Located in Southbourne, Bournemouth, just a few hundred yards from the beach, Ricky’s isn’t your average chippy. But then again, owner Ricky Knowlton isn’t your average fish frier.
Building on his classic chef training as a youngster, for the past 30 odd years Ricky has cooked up all manner of styles of cuisine from traditional pub grub and fine dining dishes for ladies that lunch, to fry ups for London’s cabbies and trendy street food at local festivals. He’s now rolled up all his life experiences and passion for fresh, quality food and opened a fish and chip takeaway with a street food twist.
“All my training and all the jobs I’ve done, there was always one thing they had in common; fresh food cooked well. We would turn up at a hall in a van with ovens in the back because the hall didn’t have a kitchen. We learned to think on our feet, we learned about doing numbers but all the time the focus was on quality.”
Not surprisingly then you won’t find anything processed here, not even a frozen chicken nugget. Instead, everything that can be made on-site is done so and by experienced chefs who love nothing more than experimenting with different combinations and flavours. The food is as colourful as it is tasteful, bursting with fresh sauces, vegetables, salads and garnishes all made using ingredients from local suppliers.
Battered cod and haddock are the mainstays on the menu but there are also homemade fishcakes packed full with fish, wraps crammed with pulled pork and beef brisket cooked in the shop’s own smoker, dirty fries smothered in a hearty Mexican pinto bean chilli, sour cream and cheese, and a fish katsu burger slathered in Asian slaw. As individual as the menu is the shop itself after Ricky gave a local artist free rein to paint a unique underwater scene on its walls and characters on its windows.
“We ordered a lot of takeaway food before we opened and it was rubbish, there was no freshness to it,” says Ricky. “We ordered dirty fries and they were just bland and awful, everything was processed. With ours you’ve got slaws, dried onions, fresh sauces, homemade salsa – there’s so much goodness in it.
“We do burgers too but it’s none of that frozen meat and crap bread. Our burgers are made by a local butcher, we use nice brioche buns and we fill them with our own onion rings. It’s about elevating street food to that next level.”
All ingredients Ricky uses are closely scrutinised, even down to the batter he buys, adding: “I won’t use any batter mix other than Ceres Natural Batter Mix. It’s perfect, there are no colourings in it, we don’t need to add anything to it, it does what we want it to do. We also use Ceres Fishcake Mix and that gets us right out of trouble. I like to keep everything fresh and the mix makes it so easy. We poach off the fish in milk, add in the Fishcake Mix with a few extra ingredients and off we go.”
The business, which Ricky only opened in August, was a project born out of lockdown and despite all the challenges the industry has faced, it’s got off to flying start and brought a breath of fresh air to the local area.
Ricky adds: “Things have quieted down now, I’m just beginning to learn that December and January are going to be a lot quieter but, on the whole, we’re smashing it. We will have cracked what the previous owner claims to have done in a year by February.
“It’s great because we’re getting the twenty-somethings in but we’re also getting those in their forties and their fifties because they’ve got a really good understanding of food and an appreciation for freshness and quality.
“We’re looking at new ideas, different styles of dirty chips. We’re also looking at how we can expand the vegan and vegetarian side of the business. That’s really taken off and not just with vegans and vegetarians but with everyone.
“Bringing the street food side into the business has really made the shop work. You can eat with us two or three times a week now. If you want fish and chips you can have that and then if you want to come back and have a nice dirty burger you can too.”