Expert Eye: Bob Leahy, fry chef at Fish City, Belfast

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Expert Eye

Last month, Bob represented Fish City in Japan where he fried over 1,700 portions of fish and chips at the Hankyu British Fair in Kobe

This year was my second time working the British Fair serving up Fish City’s award-winning fish and chips – the first being last year at the British Fair at Hankyu’s flagship Umeda store in Osaka. I had a fair idea of what to expect and felt prepared for it this time around. Plus I had our head chef Nick with me who was also on the Osaka trip last year.

Kobe is a smaller city than Osaka and, whilst the Kobe Fair remained busy, it wasn’t nearly just as fast-paced as we had experienced in Osaka. We were doing a couple of hundred fish suppers a day in Kobe, whereas we were doing more than that in Osaka last year. 

The Japanese team did an amazing job recreating the sea-blue panelling of our restaurant facade. Our photos were on big billboards all over the department store, and all the signage for the shop was printed and ready.

We had the Japanese team support us in setting up our pop-up shop each day too. They would portion the fish and pack the orders for customers, leaving us to make the tartare sauce and batter ready for opening. 

When it came to opening, it was at times challenging for the team to keep up with the pace of the orders, but I have to commend them all – they did an exceptional job, and we are so thankful for their support.

The biggest challenge, however, was working with the smaller fryer. At home, we have a massive Kiremko frying range with four pans on the go, so it’s easy to do everything you need to do. It was challenging for us at times with the pans being so shallow to keep the oil temperature high for the perfect cooked product, but we got through it and made sure each order was cooked the Fish City way to perfection.

We served roughly 1,700 portions over seven days. We were told that sales of fish and chips were up significantly over last year’s British Fair in Kobe, which we were delighted to hear. It was an honour to bring the best of Belfast to the shores of Japan.

I think it is safe to say that our Japanese customers loved our fish and chips! We had queues from when we opened at 10am and they remained a healthy length all the time. We got so many lovely messages on social media from people sharing pictures of their fish and chips and telling us how much they enjoyed it. The Japanese people are all so very warm and welcoming. Their hospitality is exceptional, I have to say.

When I joined Fish City three years ago to help John and Grainne out for the summer, not in a million years did I think I would be frying fish and chips in Japan! 

I would like to thank everyone involved for the smooth running of yet another successful British Fair. I had the best time, and it has been a tremendous privilege to represent Fish City, Belfast and Northern Ireland abroad and to share the good food we are so passionate about with the lovely people of Japan.

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