What is Olley’s Fish Experience?
Olley’s Fish Experience is a dine-in Fish & Chip shop in Herne Hill, South London. As of November 2016 Olley’s offers an entirely gluten free menu every Monday and Tuesday. It has just won a deserved Free From Eating Out Gold Award. I can confidently say deserved because I was fortunate enough to be the Eating Out award judge assigned to visit! I did so incognito and waited until the Awards were announced to publish this review.
I rarely eat Fish & Chips but in recent years have enjoyed it at two excellent venues now sadly closed – Maddy’s Fish Bar in New Cross and the Truscott Arms of North London. I confess that on my visit to the Michelin star restaurant Indigo I also ordered fish & chips. Indigo star chef Dominic says this is very typical of coeliac diners on their first visit so deprived are we of the former British national dish!
So I know what I like.
- My fish must be Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable
- The batter on my fish should be either light and flaky or thin, crisp and crunchy
- My chips should be thin and crispy too unless I am using them to mop up leftover mushy peas, in which case thicker cut and soft is *okay*
- There must be mushy peas, this rule is simple but crucial
- Ketchup is okay but the Belgians know best. Chips are best accompanied by mayo!
Free From Menu
If you visit on a Monday or Tuesday the entire menu is gluten free. Anything that contains gluten is simply kept off the dedicated gluten free menu for those days. The most notable absence is scampi. Harry the owner explained to me that this is because he has yet to find a gluten free scampi that he feels maintains the quality of food he insists on. Bravo for having passion for the quality Harry, hope you find that scampi soon!
Cross contamination is avoided by performing a complete cleaning of the frying range on a Sunday night ahead of the gluten free days.
During my visit staff were friendly and welcoming and demonstrated familiarity with Coeliac and Lactose and Egg allergy and intolerance during repeated questioning. Almost all dishes are also dairy and egg free.
The dedicated gluten free menu is not offered online but almost everything you do see on Olleys online menu is available gluten free and included below are pictures of the menu from my visit. It is A3 size and needs to be to hold the enormous range of starters, mains and sides. There are also 5 types of gluten free beer and a cider. The only relatively weak part of the menu is the desserts of which there are just two – a mousse and a sorbet. Given the generous quantities of the mains however it is highly unlikely that anyone with an appetite short of that of say, The Mountain, will be anything less than fully satiated.
Food Glorious Food?
I ordered a ‘Cilla Black Experience’ of MSC Haddock, King Prawns, 3 Scallops, onions, chips and a wedge of lemon for £16.50. Fortunately I had fasted during the day prior to arriving because this dish filled an enormous plate, easy twice the size of a typical at-home dinner plate. I also – without anticipating the quantities – ordered sides of grilled veggies and the mandatory mushy peas. Mandatory.
Everything was cooked well and enjoyable to eat. The grilled veggies were lightly oiled and unburnt. Mushy peas were neither too sweet nor salt. Soft and succulent fish was complimented well by lemon and tartare sauce. Essentially a very satisfying fish & chips dinner.
Beer prices appeared a little lower than in restaurants, averaging around £4 with some £3.50 options.
Would I Return?
Given the comfort of the seating, service and quality and quantity of food value for money seems very good indeed.
Another big positive is the emphasis on sustainable sourced fish.
Also, here is a lovely human touch. Harry the owner engaged us in conversation soon after arrival and upon learning that we were celiacs talked enthusiastically about gluten-free bread (of course!) He was excited to tell us that following a recent reformulation he found the Genius Multi-Seeded to be ‘just right’. In response to some skepticism – I am not a fan of Genius bread – he insisted on sending us a free plate. Nice try Harry, nice try, but there are better breads!