In Conversation with Andrew Critchett, founder of Fish&. – Putting a fresh spin on a national favourite.

I’ve just had the pleasure of heading down to Trinity Kitchen, where I met with Andrew Critchett, the founder of Fish &.

Andrew and his partner greeted me with a warm welcome and provided me with some suggestions for which food to sample. Once I’d eaten, we sat down to have a chat about fish and chips, the journey the business had already been on – and the road ahead.

Fish& is currently doing a pop up at Trinity Kitchen, occupying one of their food vans. Andrew had recommended the Famous 3 Batter Fish& Chips, a dish for which Andrew was awarded Best Main Dish at the British Street Food Awards. As he prepared the food, he told me where the idea for the business had started.

Back in 2006, Andrew called at a local fish and chip shop and the experience was, well, not what you’d hope for – he found the customer experience to be outdated and somewhat tired. He explained to me that on that day, the idea for Fish& was born, at a time when food culture was changing, street food was becoming increasingly popular and one of the few cuisines that hadn’t been given an update was fish and chips. Inspiration hit Andrew almost instantly and he came up with the concept for Fish&. Andrew was discussing the idea with his friend, Emma Bearman, who was putting together an event and needed a caterer, so she floated the idea to Andrew about debuting Fish& at the event. He agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history:

“I grew up in Scarborough. I’ve always had a connection to the sea; there are so many mental health benefits to being by the sea and by water. The ultimate goal is to open up a venue by the sea. I love this style of cooking; it’s always been fish and chips for me.”

Once my food was ready, I sat down in the Trinity seating space and began to eat, and I have to say I was blown away. Whilst retaining a simple recipe that is true to everything that embodies fish and chips in the first place, Andrew has managed to provide it with a fresh spin. The meal has a healthy portion of chips, three pieces of white, fresh fish in a crispy batter, topped with coleslaw and fresh herb. Everything comes together to create on overwhelmingly original taste, so I can only imagine how it blew people away back in 2006. Each part of the meal complimented the next and I can’t wait to return. Once I had eaten, Andrew kindly sat down with me to discuss all things Fish&.

What’s the journey been like to get to this point?

Andrew started doing pop ups around Leeds in the early 2010s and found that Leeds, as a city, had, and still has, a real do it yourself ethic in relation to cultural events and change. With the rise in street food vendors, Andrew saw the opportunity to debut Fish& to the public and took it. Andrew’s first space in Leeds was a trailer in the heart of the City, designed to look like a beach hut, in keeping with the seafood theme. After a few years, he saw the opportunity to expand and grow the business and toured the country, trading at major events and festivals, including The Liverpool International Music Festival and Glastonbury. The business was put on a hiatus for 2016 but it certainly wasn’t the end for Fish&.

How have you found the move back to Leeds?

During the hiatus and after working with other vendors, Andrew knew deep down that he wanted to come back to Fish& one day and with the business originally being based in Leeds, Andrew knew that it was only right to bring the business back to the City. It feels great for him, and the response has been incredible; people are so enthusiastic. One of the catalysts for the return was when he was working with another vendor in Trinity Kitchen and a customer recognised him from when he still had Fish& up and running. Not only did he recognise Andrew, but he could still remember the exact meal he had eaten. Following that interaction and the long-lasting impression his food had made, Andrew began to put the wheels back in motion and get Fish& up and running again.

Does it always come back to seafood?

Andrew has always had an affinity with seafood, growing up in Scarborough and by the sea. He loves this type of cuisine, and with the introduction of a surf and turf style of cooking there are more options than ever – with steak and other seafood being added to the menu. Trinity has proved to be a perfect place to test these dishes as they’re proving to be very popular with customers.

What is about Trinity Kitchen that you’ve found exciting?

During our discussion, Andrew spoke about how, during his years in the industry, he has got to know Trinity Kitchen extremely well, whether that was with Fish& or with other vendors. He feels a great level of community spirit in the space between the traders and when he announced Fish&’s return, many of his peers reached out to offer their help and resources. Being able to stay in such a busy space for a while means the team can also refine the menu, alter recipes and analyse what is working amongst customers, something you don’t necessarily get when working in different areas and moving around a lot. Trinity provides a lot of insight as to how the business will look going forwards.

How would you describe Fish& to people who haven’t tried it before?

The business has always aligned itself with the strapline fish and chips with a twist, people look at the name and straight away their interest is peaked because they want to know what that twist is. Using unique types of batters, updating the menu and experimenting with flavours are just a few of the ways Andrew keeps his food and brand feeling fresh. I have to say this was the first time I’ve never had to ask for salt and vinegar. Andrew recognises that fish and chips is a food staple, but he believes that doesn’t mean you can’t have a play around with the formula and improve on what has come before. He endeavours to be as environmentally conscious and sustainable as possible within his work, everything is MSC certified, and he works with small businesses whenever that’s possible. All the packaging and cutlery is recyclable, too.

What is the plan going forward?

The next goal for Fish& is to end up by the sea, and Andrew is interested in doing a pop-up next summer by the coast to help realise this plan. Looking at the Yorkshire Coast and the South West also, he says it’s about finding not only the right location but the right venue. He also finds that coastal towns bring the crowd; you just need to stand out from that crowd, and with the food on offer from Fish&, I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ll do just that.

An exclusive update on the near future!

Andrew also shared an exciting piece of information with me towards the end of our conversation – that in the coming days and weeks, Fish& will be adding a range of vegan options to the menu! He’s working in collaboration with Jess Jones, owner of JJ’s Vish and Chips, which used to be located on Kirkstall Road before its untimely closure in the summer of 2022. The takeaway was massively popular, but unfortunately had to close for various reasons. Andrew is delighted that he and Jess will once again be able to provide an alternative fish and chip option in Leeds.

If you are keen to find out more about Fish& you can find a link to their Instagram here:

Alternatively, why not head down to Trinity Kitchen yourself and try out what Andrew and the team have to offer at 27 Albion St, Leeds LS1 5ER. Fish& will be there until 21 November.

Words and Fish& photography by George Willoughby.

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