Many years ago there, was a fish 'n chips shop on 14th and 2nd Avenue called English Harbour. It did nothing to reform America's dire view of British cuisine or differentiate authentic British style fish 'n chips from the insipid, generic fish and fries sold at national chains and diners. Frying fish, despite its seemingly elemental process is a delicate art. Any fool can batter a piece of fish and fry it to a golden crust—English Harbour was a case in point—but to preserve the delicacy of the fishes texture and elicit its flavor requires skill and craft.
Fortunately, A Salt & Battery opened shortly after English Harbour closed, and for the ex-pat or anyone that has enjoyed the real deal in the UK, New York was finally blessed with a true fish 'n chip shop. A Salt & Battery became the standard bearer for the authentic chip shop experience in Manhattan and helped give the cuisine some much needed legitimacy. For a spell they even had an outpost in the East Village on Second Avenue, which sadly has since shuttered.
A decade on and, as recent visit confirmed, they are still churning out a top quality product. There have been some changes—admirably, cod has been replaced by pollock because of concerns about sustainability—and of course there has been some price creep. But A Salt & Battery offers as close to the authentic chippy experience as one could hope to find outside of the UK.
My favorite fish in UK chip shops is plaice; the closest thing on the menu here is sole ($11 with chips), which is close enough to take me most of the way home. The fish has a delicate texture and mild flavor. It isn't as meaty as cod or pollock, but it has a pleasing litheness. It is expertly battered and fried here—the shatteringly crisp crust has a pure flavor that allow the fish to express itself.
The innards are soft and flaky.
The chips ($5) are suitably chunky and golden. Please resist the urge to douse them in ketchup—lashings of vinegar and a flurry of salt are the appropriate and most synergistic condiment. I wish that A Salt & Battery was more militant about ketchup, as putting it out on the counter just encourages usage!
They do a near-perfect rendition of shrimp and chips ($15). The generous portion of shrimp is cooked until just past translucence, insuring tenderness with out veering into rubberiness.
A banger ($6) that is deep fried is a dietitian's worst nightmare but a hangover's best friend. Admittedly it's a tough sell to the uninitiated, but once you break through the crisp crust into the juicy, herb-laced pork sausage, you'll be convinced.
The mushy peas ($4) are made in-house and are blessedly free of the neon food dye that often plagues the dish back home. The beans ($4) are from Heinz—'nuff said!