Where can you find the best fish finger sandwich in the UK?
By Jen Bedloe
How do you make the best fish finger sandwich? A packet of frozen fish fingers and a couple slices of bread? Think again…
Last week I was invited to judge at the first Birds Eye Fish Finger Sandwich Awards to find the best fish finger sandwich recipe from the public and professionals. There were over 100 entries, whittled down to the top three from each category.
Along with fellow judges BBC MasterChef celeb Gregg Wallace, The Telegraph‘s Xanthe Clay, Birds Eye head chef Peter Lack and Danny Kingston AKA blogger FoodUrchin we discovered, apart from the fact we all absolutely love fish fingers, that making a really decent sandwich is a tough gig.
Meet the finalists
Greg Shaw served fish fingers topped with homemade lemon and dill mayonnaise, Gabrielle Sander served fish fingers with smoked paprika mayo, capers, lime juice, wasabi and rocket in a crusty farmhouse bap, and ‘JJ’ Jonathan Foan served fish fingers topped with cajun red slaw and mango and avocado salsa in a grilled brioche bun.
Chris Lanyon, from Chapel Café in Port Issac, served Cornish hake coated in panko with homemade tartar sauce.
Ewen Hutchison, from Shrimpwreck in Edinburgh, served cajun haddock in tempura batter with pickled samphire, tartare and rocket.
Kevin Gratton, from Fish Dogs, served ‘fish dogs’, made with pollack, in a hot dog roll with mushy peas and tartare sauce.
We’d already selected our top three sandwiches from a shortlist sent to us in January and last Thursday, at the awards, we got to taste the entries at Tramshed, in East London. I arrived hot from the April delicious. cover shoot in West London (one travels for the love of a fish finger sandwich) and was ushered through the back of the restaurant to a ‘secret’ kitchen filled with contestants/their supporters, photographers, videographers and Mischief PR, who were hosting the awards.
We sat at a bar over-looking the kitchen area, so we got a ‘birds eye’ view of the cooking. Points were definitely awarded for the chef’s prep skills. We chatted to the pretty nervous contestants and Gregg was thoroughly entertaining with his fishy facts and one-liners.
Each contestant had just 15 minutes to make their sandwich and a little extra time to ‘plate up’ and present their final dish. They made two for the judges to taste and one for the photographer to snap. Each sandwich was scored out of 10 for innovation, taste, texture and presentation. The scores were pretty close…
After the final sandwich was eaten (scoffed – it was fantastic) we were invited to sit up on the mezzanine level away from any prying eyes to discuss our favourites. The judges disagreed on smaller points like how fine should you chop the ingredients for a tartare sauce? Is salad a necessary addition to the plate? And, why did no one give us any ketchup? But we were unanimously agreed on the two worthy winners.
We were then ushered to a secret room at the back of the restaurant, which was already full of journos, the contestants and their supporters. But the guest everyone wanted to get close to was Captain Birdseye himself, who was on hand for a few selfies.
The judges were introduced and the winners announced. The prize – a prestigious golden fish finger sandwich trophy, a year’s supply of fish fingers and the winning recipe will appear on the back of packs Birds Eye fish fingers…
The public winner was Gabrielle Shaw. We thought her sandwich had the best-cooked fish fingers and the pepped up punchy mayonnaise didn’t overpower the rest of the sandwich.
The professional winner was Chris Lanyon from Chapel Cafe. The fish was excellent – British hake fresh from Cornwall – and, although we didn’t all agree on the tartare sauce/side salad accompaniment, the flavour and texture of the fish fingers, and superb fresh bread, won the day.
What would you favourite fish finger sandwich have in it? Find our delicious. recipe here.