The plastic tables and the unprepossessing location in an untrendy corner of no-longer-quite-Clerkenwell-but-not-really-yet-Islington suggest that Fish Central is just another local chippie, dishing up huge plate fulls of golden fish and equally golden chips. But for every table of locals from a near-by council house, there's a couple sipping wine and picking on king prawns or scallops. Personally, I think this makes for a great, casual and slightly unusual vibe.
Normally the fish options – served deep fried, grilled,or cooked in matzo meal – start from £6.75 for plaice, but at the moment the place is part of the three courses for a tenner offer from The Times. (Incidentally is it me, or are these offers getting worse? Of this year's crop, this is probably the only vaguely central London which seems worth visiting to me and the value of which is notably improved by the offer.)
We started with a nice bottle of Prosecco (£14.95), wallowing in the surrealism of drinking Venetian fizz in a chippie. House wine starts from £9.45, there's also draft bitter and larger and – for the purists – mugs of strong tea for a bargain 55 pence.
From the set menu, my fish soup (normally £3.45) was alright, but did not benefit from the fresh memory of the one we had in Terminus Nord in Paris a couple weeks ago. The roasted Mediterranean vegetable bruschetta topped with mozzarella (£3.75) was decidedly underwhelming, while the large plate of crispy-coated squid rings was judged as OK, but not outstanding(£4.45).
Of the main courses, the mussels were also pretty average. But the chefs redeemed themselves with plates of flaky gurnard (sustainability brownie points, check) and mountains of crispy chips. Ultimately, this is still very much a chippie, and fish and chips is what it does best, while giving you option the wash them down with some very decent plonk. I would also heartily recommend the fisherman's platter (£19.95) - a huge plate of cod, plaice, haddock, skate and scampi which serves at least three very hungry people.
Fish Central, 149-155 Central Street, King Square, EC1V 8AP; Tel. 0207 2534 970; Tube: Old Street; www.fishcentral.co.uk (now how many chippies do you know with their own website??).
PS If you are in the area, there's a new (well, OK, it might have been there for years, but I've only just noticed) German Deli across the square, which stocks a promising selection of salamis and the like.