Fish & Chips


Monday, 19 December, 2016

Sydney, Australia

So, (unless Leeds United reach the play-off final) it looks like I’ll be living in Australia for the next twelve months – beginning with Sydney. This is it. The final year I put off adulthood (that is not set in stone) and explore the world.

In 2018, I’ll turn thirty – which of course is the time to panic – it’s the year I’ll need to buy a colourful tie collection to fit my job in sales, take out a mortgage, get a female who’s also thirty up the duff and buy two pet dogs to complete the family home.

I’m looking forward to it already – hiring a babysitter once a month so that we can get blottoed at Carol and Dave’s until the clock strikes midnight – oh yes, that is certainly the future for me. Not just yet though. At twenty-eight, I’m still in my youth!

Therefore, for the next year I plan on aimlessly bouncing around Australia, picking berries and stroking kangaroos.

While I look forward to seeing kangaroos, I’ve been craving something far closer to my heart in recent weeks. There is a lot I’ve missed from the UK since being away. However, there has been one particular dish that I have desired more than most.

I’m British, so it probably goes without saying – but, if for some reason I still need to spell it out for you, then the food I have been dreaming of for the last year is, of course, a lovely tin of spotted dick. The fruit, the sponge, the spot, the dick – it’s everything a man could ever want all rolled into one dessert.

Ok, you’ve got me – I didn’t actually crave spotted dick. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never even eaten it before. What I’ve really wanted since my last visit to the UK was some fish & chips topped with scraps, a pot of mushy peas and wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper.

On our second day in the city, we walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge – which comes with a fantastic view of the city, in particular the iconic Opera House – and by the time we made it to the other side, we had built up a little bit of an appetite and fell upon a takeaway shop called ‘Spitroast’.

I know, a food place titled ‘Spitroast’ doesn’t exactly have you licking your lips and fantasising about some sweet spotted dick dripping with custard. Although, now that I think about it, a lot of customers who find themselves in ‘Spitroast’ probably do end up leaving with spotted dick.

However, believe it or not, it wasn’t actually the word ‘Spitroast’ that first caught my eye – which can only be a good thing. Instead, underneath swung a big banner advertising fish & chips – the time to chomp down on my nation’s favourite food had finally arrived.

Fish & chips were pretty difficult to find in Taiwan, and when they did serve them, it seemed like the chefs were in the back playing dares and the joke was on me. I made the mistake of ordering our nation’s greatest dish once, and the waiter brought over some battered tuna with two sides. The sides were a portion of cold pasta and some prawn flavoured crisps. I refused to go back. They’d absolutely butchered a true British delicacy.

So, we entered ‘Spitroast’ at our own risk and I got what I wanted, while Monica got herself a Greek salad – which was actually really good. Seriously, if you want a reasonably priced decent Greek salad in Sydney, ‘Spitroast’ is your place.

On a side note, I’ve now typed the word/s ‘Spitroast’ seven times. It probably inaccurately indicates that I’m secretly enjoying emphasising that ‘Spitroast’ is a little bit of a naughty name – eight, crap!

So, the fish & chips.

I’ll give ‘Spitroast’ credit as they did provide me with the best fish & chips I’ve had this year – but then that is a contest in which tuna, pasta and crisps takes second place. So, it’s hardly a win you brag to your mates about.

However, these fish & chips were sadly not up to much.

I was looking at a box of skinny, McDonald’s style chips, a fish soggier than your fat uncle’s armpits and a dollop of ketchup. I’m not giving up on you just yet Australia, but ‘Spitroast’ has done very little to promote your fish & chips game.


Other than attempting a ‘Spitroast’ for the first time and being left disappointed. We’ve mostly spent our opening days completing the mundane but necessary tasks that come with a fresh start – getting a travel card, opening a bank account and whatnot.

This has obviously required a fair amount of interaction with a lot of locals working in customer service, and frankly, it’s a whole different ball game.

The Taiwanese really went out of their way to provide good customer service, they would send over six people to help you tie your shoelace. The British, well, we secretly detest you for having the nerve to want to buy something while we’re discussing last night’s TV. However, we’ll still break chat, fake a smile, take your request and ask about your day (inside we are praying that you say nothing more than ‘yeah, it’s been all right’).

The Australians seem far blunter and to the point – I wouldn’t exactly say that they are rude per se, but they certainly cut the crap when talking to customers. In short, you’re far more likely to be greeted with a ‘What do you want?’ than a ‘Hi, how may I help you?’

It does throw you off guard at first. For instance, when we were in the bank and I needed to sort out my online account, I was required to do the old ‘enter your new password’ / ‘re-enter your new password’ drill and I botched it – *passwords do not match*.

Of course, this is a simple error in pleasant Taiwan or fake-pleasant Britain – but in forthright, outspoken Australia, not so much.

“You really need to be more careful when you type.” She said, while she watched over my shaking finger as I proceeded with a second attempt. This made me feel a bit nervous. Imagine if I typed it incorrectly twice, ‘Are you a bloody moron or something?’

I closed my eyes as I pressed confirm. The pressure in that moment was intense, if you were watching from home you’d probably be cut off for an advert break to increase the anticipation.

You’ll be overjoyed to know that I made it on to the second page – naturally, I was ecstatic. I considered high5ing the banker, but I didn’t think she would have really gone for it.

The rest I completed like a man with confidence and I’m now set up with the bank. I should probably find a job at some point – it would be good to have a bit of money to put into my account, particularly considering I now have a password I’ll never forget.

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