Traditional fish & chips shop Sutton and Sons is London’s first vegan chippy. Source: The Wern via Bloomberg
London’s first standalone vegan fish and chip shop has opened in an entirely predictable location: Hackney, the East London district whose working-class roots have been dyed and styled into something a little more colorful.
The traditional British dish has undergone a makeover, with banana blossom — a flower used in Asian cooking — substituting for fish. At Sutton and Sons, they marinate the blossom in seaweed and samphire for a sea-fresh flavor, then fry it in an eggless batter.
Danny Sutton, the owner of Sutton and Sons, is an unlikely character to be hanging with the hipsters. He comes from generations of market traders in the area, reflected in his cockney accent. But he says East London is the perfect place for the first vegan chippy.
“That’s where all the culinary things are happening at the moment,” he says. “There have always been lots of people from different cultures that live here, and there have always been lots of different kinds of food.”
There’s no shortage of vegan offerings in the neighborhood. They include Black Cat vegan cafe, where all food, cleaning products and materials are plant based and not tested on animals; Just FaB, vegan-Italian food and beverages served in a double-decker red bus; Vegan Yes, serving Italian-Korean fusion food; and CookDaily, with a Laotian chef.
In recent years, East London has become synonymous with quirky restaurants. Cereal Killer Café offered than 120 breakfast cereals and a selection of milks. Vegan options are served out of avocado shells. In 2015, the Brick Lane outlet was invaded by activists protesting against gentrification. The area is also the home of Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat cafe, where cats roam free while guests enjoy coffee and cake. High-tea options include vegan, gluten-free vegetarian, pescetarian, and dairy-free.
Sutton created the vegan fish as a special for Veganuary—a month of vegan eating—and it sold so fast he couldn’t buy enough banana blossom to make more. It was then that he decided to move his regular chippy down the road, turning the original premises into a store where you can try vegan versions of prawn cocktail, fishcake and scampi without consuming anything that ever swam (the prawns are potato starch and the burgers seitan). And of course the classic BLT is made with a bacon alternative called facon.
The golden, crunchy batter looks and tastes the part. The fish substitute has a firm and meaty texture when you bite in, though it’s a bit fibrous. With enough ketchup or tartar sauce, you could tell yourself it’s like the real thing, especially after a few craft IPAs. It’s not bad — but it’s not for me.
Sutton, 44, has an eye for publicity. He was in the news previously for serving deep-fried Brussels sprouts as a Christmas special.
But what does he really think about East London getting posh?
“I grew up around here,” he says. “In the ’80s, it was different. There were lots of roads that were barricaded off. You couldn’t go down. You didn’t want to go down them. Even the police didn’t go down them. All that has gone now. Obviously, it has got its problems still, with teenagers and gangs and that sort of thing. Hopefully someone is going to come along and sort that out.”
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