An indoor food court next to an indoor crazy golf course sounds like a childhood nightmare: a place to host a tenth birthday rather than to host an “elevated and dynamic revolution” of a staple of British food.
And in many ways, Salt ‘n’ Sauce’s description of itself as an innovative take on a chippy is bizarre. Of course, it has the basic ingredients. But while there is batter aplenty, smooth and creamy mushy peas, and thick-cut chips, the restaurant is not an archetypal chip shop.
Indeed, as I tuck into my squid burger, lathered with spicy harissa mayo, and wash it down with a craft lager, I can’t help feeling that this experience can’t be any further from the greasy chippies of the South Coast.
But I do not mean this as a bad thing: the burger is excellent. The squid – lightly dipped in salt-and-pepper tempura flour – has been prepared to perfection by a London-trained chef, and the flavour combination is ambitious, but manages to work.
My date for the evening bites into his vegan fried ‘fish’ – actually beer-battered tofu wrapped in seaweed. He agrees: to compare this to a chippy is to compare a high-end brunch spot to a greasy spoon cafe. They are different places, both with their own merits.
Sadly, Salt ‘n’ Sauce does commit one cardinal sin. In my book, incorrectly labelling a portion of fries by calling them ‘chips’ is an almost unforgivable error. In fact, it is made even worse as I look across at Fred, and see his glee as he devours a fatty, indulgent chip butty – including proper chips!
However, my disappointment at the mislabelling is atoned for by the sauces on offer. The tartare sauce is salty and sour, as it should be. It is the kimchi mayo that particularly impresses – spicy, as promised, full-flavoured, and creamy.
And it also sums Salt ‘n’ Sauce up well: a restaurant that started life out as a pop-up in London, and is trying to provide its own spin on a chippy.
But in reality, it is much more high-end than that.
It is fast food, but only in the way that Pret is – it cares much more about flavour and innovation than it does about speed.
Vegan Fried Fish – £6.75
Tempura Squid Burger – £8.50
Ultimate Chip Butty – £5.50
Chips ‘n’ Cheese – £3.50
Skinny Fries – £2.25
Mushy Peas – £1.50
Homemade Tartare Sauce – £1.50
Kimchi Mayo – £1.00
2x Schiehallion Lager – £9.50