London Chippy chef and co-owner Arjun Neil Bhakta said each time he traveled to the United Kingdom with his British Indian parents, they were always sure to visit a chippy.
“Whenever we went to London to visit family, the first thing they would always take me to — that they would rave about — is fish and chips,” said Bhakta.
While fish and chips can be found on restaurant menus throughout Orange County, there aren’t as many concepts devoted solely to the dish. “Chippies,” British slang for fish and chips shops, are hard to come by locally.
So when Bhakta’s friend and business partner Hiren Patel said he was looking for a food concept that would complement the bar he was taking over at Irvine’s TRADE Marketplace, he knew just the dish.
“He asked me for ideas for a good bar food that would be appropriate for outdoor dining; I said fish and chips,” Bhakta said.
London Chippy opened in March and is the first of three new concepts coming to TRADE Marketplace this year. Japanese onigiri concept, Ricebunn, opened recently serving salmon, tuna mayo, KBBQ beef and even vegan onigiri and global handmade yogurt brand, Yomie Yogurt, is set to open later this year.
“We are thrilled to be welcoming these three unique concepts,” said TRADE property manager Kana Lee. “We are always excited to see TRADE grow and diversify its offerings.”
Bhakta said he is excited to introduce the fish and chips he is familiar with to a new audience.
“I wanted to perfect a batter and perfect a tartar sauce that would go with it,” said Bhakta. “Most places, they put too much breading. I like when you can see the fish.”
Fish and chips came into favor in Britain when Jewish Portuguese refugees popularized the technique of frying fish. Many credit Ashkenazi Jew, Joseph Malin, with combining the fish with chips, or fried potatoes, in what may have been the first chippy in 1860.
Bhakta developed his recipe far more recently and the result is a hand-battered fish and chips, made with fresh, sustainable fish and served with classic steak cut fries.
“It’s a mixture of three different kinds of flours, and that is all I will say,” Bhakta said of his secret recipe.
Tartar sauce is made in house each day too and Bhakta uses cod exclusively.
Using fresh fish is important to Bhakta, who said the authenticity and freshness is what sets London Chippy apart.
“I hand cut all the cod, so every piece looks unique and it looks like fish,” Bhakta said. “It doesn’t look like a fish stick. And it’s fried to order.”
One challenge he’s met, as with most restaurants, has been staffing.
Bhakta said he has purposely kept the menu small since he works solo most days, with support from Patel. Other menu items include a shrimp poboy sandwich and a chip butty, a traditional sandwich from the UK filled with chips and other condiments.
“To me, simple food is the best,” he said.
Samosas are another way Bhakta said he is keeping offerings simple, but unique.
“Hiren’s wife hand makes the samosas,” Bhakta said, “and she makes the chutney and tamarind sauce as well.”
Bhakta is proud to share his own British-Indian American heritage with Orange County and he is delighted with the feedback London Chippy has received so far.
“A lot of people from the airport come by, a lot of Australians, a lot of British and they all come and say, ‘you could open one of these in the UK’,” said Bhakta. “It’s the best compliment.”
Visit London Chippy, Ricebunn, and Yomie Yogurt at TRADE Marketplace, 2222 Michelson Drive, Irvine.