Nov 09

The Perils of Eating Vegetarian: “Fish” and Chips

Pumpkin Publog9 comments • 5,181 views

Pubs can offer many excellent things, as are being amply revealed in our Pubs of the 00s series. However, culinary invention is rarely one of them. Even self-proclaimed gastropubs rarely get further than putting ‘twists’ on the standard pub options — sausages, pies, burgers, sandwiches, fish & chips. Some of them just chuck the word ‘posh’ on the front of each and have done with it. This is because pubs should offer comfort and stability, and that’s what people want from them.

The Spirit Group (the managed arm of Punch Taverns) have, however, waded into the murky territory of food science, which they should really have left to the experts. Their winnovation is not to throw the word ‘posh’ before things but instead ‘vegetarian’. Now of course, in theory I applaud this. As a (recently lapsed) vegetarian, British pubs have been excellent in offering choices for those who do not wish to eat dead animals, albeit within the strictly limited repertoire of the pub menu as mentioned above. At its most unadventurous this may mean offering a green salad, or replacing meat with Quorn wherever it appears.

So if Punch Taverns wish to substitute fish with cheese (halloumi in this case), I can only be intrigued. Halloumi is a sturdy cheese, one that doesn’t melt easily, so would seem to be ideal for this project. The problem is in the execution. Three very large chunks of halloumi have been battered and deep fried. This is already too much for one digestive system to bear, but it also strips the halloumi of its distinctive salty taste and squeaky texture.

Ultimately, if I hadn’t already left behind my vegetarian resolve, eating this hideous slight to the glory of both fish and halloumi would surely have started me questioning the faith. I can only think that Punch bears some grudge against vegetarians. Can we have the Quorn back now?

(Incidentally, the pub we were in, the Imperial, is not one that appears on the Top 25 list, but it was on the shortlist. For the area, just off Leicester Square, it’s a comfortable pub which offers a pleasant environment for a pint of ale, especially now that they’ve removed the TV screens. Just be wary of that menu.)


  1. 1
    marna on 24 Nov 2009 #

    I had a very similar meal at Terre a Terre, of all places. A pinnacle of posh veggie food! The halloumi was tasty there, though, and still squeaked, and was very lightly battered. I wasn’t able to eat it all, but all the other portions were too big too.

  2. 2
    Chewshabadoo on 24 Nov 2009 #

    I was about to say the same thing, although I ate all mine. I thought it worked very well, certainly a million times better than Quorn.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 25 Nov 2009 #

    One of the meany pub projects of the 00’s which never quite got off the ground was out invention of Quish, the fish version of Quorn. Admitted this because it was flavoured with [‘CENSORED!’] which was deemed to be vegetarian by definition.

  4. 4
    theChristophe on 6 Feb 2010 #

    Have to disagree, had it today and it was amazing and the portions were just right, but then again I am a cheese lover.

  5. 5
    Alan B. on 25 Feb 2010 #

    I am an American and live in Atlanta, Georgia. I was on vacation in London over New Years and as a vegetarian was very excited to see a vegetarian “fish & chips” made with haloumi cheese. I tried it at 3 pubs and it was always extremely good. You can’t even get anything similar to that here in the USA. The veggie meals are always veggie burgers or pasta. You might think it would be the other way around. I’m trying to locate some haloumi cheese here so I can make it myself.

  6. 6
    Becs on 6 Jun 2010 #

    I had this meal for the first time last night after never hearing of this before and I must say…. Absolutely beautiful!! I have never eaten fish in my life yet for me the taste was what I think fish would taste like! My chips though were practically non exsistant which would have been fine if the same applied to the meat eaters dishes too but it didn’t!!! Next time I go out for a family meal and this is on the menu I know it is what I’ll be having!!! The Hut in ravenshead Nottingham is where I sampled this lovely yet high in calorie delight! Definitely a treat meal, not an over indulge meal!!! Exquisite!!

  7. 7
    Graham R on 26 Aug 2010 #

    I have had this twice now and its delicious. Had it on Tuesday in a chef and brewer in Hemel Hemstead and got 5 large pieces.

  8. 8
    Marita O'Meara on 7 Dec 2012 #

    I have to agree with the above comments – I had this dish on a recent trip to London – can’t remember which pub – and loved it. I came across this review as I was searching for a recipe so that I could make it myself. Seems simple enough to do so here’s hoping!

  9. 9
    Rob on 24 Jan 2014 #

    Also agreeing with the general comments on this post, the vegetarian fish and chips on offer in these pubs is amazing.

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