Chef Jesse Morrison and The Common team took a chance on revamping the tried and true chippy, foregoing dark paneling, heavy furniture and standard seafood offerings with a bright room and menu chockfull of intriguing dishes — from oysters and mussels to salads and fishes.
The room finds balance between hipstery and history with a combination of Edison lightbulbs, vintage dinnerware, and nautical accoutrements.
It's a comfortable space for nearby office workers to grab an after-work Guinness; for curious eaters to dip smoked fish fritters into jalapeno mayo, and for young and old alike to dive into plates of glistening, golden-battered cod and kin —including the not oft-seen red snapper, and New Zealand sea bream offered as part of the "Fish of the Day" rotation.
The sea bream from New Zealand, brought in by Rob Tryon of Effing Seafoods, arrives fresh, not frozen, and is sold to the chef as part of a mixed box.
Depending on the day and what is left in the box, you might find bright red Alphonsino or even Scorpion Fish as the daily special.
Despite the unique differences of the species, each selection retains one common factor — that being the divine end-result of perfectly cooked, succulent fish enveloped in a light, crispy batter.
Only lemon needed
A squeeze of lemon is the only condiment needed, although it's hard to ignore the nicely balanced house-made tartar.
The accompanying Kennebec fries, too, need no adjustment other than the kitchen adding a few more to the plate.
Morrison offers a handful of sides for those who feel the need to ramp up their fish and chip experience.
The Brussel Sprout Bubble & Squeak are worthy of a mention. The pan-frying of the sprouts and the potatoes adds some savoury caramelized depth to the dish.
The loaded mashed potato, as well as the green beans, broccoli and snap peas, however, while pretty to look at, don't offer much more than good looks.
I drifted towards France on my second visit with an order of lightly battered escargot and a bowl of Salad Niçoise.
The escargot would go well with a glass of the Blanche de Chambly white beer; the salad, however, with its crown of expertly seared, rose-coloured tuna, would go well with anything, any time of day, any day of the week.
The cooked-to-rare fish sits on a bed of citrus-dressed salad greens, accompanied by hard-boiled egg, green beans, and purple and white potatoes. It is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.
The salad is filling, yet light, and needs only a glass of wine to make it even better.
On that topic, the wine list needs improvement: a Provençal rosé, perhaps, and a crisp Sancerre to match the briny beauty of the Nanoose Bay oysters, and all would be forgiven.
If one choice needs to be made for the desserts, lean towards the Banoffee pie, a lovely combination of sweet cream, toffee and banana.
Chart your course for Grandin Fish 'N' Chips, located at 9902–109 St.