Haydn Lewis visits one of York's busiest fish and chip shops
WHEN you are on to a good thing why change?Understanding your market and the people who use your restaurant is key to success for any longestablished eatery and there are few places in York that do that better than Wackers.
Sitting in Gillygate, Wackers boasts that it is York's largest fish and chip restaurant and take-away.
It is in a prime location to capture the business from the hordes of tourists and visitors - many of them elderly - who daily disembark from their coaches and cars at Union Terrace only a stone's throw away.
I live in the centre, so for me it is a local take-away and this was the first time I'd ventured in for a sitdown meal.
Outside, the building has had a recent lick of paint but, that aside, looks much as it has for years.
Disabled access is good because the entrance is on the level and once inside, the wide aisles make getting to tables easy.
The atmosphere inside is very strange it has to be said. There is something of a time warp feel about the place: it reminded me of a 1980s motorway caf picked up and plonked in York city centre complete with green plastic banquettes, a huge fish tank and brown and tan decor.
We called in on a Wednesday night and the place was pretty busy, but we lowered the average age by about 20 years, because everyone else was past the age of retirement. We found a seat quickly and swiftly decided on our drinks from the orange plastic menus.
I went for a bottle of Stella Artois beer (£2.59), Gavin opted for the Newcastle Brown Ale at £2.84 and Jen a can of Sprite, 60p.
Gavin wanted to order starters of deep fried garlic mushrooms and fish goujons (both £2.45), but when we got to the counter to order he was told that from the starter/light bites menu only jacket potatoes (£3.75) were available.
Unimpressed by this, we decided to move straight on to mains and Gavin went for the chicken and chips with garden peas (£6.80), while Jen plumped for the Wacker Special - large haddock and chips served with mushy peas (£8.95) and I had regular cod and chips for £4.95.
Service is at the counter and was reassuringly friendly and the meals were served to the tables within ten minutes piping hot.
At first sight, we were all impressed with the size of our portions but on eating Gavin found his chicken, although well cooked, had skin that was too white and not at all crispy.
Jen's haddock was soft and moist with light batter, while my cod was a big enough portion, even in the medium form and equally satisfying.
However, when it came to the chips, they seemed a little undercooked and slightly soggy, while the mushy peas and the garden peas were obviously tinned, and as such, were a bit flavourless and a let down.
After eating such huge portions we couldn't be tempted by the frozen desserts on offer and opted to settle up as the closing time of 7.30pm was fast approaching.
The bill was £26.83, which we thought was quite high.
Wackers has a corner of the market which it serves very well, with a 15 per cent discount for coach drivers and students and on takeaway meals as well as OAP discounts.
But as a sit-down restaurant Wackers has some way to go when you consider that within easy walking distance there are a whole range of pubs serving more than adequate pub grub at very reasonable rates.
Wackers, 45-49 Gillygate, York. YO31 7EA.
Tel: 01904 672279.
Haydn visited on Wednesday, November 8, 2006.
Food:averageService:fineValue:averageAmbience:unusualDisabled access: YES