SOMETIMES we bring you news of a near perfect curry we have found, a brilliant pizza, the ultimate fine dining experience – oh well, we can try.
But one thing eludes us: the perfect fish and chips.
Why? Well, there are several things stacked against this.
For a start, you need to eat fish and chips the second they leave the frier.
Forget any worries about third degree burns. Fish and chips wait for no man.
Most chippies serve your freshly battered haddock wrapped up in paper, so no matter how golden and crispy it looked when you were being asked “SALT VINEGAR?!!”, (both of which are usually skimped on or blindly applied), by the time you open this inviting parcel at home, or even in the car, it has been steamed to a soggy paste. Feel sick yet? You will once you've eaten it.
So you ask for them served “open”. But who wants to eat a chippy tea in the middle of Stuart Road, L4 (Byrnes, est 1930s, open Mon-Fri if you are up that way), or share it with the pigeons in Ranelagh St (Lobster Pot). And Otterspool/Sefton Park are STILL too far away from Chris's (Aigburth Vale) to keep the magic alive.
No. No matter how good the food was when it was cooked, the right conditions for eating it in are 80 percent of the experience.
You need a pleasant place to sit, preferably with a view to mull as you masticate, and, for all the reasons above, that place needs to be right outside the chippy.
Cue The Parkgate Takeaway, or rather the wall outside the Parkgate Takeaway, overlooking the marshes and onto North Wales. Was it built for this very purpose? It could have been.
On a Saturday afternoon after a long walk along the Wirral Way (ok, we initially drove there, I didn't make the kids march all the way from Birkenhead), the Neston air was as crisp as the golden, delicate lacy coating which enveloped the gleaming fresh cod we had purchased from this wonderfully old-fashioned shop.
With its Victorian paintings on the walls, faded 'best chip-shop' citations and spotless tables in the rear, the Takeaway was warm and inviting. But not for us.
Sitting on that wall, with the many twitchers, which was the better view?
Looking out across to Snowdonia? At a rare reed warbler through the sort of lens paparazzi use? Or was it down at us, the greed warblers? At our own, mountainous, £4-a-head-chip feast, made from proper floury tats?
The many people who walked past us clearly preferred the latter, peering at the batter.
Many chippies cut their fish lengthways, so it appears you are getting a big piece. In fact they often weigh just four ounces. No such trickery here. This is the sort of food to keep you going into the next day and when it came to the crunch, no trace could be left of those expertly cooked maris pipers.
Was it the perfect fish and chips? Well given all the conditions above, it was approaching it. Oh, and here's another thing: They let you go berserk with the salt and vinegar yourself.
And, as far as ultimate non-fine-dining experiences go, it was, well, very fine indeed.
Just don't tell those city pigeons. It's only 10 miles as the crow flies and they might be feeling peckish. And who among us would want to spoil the view of that reed warbler?
||The Parkgate Takeaway
0151 336 8811
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect.