Northgate seems to be the place to be these days for foodie businesses with a twist. Andrew Mckechnie, owner of the latest addition, Chip’d, agrees, ‘There’s a real buzz about the place.’
His new venture, opening Saturday 9th Feb, joins the likes of Vegan Jaunty Goat, Covino and Hypha. Screw the idea of the ‘Dining Quarter’ being the other side of the city, our taste buds are clearly spoilt for choice right here. Alongside Storyhouse, 2nd Floor, Marmalade etc. on this side of town, all of my strolling needs are met within metres: wine, culture, lunch and spot of shopping. Proof that Chester (at least in places) is a thriving, indie haven.
And soon, you’ll be able to get your hands on some top-notch chips too. Andrew’s had a few, ‘looking forward to a local, traditional chippy,’ comments and he’s quick to point out that what he’s offering is only traditional in the Netherlands. There won’t be a fish, pot of mushy peas or battered sausage in sight, and for that matter, no bog-standard potatoes either. This is purely paying homage to the best chips you can get, bettered only by the addition of ten possible sauces (not all at the same time, though by all means go for it).
To celebrate their 12pm, 9th Feb opening, Chip’d are giving away free chips to the first 100 people.
‘The taste will be noticeably different to that of your typical chippy – they’ve got a distinct flavour; skin on, hand-chipped, twice fried and flipped in salt.’
Neither of us are particularly fond of the term ‘artisan’, but the definition (‘made in a traditional or non-mechanized way using high-quality ingredients’) certainly does apply, ‘It’s never come out of my mouth, I usually say posh chips. But yes, there’s a craft here and better, high-quality ingredients. I’m not claiming chips are healthy but these are about as healthy as chips can be for you – in terms of the way the potatoes are handled and prepared, and added nutrients from leaving the skin on.’
Andrew has opted to use the Agria potato, ‘’Not many farmers grow them over here – we finally found someone in Cambridge but before that we were importing them from the Netherlands and France – like the Rolls Royce of potatoes. The price was ridiculous; every single one I’d have to carry in and look after. But now we’re getting them from the UK and they’re amazing – very low water content so they fry beautifully. Most British potatoes have lots of water, lots of sugar, making them good for other things like roasties and mashing.’
In 2015, Andrew and his wife were in Utrecht to catch the start of the Tour de France and checked out the popular ‘Frietwinkle’, ‘It was a cool, a bit like Jaunty; full of young, trendy people hanging out, smiling and laughing. Everything in there was fresh and organic with a lot of theatre; the potatoes piled up in the window. You saw your potato getting hand chipped, fried and served to you. Nice and simple; just a great product served well. No one was doing that in England.’
It was a few years later, after leaving Coca Cola (where he’d worked for twenty-two years) and honing the offering at local festivals and takeover pop-ups that Andrew found a fixed home for his vision on Northgate, ‘I’ve always wanted my own business – a fun place, where people can hang out and something a bit different. It’s also really important to me to be a positive part of the community, working with neighbours and locals – I’m keen to get involved. If you’ve got any ideas, come and talk to me. There’s so much value in collaboration. This area is great and I want to contribute to that. I love Storyhouse, which has pretty much been my office for the past year.’
You’ll be able to enjoy your chips with (deep breath please): ketchup, mayo, satay sauce, vegan mayo, garlic mayo, sriracha, bbq or the Dutch must-have, Frites sauce; ‘It’s a light mayo, hardly any fat, just a bit tangier than what we’re used to. I think it’s closer to salad cream. The Dutch like patatje oorlog or ‘war chips’ – mayo, satay sauce and chopped onions, perhaps so named because it looks a mess!’
Who’s up for giving that one a go? Please report back.
‘Eventually, I want to make some of my own and buy others locally – I’m talking to my local Indian restaurant about a lovely sauce they do. It’s tricky to find suppliers making 10litre varieties of their product, but I’d love to hear from people if it’s possible.’
Current drinks on the menu are the usual, soft suspects like Coke and Fanta, ‘I’ve applied for alcohol licence as I’d like to serve beers – let people sit at the bar with a cone of chips and Belgian beer. I’d love to work with a local brewery, smaller brands. The Netherlands love the classics so I’ll stick with them for now but will definitely be branching out.’
I ask how he feels about Blackstocks Fish & Chip shop across the way, but he points out that they’re not a direct competitor, ‘I often grab a chip from them on my way past – warms me up. My customers will mostly be passing trade who want a snack rather than a traditional chippy. A sneaky cone of chips, that’s how I think of it. Once we get set up we can have a chip off with Blackstocks. I want to work with everyone; the more noise the better for all of us. We’re more expensive at £3.80 for a standard cone and £4.80 for a large portion; the prices are driven by the quality ingredients and prep. Chips will be cheaper in other places if they’re using frozen, standard potatoes, but obviously, my chips are so much better than anyone else’s.’
Chip’d will be almost entirely manned by students from 11am-6pm, seven days a week. ‘I’m not sure how late we’ll stay open – we’ll see what works for customers and adapt.’ You can check them out soon at 124 Northgate Street, Chester, CH1 2HT.