Whilst Wivenhoe may just seem like another ordinary town in Essex, it is actually home to one of the most prestigious fish and chip shops in the UK, Henley’s of Wivenhoe.
Despite fish and chip shop Henley’s winning numerous awards, David Patterson, manager at the store for 13 years, has highlighted how the most important part is ‘obviously good fish and chips’ and that they ‘want to showcase fish and chips in a proper way’.
“Well it’s nice that we win awards, obviously the end products the most important part for us, good quality fish and chips for the local community and further afield as well.”
“One of the reasons when the owner bought the shop, was he wanted to showcase fish and chips in a proper way”, said Patterson.
In terms of awards, Henley’s have been in the National Top 10 for two years running, as well as being Regional Winners in 2015, 2008 and 2007 and Regional Finalists another 4 times in the last 10 years for the best fish and chip shop.
As well as Henley’s being holders of many titles, they also are in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest time to prepare, cook and serve a portion of chips, in just 3 minutes and 42 seconds.
“We are world record holders for the fastest chips”, expressed David Patterson.
In addition to all this, Henley’s has its fair share of rarities. Patterson explained how the food served to the customers is actually cooked in front of them whilst waiting, something not common within many fish and chip shops.
“You can come in and select your fish from display. Then you literally see it being cooked in front of your eyes and there is nothing we hide from anybody.”
Something else unique and important about Henley’s is the sourcing of their produce, which may seem unimportant to some customers, but is actually very important for the shop and maintaining their high status. It is one of very few fish and chip shops to be MSC certified, Patterson explained,
“The sourcing of our fish is very important. We are MSC certified, which we were the 23rd shop in Britain, 11,000 shops and there are only about 110 shops that are MSC certified”.
MSC, which stands for Marine Stewardship Council, is an establishment which sets out the standards for sustainable fishing. It is an independent non-profit organisation which looks to ensure sustainable seafood. MSC is the ‘most recognised seafood certification and labeling program. Fish and chips shops can show they are MSC certified by using the blue MSC label.
With Henley’s being quite a unique fish and chip shop, David Patterson also expressed how they are now quite popular among tourists, especially with Wivenhoe now being one of the best places in the UK to live according to The Sunday Times. The community ranges from students at the nearby University of Essex to the few remaining fishermen, but one thing they all have in common is their love for fish and chips. This love even spreads across seas.
“We get people from further afield, quite a popular destination is Japanese tourists, they are in love with fish and chips and they showcase it out there twice a year and literally 10,000 people running for fish and chips, you’ve never seen anything like it!”
Nevertheless, Henley’s still have their local regulars like many fish and chips shops around the country and David spoke how they even like to get themselves ahead of time.
“Some customers you can actually look at the clock and know they are going to walk in two minutes later.”
“If there is a big queue, where I do the vast majority of the cooking, I can see that one customer will have a large haddock and I will put that in the pan, then by the time he gets to the counter, that is already waiting for him, you get used to it”, continued Patterson.
With Wivenhoe now one of the best places in the UK to live, Henley’s like to employ people from the village to keep it a community-based fish and chip shop.
“We tend to employ quite a lot of people from the village. If we can get the younger generation in it is their first jobs and we are guiding them on a path as it can be stressful.”
Patterson also voiced how it’s a very family orientated business too.
“The owner and his wife work here, his son works here, my son who is in the shop now works here, so it is a very family orientated business.”
Henley’s has already been around for 16 years in Wivenhoe and has thrived in this time. The love for fish and chips is clear and one that is here to stay for the long run.