimist," he said.

"But we do need a resolution because a time of uncertainty makes people nervous about making decisions.

"For us, whatever it is we'll deal with it and move on. I've no fear of Brexit."

Originally from Armagh, where he has just opened his second shop, Malachy says 30 years of frying fish in Dungannon has made him part of the fabric of the town.

"It's an amazing industry to work in and thankfully we enjoy a really great rapport with our customer base."

Belfast Telegraph

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