Did you know, you can pick up the most sustainable, tasty and nutritious takeaway from Kingfisher Fish and Chips in Plympton? Owners Craig and Nikki and their team have won countless awards and are pushing for more as they aim to become the number one fish and chip shop in the UK.
It might sound optimistic but this isn’t entirely out of reach – they’ve already been given second place. Kingfisher refuses to stand still and blend in with other takeaways, and that’s already evident as we walk through the door to be greeted by bright, green paintwork, cheerful staff and walls adorned with awards and information on the fish they serve. They really are bringing a fresh approach to fish and chips.
Their awards include the Fish and Chip Quality Award, of which only 250 chip shops in the UK can put their name to. The success has come in thick and fast for Craig and Nikki after they went in for four awards in their first year of opening in 2012, and having been shortlisted for them all, they’ve been motivated to keep at it and to come out on top. We’re already impressed by the amount of certificates on the wall and in the window, when Craig tells us that he has more to put out on display.
Not only have Kingfisher been shortlisted for Best in the South West and Top 10 in the UK, they’ve also found themselves with the most sustainable fish menu in the world. They have 12 MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified species on offer, all properly sourced and of high quality.
They’ve also found themselves with the most sustainable fish menu in the world
“We didn’t know it at the time when we did it, but it was the most MSC species on a menu anywhere in the world. We thought it might be a UK record, but 12 sits quite nicely and it works well for us. When you enlist a species you have to register it with the Marine Council. All of a sudden we got our 12th one and we got an email back saying “Congratulations, we’d like to market you as the most sustainable fish menu in the world.”” This includes restaurants as well as fish and chip shops.
Their efforts have also been recognised elsewhere, winning them the Good Catch Award – another win to put on display at Kingfisher.
The MCS (Marine Conservation Society, not to be confused with MSC) run a traffic light system to highlight endangered species and this is updated regularly. Therefore, Craig tells us that they “ensure that all of our seafood is kept in the green”, and won’t hesitate to remove a species from the menu if it’s no longer sustainable or if he doesn’t agree with the way it’s being farmed.
“We took cod roe off the menu for example, because we didn’t like the idea of it. It’s not an endangered species, not that it’s a species in its own right, but we didn’t like the way the boats go out farming for cod roe because that is the fish of the future. So we don’t do that, cod roe is not on our menu.
The team are happy to explain to customers why a species of fish may have disappeared from the menu, and it’s usually appreciated as consumers become more aware of the environment and where their food is coming from.
Kingfisher doesn’t always use fish from the Barbican Fish Market like many might expect, as there are simply too many fish and chip shops in Plymouth for the market to supply enough to them all.
“Our fish comes from the cold North East Atlantic, the Arctic waters, where it’s got certification and it’s sold sustainably. What happens is they’ll fish an area and then do regular checks by measuring random sacks of fish from boats which come in. If the percentage of fish is too small they’ll lock that area down to let the stocks grow. It’s really well managed.
“It’s a cleaner, fresh tasting fish which can be supplied in volumes and has the certification we’re looking for. More fish and chip shops need to be certified and source responsibly.”
Craig even works with the MSC now to get more fish and chip shops on-board and to raise awareness, and recently managed to get four takeaways onto the scheme. At the moment only 61 out of 10,500 shops have certification.
“It is something that will grow. It needs people like us to shine the light and lead the way because it’s essential. We have to make sure that there is fish for tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and for future generations. I think people are becoming more savvy about it now.”
Craig is making a difference not only for his customers, but for his suppliers too – he recently managed to persuade them to get hold of MSC certified plaice, as they weren’t convinced there was a market for it. In the end they decided to give it a go and it’s been a huge success.
We have to make sure that there is fish for tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and for future generations.
The chip shop owner really cares about the food he serves and takes his responsibility seriously. He’d been in the food industry for about 19 years in Sheffield when he answered a call to move to Plymouth and help operate and run a group of six fish and chip shops in and around the city.
Eventually the owner of the business lost interest and Craig took the opportunity to buy Kingfisher, which was run-down and un-loved.
“We changed absolutely everything – we changed the potatoes, we changed the fish…absolutely everything had an upgrade.” Only the name remained the same, but the proud new owners added ‘Fish and Chips’ to the end.
Craig and Nikki only care that their customers receive the best, even refusing to put up prices if outgoings increase as they source better packaging and better quality food.
“It’s never been about the money – that comes as a result. When we first opened the business we set it out that we would always be quality-led.
“We give customers the quality and product and level of service they should be getting, and try to raise fish and chips to a different level. It’s always been about that, not about how much money we can make.”
Kingfisher offer gluten-free batter on Mondays to cater to those with an intolerance, and their chips are cooked in a way which makes them vegetarian and vegan friendly.
“We’re trying unlock fish and chips for people who don’t usually have it for various reasons. We want to encompass as many people, because most people have a fond memory of fish and chips which pinpoints them to a great occasion in the past.
“Fish and chips is evolving now and I consider us to be one of the advocates, dragging fish and chips up by the scruff of its neck.”
There are lots of ideas in the pipeline at Kingfisher to better the customer experience and create a nutritious takeaway that everyone can enjoy. The meal can be completely tailored too, with baked potatoes as an alternative chips, and fish which can be battered, breaded or poached, and cooked in the healthiest way possible with fresh ingredients.
Craig and Nikki are also keen to be a big part of the community, where they already sponsor an under 7’s football team and a young table tennis team. Friday 3rd June is National Fish and Chip Day and Kingfisher will be raising money for the Fisherman’s Mission. Pop in and see them for fun, games and competitions as the team get behind the cause.
It’s important to support fish and chip shops like Kingfisher, who are raising the bar high when it comes to standards and quality. Craig and Nikki are keen for their business to be top.
“We don’t stand still, we’re our biggest critics. We’re genuinely looking for the next big thing all the time. We want to be the UK’s number one fish and chip shop, we’ll try hard. We’ve got to go for it again.”
We’re pretty certain that Craig and Nikki will soon run out of space on the walls to hang their awards.