Across the way from the Forville Market fish stalls in Cannes, a chatty Welshwoman is serving a dish that has slipped through the fingers of French chefs for generations: proper fish and chips.
Isabella Mohnsame-Wigmore (her husband’s Swiss) had the idea of opening a real chippie when she read an internet plea from a Cannes-based Brit who was suffering withdrawal symptoms from his favourite dish.
“This chap wanted to know where he could get real fish and chips, and at the time there was nowhere, so I thought I would provide the answer,” says Isabella. “Back home in Cardiff, I enrolled with the NFFF, that’s the National Association of Fish Friers, and took their course recommended for new fish and chip shop owners.”
Being the determined and hard-working lady that she is, 50-year-old Isabella passed out of the NFFF with colours flying. She moved full-time to her flat in Cannes; then, as the day approached for the opening of Le Fish and Chips at the end of July, a crisis of confidence struck.
“I brought my NFFF tutor to Cannes from the UK to make sure I was doing everything just right,” recalls Isabella. “After the opening, things seemed to be going well but when my ‘consultant’ said he was heading off because I was doing everything correctly, I got the jitters and pleaded with him to stay a bit longer. But he was adamant that I’d made the grade.”
Isabella’s self-belief has grown, along with the plaudits from her English and French customers. But why does her fish fly?
“The most important thing I’ve found is using the right kind of cod. Mine comes from the North Atlantic, the French down here use cod from Portugal. There is a big difference between the taste and texture of the cod from cold waters and those from warmer seas.
“Another plus is that I use a proper range with the traditional large ‘bath’ of oil; I know it sounds funny to say it but it seems that the fish come out better when they have some room to swim around. The French friteuse doesn’t seem to do the same job at all. I use only rice bran oil from Thailand, which has no cholesterol.”
Customers can take away Isabella’s fish and chips or eat them à table, which of course the French prefer. Either way, there’s nothing fishy about the friendly welcome and the modest price.
Le Fish and Chips, 2 Marché Forville, Cannes, is open every lunchtime and in the evenings from Wednesday to Saturday.
A plate of fish and chips costs ‚€7.50 Tel: 04 93 99 55 94. Parking Forville is 2 mins away, first hour free.
Le Fish and Chips Restaurant
- Nick Kent