Let’s all remember Fish in a Tie restaurant, Clapham Junction, Battersea.
Join the discussion on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/antlerboy_lets-all-remember-fish-in-a-tie-restaurant-activity-7104717115693182977-hasf — Do you have a Fish in a Tie in your life?
The place was founded by legendary restaurateur Peter Illic, who also founded the successful chain of ‘Little Bay’ restaurants across London and Brighton (famous for their period of ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ for the food).
It was run for many years by the wonderful couple of Lili and Marco — a Yugoslavian world traveller always with a cigarette in her hand, and an Italian antique-collector and chef. They were people who didn’t want you to leave hungry, or unhappy — and cosy, antique-decorated interior and genuine European cooking made sure of that. Not unusual to have three proper sauces on a plate, to have subtle dishes like Parson’s Pastry, choux de crab, pasta with tomato and vodka done actually really well. We all had a giggle when one review posted ‘the secret of Fish is that this is where the top European trained chefs come to cut their teeth just after training’.
Then there were the prices — always reasonable, sometimes unbelievably good — three course meal for £7.99 in 2019? And, of course, the wine — El Otro was my personal favourite, a cheeky Chilean red.
They passed on the restaurant into good ex-Yugoslav and Italian hands, and it continued to be a true community place to go — local blogs have paid tribute. It also saw many of my birthdays, business meetings, awaydays, celebrations, family visits, and indeed New Year’s Eve parties, which were fantastic.
But, unlike the other Battersea legend, Captain Corelli’s Italian (where we once went at Easter, to be entertained by a man with a squeezebox playing traditional Sicilian songs), Fish In a Tie fell victim to Covid, and shut its doors forever some time in 2020, donating its stocks of food including frozen lobster to the local food bank.
I wish we’d known — we would have relished deliveries from there during Covid, and could at least have raised a toast to a legend. And to all the wonderful staff — people of character, some larger than life, often dealing with the dislocation of migration (all those of Yugo origin carrying on in brotherhood and unity even as their homeland fell apart), but carrying on the owners’ commitment to true hospitality, decency, welcome.
If local author Louis de Bernières ever decides to write another beautiful epic, he could do worse than be inspired by another local restaurant. But then his anti-Yugoslav bias has always been an Achille’s heel, sadly.
For me, Fish in a Tie not only plays a part in my personal story, and marks a point of reference for generosity and hospitality — it also shows how it is possible to run a business with grace, decency, and authenticity, and do well… while it lasts.
Do you have a Fish in a Tie in your life?