Another stereotype that proves accurate in Dublin is that of the “chipper,” late-night or otherwise. This is a fast food establishment specializing in fish ‘n’ chips and other deep-fried dishes, such as onion rings, chicken nuggets and fried scampi. A chipper comes in handy when you’re hungover or have just been robbed and want something cheap & dirty to make you feel even worse (but in a good way). On our way home from a pub after a tour of the Guinness Brewery I decided to go for a second dinner and stopped by at Aprile Takeaway for a big old bag of fried stuff. The battered and fried fish at Aprile is a choice of fresh or smoked cod. It’s normally wrapped in a thin wax-paper sleeve and dumped into a brown paper bag aside some french fries. This popular Irish staple can also be enjoyed in sandwich-form by ordering it between two slices of baguette.
I asked for fish ‘n’ chips with fresh cod and the guy quickly got to work frying up a pre-battered filet and shoving it in a bag with some hearty fried potatoes. He asked if I wanted salt and vinegar and when I nodded he squirted a generous dose of malt vinegar and sprinkled in a half-shaker full of salt as well. He then rolled up the mouth of the bag and charged me like €8.40, which is an absolutely ridiculous price to pay for a fried piece of fish and french fries. Back at home I opened the bag and a wave of stingy, acidic steam (from the vinegar) hit me hard right in the nose. I pulled off a piece of batter which, while staying relatively crunchy around the edges of the filet, completely disintegrated around the center of the fish from the sauna-type microclimate inside the bag. The batter uncovered the slimy, white flesh of the cod, which to me was not quite firm enough and fell apart too easily when probed with forefinger and thumb. The fries were also quite abysmal. They somehow managed to simultaneously be cardboard-dry and drenched in grease. Any natural sweetness the cod might have had was overpowered by the sharp, pungent vinegar and the far too much salt that was blindly thrown into the bag.
Apparently Aprile is quite an honored local institution and probably holds a sentimental value that outweighs quality for those with memories of drunken nights ending there. As there are no such memories bopping around my subconscious the food I tried here to me was just plain bad. After perusing the menu I came across things like the “Chip Baguette,” which is basically a baguette sandwich of french fries, ketchup and mayonnaise. In addition to handling fish, they also do fried egg rolls, deep fried mushrooms, fried chicken and chicken nuggets, pizzas, kebabs, burger, wraps and the occasional steak ‘n’ kidney pie. There’s also an extra called the “battered sausage,” a thing about which I chose to remain ignorant.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I have my fare share of reprehensible late night spots and outright shameful hangover hangouts. Everybody does. Indeed, pretty much every group of people has their own drunk-food classics of which they tend to be fiercely proud. Exploring these naughty treats around the world has opened the door to so many wonderful experiences in my life. (Islak burger…Frikandel…Kokoreç… I’m thinkin’ ’bout you!) But in the case of Aprile I’ll have to pass. I remain faithful that there are chippers in Dublin that do it right; I just have to find them next time I return.