Reliable Fish & Chips
Sometimes the map is the territory.
I was prepared to be dazzled-- or in the absence of awe, hoping to at least buoy a Reliable Fish & Chips review on the raft of my unbridled anglophilia and the orthodoxy of an RC upbringing. I mean I wanted to love this place more than I want a new Exploding Hearts album. In the end though, even my optimism couldn't overcome such a powerful 'nomen-est-omen' curse and afford this humble Leslieville chip shop anything besides the tugging downward trajectory of faint-praise. So let the platitudes commence.
My second visit to Reliable started far better than my first (an uneventful visit minutes before when I was cheerily informed that said chip shop was a cash-only establishment which prompted a quick visit to the nearest ATM for some hard currency).
Greeted upon re-entering by the pleasant apron-clad cook/server busily rattling big wire baskets of newly crispy piscine and potato pieces under the friendly gleam of chrome fryer hood and engulfed by the glossy black enamel of the order counter, it's easy to feel at home in such an utterly inoffensive space decked out in the quaintly un-pretentious aura of 40s cape breton beach-cottage chic-- a development, I understand, ironically owing to its recent appearance in an episode of restaurant makeover (the episode actually airs on Monday March 26th, 2007 at 8 pm on the Food Nework).
After ordering a halibut and chips (an unsurprisingly reasonable $6.95) I take a seat in the back end of the mocha wainscoted dining room, squeezing past a group of the local colour gleefully tucking into their fish dinners and ordering "just one more piece of haddock" from the fryer.
Reality sadly sinks its hooks in with the first whiff of my newly arrived order. The plate of fish and chips comes fresh from the fryer slightly greasy smelling and hinting faintly at malodourous ghosts of countless schools of fish that preceded it from the oily depths. Nothing a few squirts of tableside malt vinegar (in handy spray bottles no less) or chilled tomato ketchup can't disguise. Cutting through the adequately crispy batter reveals a slightly overcooked piece of white halibut fillet with a slightly rubbery texture. It's definitely not the best fish I've ever had but neither is it the worst. Tasty enough is unfortunately as descriptive as it's gonna get. Hardly offensive enough to warrant to the righteous indignation of a bad review, it's not the flavour epiphany I was hoping for either. It's easy enough to finish the entire plate and be (although, true to the fashion of this place, underwhelmingly) full and by dinner, forgotten what you'd eaten for lunch.
Ultimately, Reliable Fish & Chips'll do as a place to pop in for a quick bite if you find yourself in this newly gentrified neighbourhood. And though raised by my Catholic mother to not say anything in the absence of anything nice to say, in the case of Reliable Fish & Chips, 'nice' seems the only word that fits.
Reliable Fish & Chips - 954 Queen Street East (at Carlaw) - 416.465.4111