Rob ’n’ Jay’s Chippy fries up the tastes of Mother England I side with Liverpool,” the fresh-faced lad at the counter claimed, his frayed Liverpool cap slightly askew, a prop to hold his pen. “The owner, he’s from Manchester. They’re bitter rivals.” They were still working out some kinks at the register, and he had to run to the back for some more forks. -Mushy peas and gravy join a basket of fish and chips on the counter at Rob ’n’ Jay’s.- Despite these quirks, business was brisk. “The other day they were out the door,” he bragged. “And that’s with no advertising.”
Rob ’n’ Jay’s Chippy, the fish and chips joint which has recently colonized the northern third of the former Palmer-Kelly Florists location on College Avenue, is a veritable shrine to all things British. Pots of Spotted Dick and bottles of Daddy’s Favourite brown sauce line shelves inside the door along with such “pukka” English sweets as Cadbury Curly Wurlys, Toffie Crisps and Yorkie bars, labeled with the stern counsel “not for girls.”
The “Jay” in Rob ’n’ Jay’s is Jason Kersh, the Manchester-born owner who has clearly worked hard to bring an air of authenticity to his “chippy”; “Rob” is his wife Robin. Their culinary collaboration pays plentiful homage to their favorite sport. Three TVs blast the day’s soccer scores, and signed soccer balls, soccer scarves and soccer posters, all with a clear Manchester bent, complete the décor. Loyalties notwithstanding, the staff seem to get along with typical British gentility.
Eschewing the typical bottled sodas in the cooler by the counter, we chose cans of Ribena Spark and Sparkling Vimto, curiously similar, lightly carbonated brews, both flavored with black currants, the latter also hinting at raspberries and grapes. A small chalkboard listed a half dozen or so British and American brews. But while Brits might knock a pint back for lunch, we decided to keep our wits about us.
Claiming that the first piece of fish was a little small, our counter guy brought us two whopping portions in a basket lined with waxed paper printed to look like the traditional square of the daily news used in British chippies (a custom now largely banned for hygienic purposes). A healthy dipping in the batter helped keep the outside crunchy and the white flesh of the fish quite creamy. And while the crust held a fair amount of oil from the fryer, every bite was delicious as the next, and a dash of malt vinegar now and then helped to stave off the grease.
The chips proved a great first mate to the fish. Far from the pallid, rail-thin fries at most fast-food places, these were earthy, peel-on russets that stuck together under the heft of the fish. Getting past their slight sogginess, we dug in, ecstatic to rediscover what potatoes could actually taste like in their unprocessed state.
Perhaps even better than the fish and chips was the shepherd’s pie ($6.50), that other staple of pub grub. Served in an aluminum foil dish that could easily feed a small family, the “pie” was a macho, richly beefy stew without too many sissy vegetables that came smothered in mashed potatoes and a generous melting of decidedly sharp, tangy English cheddar. No Yankee American cheese allowed in this joint. After all of this, mushy peas ($1.25) seemed almost unnecessary, but the peas were sweet enough to be dessert, and they weren’t so mushy as to resemble food for senior citizens.
By this point, we’d polished off most of the short menu. But we hadn’t tried the vegetarian fish and chips (with portobellos instead) or some of the other types of chips. A bit of an imperialist’s spirit remained alive in the “chips with curry,” and “chips with gravy” seemed a good bet for a future visit.
A sign on the storefront next door promised everything from Greek to Middle Eastern cuisine “coming soon.” Just another indication of the neighborhood’s diverse and widening culinary scene. With Rob ’n’ Jay’s to remind us of our colonial roots, it’s anyone’s guess where Indy diners might venture next.
Rob ’n’ Jay’s Chippy 5168 N. College Ave. 927-1995
Monday-Saturday, 11-11 Sunday, noon-9 Food : 3 1/2 stars
Atmosphere : 3 1/2 stars
Service : 3 stars