Cirencester’s Malt & Anchor wins Best Newcomer in Fish and Chip Awards. SARAH SINGLETON pays a visit

How about a glass of Prosecco to accompany your fish and chips? Or quails’ eggs pickled in Champagne vinegar?

No doubt about it, Cirencester’s Malt & Anchor is a cut above the regular fish and chip shop.

Now that verdict is official - The Malt & Anchor has won Best Newcomer at the National Fish and Chips Awards, beating competition from across the country. The chippy went through various judging stages and was lauded for an innovative approach, its promotional activities, and sustainable and responsible sourcing – and won the trophy at a glittering bash at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London last week.

Opened just a year ago, just off the Market Place in Castle Street, the gourmet chippy - a stylish little restaurant as well as a takeaway - the Malt & Anchor is the realisation of a five-year dream for Cirencester born and bred Dan Lafford.

“All of the hard work has paid off,” he said. “I speak for the team at Malt & Anchor when I say we are delighted with this award. It was a fantastic feeling to be recognised as the best in the south, but to be the best newcomer in the whole of the UK is something really special.”

Dan started the Malt & Anchor after 10 years running nightclubs 17Black and Reva.

“I was always passionate about the industry and always enjoyed hospitality, and I thought it was time to move away from the clubs, and to be more interactive with customers,” he explained.

“It took five years to get it ready. I took my time and planned it carefully, so I could hit the ground running. You only get one opportunity to get it right.”

Evidently, he did get it right – the Malt & Anchor was one of only three fish and chip shops from across the country to make it to the shortlist for the coveted Best Newcomer title.

The Cotswolds chippy was matched against Fish and Chips @ Weston Grove in Cheshire and Quayside Restaurant & Fish Bar in Aberdeenshire in the shortlist.

This was the 30th anniversary year for awards, billed as the Oscars of the fish and chip industry.

Dan chose the name, with Malt for beer and Anchor for fish. The interior of the restaurant blends traditional chippy style with a contemporary twist. Look out for banquettes along the walls, wooden tables, sea-themed decorations (including a vintage style deep sea diver’s helmet), a colour scheme of muted blues and greens, and an ingenious rope-wave ceiling.

Blackboards declare the dishes of the day, and in the kitchen, chef Chip Pavlenco is busy preparing freshly-cooked meals – whether you want classic cod and chips, panko-coated squid – or a venison, red wine and lentil pie.

“I always wanted to put a new spin on fish and chips,” Dan said. “Pizza, burgers, kebabs – all simple meals that restaurants have upped the quality for and given the gourmet treatment - so I wanted to try gourmet fish and chips. It’s British style food, and I didn’t want to change it, but to shine a different light on it.”

This different light includes having Marine Stewardship-approved cod and haddock from sustainable fisheries, sourcing curry sauce from the nearby Raj Doot Indian restaurant and sausages from award-winning local butchers’ Jesse Smith’s.

The drinks are specially chosen, with Malt & Anchor creating its very own exclusive small-batch blonde ale called Hooked. Specially brewed to complement a plate of fish and chips, the beer’s high carbonation is reckoned to cut through the fats and cleanse the palate, while the cascade hop finish provides a tangy citrus flavour that complements the fish.

Taking the gourmet approach to a whole new level, this classy chippy offers bottles of Prosecco and Grant Brut Champagne to quaff with your fish and chips.

Dan believes a glass of bubbly is the perfect choice because of the effervescence and clean citrus notes. Customers clearly agree with this as Dan says he sells about four bottles of Prosecco a day.

The classic side dish of mushy peas has been upgraded to ham hock and leek mushy peas, and even the salt has been given the gourmet touch, with special flavoured varieties to sprinkle on your chips.

Yet for all the quails’ eggs and Champagne, there is no hint of preciousness or exclusivity – it is still a chip shop with a relaxed atmosphere and a mixed clientele.

“We’ve introduced some healthy options too – many people won’t want a full fish and chips in a lunchtime, so we have some light options. You can have salmon, Irish mussels in a Prosecco sauce or a mixed seafood salad,” he said.

Vegetarian options and a selection of kids’ meals are also on the menu.

The focus on quality and, where possible, local suppliers, has paid dividends for the Malt & Anchor. The restaurant has four and a half stars in Trip Advisor and even as we visit a diner, Julie Amos from South Cerney, interrupts in to say: “That was the best scampi I have ever had. It’s the first time I’ve visited and I will be coming back!”

The Fish and Chip Awards checked out the place carefully, beginning with a detailed application form, then a visit by a Secret Shopper, and finally an unannounced inspection by contest officials, who undertook a rigorous inspection of Malt & Anchor and its operations.

“We’ve only been open a year and we’re in the top ten restaurants for Cirencester,” Dan said. “This is a nice environment to work in, and when everyone is happy it is such a good feeling.”

He added: “I would like to thank our kitchen and front of house team for all of their hard work. I am also grateful to the residents of Cirencester and the surrounding villages that have given us so much support in our first year.”

The restaurant has a January offer of discount tokens, available when you buy a meal. Dan also recommends calling to order a takeaway meal so it can be freshly cooked and ready when you collect it.

For more, call 01285 646343 or visit