Deep fat fry me

Paul Finnegan examines the state of the noble Dublin chipper in the twenty-first century and picks his favourite from the multitude

Paul Finnegan examines the state of the noble Dublin chipper in the twenty-first century and picks his favourite from the multitude

Back in the bleak early nineties, it fell to one man to unearth an emblem capable of uniting the masses that formed the spine of Pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. The Van has become to Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy what “The Dead” was to Joyce’s Dubliners: an accurate snapshot of a particular mood at a particular time in Dublin.

Perhaps more importantly, though, it provided us with arguably the most definitive symbol of the day: the humble, grease-stained, brown paper bag of chips.

But what has become of Irish fast food since Doyle’s zenith? Has economic prosperity really brought an end to the day of the chipper? Is the panini (Ed. – I think you’ll find that’s “panino” Paul, you uncouth cretin, you) the new batter burger? At least Cork still has Lennox’s which, if can be taken as a representative source of insight into public opinion, is more than a fine-dining emporium but a prominent social institution.

With a strange stirring of local pride, I set out with a chip-loving friend to see if we could find Dublin’s equivalent to the Corkonian powerhouse.

Although its distance from the city might undermine its claims to be a truly great Dublin chipper, the cultural significance of Dino’s in Terenure cannot be understated. This is the place that inspired Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” where “Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill/ Down at Dino’s Bar and Grill.”

To be honest there wasn’t much dressing to kill the night we called in there. Nor was “the jukebox in the corner blasting out my favourite song.” Maybe things have changed since Phil Lynott’s day, but unfortunately one can’t help but feel that if the boys were indeed back in town, they’d probably want to find somewhere else to hang out pretty quickly.

Despite Dino’s connections, Burdock’s near Chirstchurch probably has the most rightful claim to being the chipper with the most celebrity-points in Dublin. According to local lore (and owner Leo), it’s here that Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen and the other guy have been known to come after a high octane night out with Louis Walsh and Mary Black.

The U2 frontman is also known to drop by when he decides he needs to do some field research to make sure he’s still in touch with the common man he’s so desperately fixated on believing he can relate to.

U2-based revulsion aside, Burdock’s is one of the most noteworthy chippers in this collection mainly because it can honestly claim to be properly old-school. In fact, the owners are so keen to respect its noble tradition that they refuse even to serve burgers. The chips are grease-tastic and for the coppers at the bottom of your wallet they’ll throw in a nice ladle full of those little crispy bits of chip. Nice.

However, the perfect chipper should be always only a stroll away so Burdock’s is out. Closer to home, Sophister students will undoubtedly lament the recent shut down of Seashell which was, until last year, the closest chipper to campus. Granted, they mightn’t always have maintained the highest hygienic standards, but anywhere that will deep fat fry anything (within reason) you bring in off the street is hygienic enough in my book.

Still within close range of the Hamilton there is a reasonable alternate in Lido on Pearse St., a chipper with little to really distinguish itself from the pack – although the staff’s striped uniforms do give lend the place a bit of class.

The classic chipper has always played an important role as a great social leveller and for that reason Roma II on Camden St. (a hotspot for traditional fast food joints) simply must be mentioned. Bringing together the Whelan’s and Flannery’s crowds with a mutual sense of purpose is this establishmment’s greatest achievement and one which shouldn’t be overlooked. Roma II might not be the cleanest place to eat but the food is generally tasty, if slightly tending towards to soggy side of greasy.

Also nearby is Angelo’s on Wexford St. The proprietors here will very kindly let you bring in your own bread to make a delectable chip butty and, in doing so, beat the recession one chip sandwich at a time.

All the aforementioned places have a certain degree of merit but are really a preamble to the announcement of the finest chipper in the city: Aprile – again on Camden St. The frites here are simply fantastic; that should be taken as granted. It’s the other, seemingly more trivial details that set this chipper apart.

Firstly, there are the reasonably priced Wurly burgers, the in-house name for a battered burger in a bun, a simple but ingenius combination. Secondly, there is the close proximity to the canal, where on a quite night you can grab a relaxing waterside bench from which to enjoy your late-night feast.

However, what really confirms Aprile’s status is the fact that it is the number one choice among the gardaí patrolling the city at night (notice the squad cars usually parked outside and prevalence of uniforms in the queue). If anyone knows their chips I’m willing to guess these guys do.

Appropriately enough, we have just seen the twenty-second Worldwide Anti-McDonalds Day come and go. But perhaps organisers McSpotlight don’t really need to go to all the effort of pointing out the nutritional calamity of your Big Mac Meal, the sinister manipulative techniques used in McD’s advertising or the environmental damage they’ve unleashed on the Amazon. Just give the world an Aprile Wurly burger and chips and wipe that smile off Ronald’s face.