Littlehampton is a town on the Sussex coast with a beautiful seafront and stunning countryside just inland, but the town itself seems like an afterthought, a faintly depressing place of hunched and stunted architecture. But there are some signs of life, or gentrification – there’s the swanky East Beach Cafe on the seafront, housed in an undulating metallic shell with glass walls facing the sea and an outdoor pavillion shielding tea-drinkers from the whipping winds. There’s an amusement park, a marina, a dinky little train along the promenade and valiantly cheery green, blue and yellow beach huts. But more to the point, there’s fish and chips.
Thanks to the misinformation of the tourist information lady about bus times to the chocolate-box town of Arundel, six miles inland, we stumbled in to the Fish Factory, at 5 East Street near the bus stop. This is a new business (there’s also a branch in nearby Worthing) and although it’s tucked away and not on the sea front, it deserves to thrive. It’s a light-flooded, black-chandeliered and wood-tabled oasis, and the £5 lunch deal, Mondays to Saturdays from 12-5, was a treat.
Simple as it should be, a huge beer-battered fish arched up on the plate with fat chips and sprightly green mushy peas, served with a slice of lemon and a bowl of tartar sauce, and perfect with a cold glass of sauvignon blanc. I know mushy peas sound gross, and often shows up as the punchline on the joke that is British cooking, but in the spirit of national defense, when done right, and dressed with a little lemon juice, they are a creamy treat to mop up the crunchy batter and fries and temper the tang of the tartar.
All this should really be had out of a paper cone on the seafront, but it was much more relaxing to know that I wasn’t going to lose any of this deliciousness to the brutally whipping wind or the dive-bombing seagulls.