They may cost more now than they used to, but fish and chips are still proving to be a firm favourite for Nelsonians looking for a quick and easy Friday night dinner. Kate Russell reports.
Local fish and chip shop proprietor Tony Carpenter reckons $7.40 for a good quality piece of fish and a half scoop of chips is still a pretty cheap meal in this day and age.
He has owned Milton Street Takeaways for five-and-a-half-years and says the traditional Kiwi tucker is “absolutely” still as popular as it ever was in Nelson, despite several local outlets selling up.
There are at least seven stores in Nelson city alone, with Hales Corner, Victory Square Fish and Chips, Fish Stop and Seabreeze Takeaways all currently listed for sale on Trade Me.
Although the title ‘fish and chips’ suggests just two options, Tony says it can mean so much more these days.
He’s now added pizzas, salads, burgers and gluten-free options to his menu, and even a delivery option – modernising the takeaway while still meeting the core demand with classic options.
“I have regular customers that come in weekly for a piece of fish and half a scoop of chips, but then I have others that want their fish baked.”
The qualified chef also keeps local vegans happy by cooking in vegetable oil.
“Going back 30 years, animal fat was it.”
He also says they are popular with foreigners want to sample the traditional kiwi fare.
Some would argue that the price of fish and chips has gone up over the years, but Tony says the price rises have been inevitable.
“Margins are so tight. It’s a hard game,” he says.
“It’s far from an easy industry, but it’s still a cheap option to feed a large family.”
Fish Stop owner Jill Williams agrees.
Although her business is currently for sale, it has nothing to do with a lack of trade. She is looking to retire and spend more time with family.
In December, she was forced to increase her price for a scoop of chips.
“We just have to increase the prices – minimum wage and transport costs have gone up and a 15kg box of good quality chips now costs around $40.
“Costs have gone up, but then it’s not as expensive as, say McDonalds, for a family. The proof is in the pudding when you look at our loyal customer base.”
Like Tony, Jill has “moved with the times” and now offers a range of gluten-free items on their menu and the option to cook in vegetable oil as well as beef dripping.
And while it will always remain a mystery exactly how big a scoop of chips is really is, in Nelson it will set you back between $3.80 – $4.40, while a ‘fish of the day’ costs between $4.00 – $4.40.
Tony says it’s an industry that has stood the test of time against other fast food options – but it’s one that needs to keep on its toes.
“Fish and chips are still going strong. I don’t think that will ever change.”