Santa Monica and West L.A. are somewhat known for a sizeable contingent of British and Irish ex pats, and evidence of this is noticeable by the relatively large number of pubs, shops and restaurants that cater to anyone who seeks a taste of Britain, both visitors and locals alike.
One of the most popular and authentic of these establishments is Ye Olde Kings Head pub, restaurant and gift shop found in the 100 block of Santa Monica Blvd., right in the heart of the Santa Monica downtown district.
Ye Olde Kings Head offers three areas in which to dine: the dining room, the bar and a recently appointed outside patio area where one can observe the “goings on” on Santa Monica Blvd., and enjoy a beautiful Southern California afternoon, as was my fortune recently.
Upon entering I asked the hostess if I could take a patio table, and with a friendly smile, and in that inimitable London way, she responded, “Sure luv, anywhere you like.” So, after choosing a wall table, I relaxed and perused the classic green-bound menu that, although blessed with a wide selection of dishes, both of British and “colonial” origin, paled into insignificance as my quest was to seek the quintessential British experience, the “internationally famous” fish and chips, this time accompanied by a side of curry sauce.
This dish is available in both King size (two pieces of fish, $13.95) and Queen size (one piece of fish, $11.95) portions and, given that I had just witnessed the delivery of a King size portion (HUGE!) to another table, and it was lunch time, I played safe and chose the Queen size.
About 15 minutes after I ordered, my joyous server jollied up to my table bearing a sizeable plate of fish and chips, that, in this instance, was a good-sized chunk of crisply battered cod, and a generous serving of chunky fries with a side dressing of tarter sauce, and, of course, a bowl of piping hot chicken curry sauce.
The fish served here is cod, not just any old cod, mind you, but genuine Iceland cod, reputed to be the finest that the seven seas have to offer. After cutting through a delicious, crisp batter, I did indeed gaze upon a wonderful cut of white cod, a succulent piece of steaming and flaky fish, that, to use the proverbial, really did melt in my mouth. Adding a sprinkle of salt, a drop or two of malt vinegar and a touch of tarter sauce (I had ketchup too!), I was soon enjoying a fine example of this classic British dish.
The choice of a side of curry sauce is a somewhat contemporary (well, in the last 30 years or so) British tradition that curiously compliments the fish and chips rather well and, with direct contrast to the main dish, creates a fun, if proletariat, dining experience.
To finish, I enjoyed a generous helping of Apple Pie with “Birds” instant custard ($5.95), a British yellow custard that is very, very popular across the pond, and has been since the dawn of time. Try it, and you’ll see why.
If the owners of Ye Olde Kings Head could add grey skies, a light drizzle outside and a couple of “asylum seekers,” one really would think they were in Britain!
Ye Olde Kings Head, 116 Santa Monica Blvd., 310.451.1402