Fish City travelled from Belfast to Osaka, Japan to introduce the flavours of the British Isles to Japanese culture. We interviewed Head Chef Nicholas Clough and Head Fry Chef Zamira Beqiri to learn more about this incredible experience.
Can you describe what it was like when you first arrived?
“As soon as we got out of the terminal at the airport, Keiji who organized our trip was there waiting for us and waving. After taking us to the hotel, letting us get settled, and waiting for us downstairs after getting refreshed, he gave us a tour of the Hankyu Department Store where we made our fish and chips that week. The next morning, he took us on a trip to Kyoto, which we really loved. We went to shrines and temples there, which were just beautiful.”
How was the setup for the British fair at the Hankyu Department Store?
“The setup was really professional. It was done up like a pop-up with different booths across the shopping area. We had quite a prime spot on one corner where a lot of space and we were there with our three little fryers. We were only doing our fish and chips, so it was pretty straightforward for us. The Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday were the three busiest days. The the department store opened at 10 a.m. and at 10:01 we had queues, and the queues would remain the entire day until we ran out of fish. Just constant.”
So there was a lot of love in Osaka for Fish City’s fish and chips?
“Yeah, everyone was really excited to see us. Some were coming up to the window of the booth taking photos with us, and it felt a bit like we were celebrities. It was a bit surreal coming down the stairs and towards the station and the big mall, and there was a big, huge electronic billboard with our little faces on there. It was great. People in Osaka really responded well to our shop. They loved the fish and chips. It was just brilliant.”
When you were there, did you have time to see the place to check it out, to experience Osaka?
“We had quite a lot of time in the evenings, and because of the way we worked it, we all got some time off to experience the place. So we went for loads of great meals. We tried one of the best Kobe beef restaurants, which was absolutely fantastic. We had tempura every day. On my day off, I got up early, went to the big fish market, and had a look around the fish market. I saw loads of species I’d never seen before. They had big yellowfin tuna in there, abalone, huge oysters… that was brilliant. And while I was there at the fish market, there was a really great little sushi restaurant that I’d heard about, so I went to that. It was a great experience, a proper old school sushi restaurant. The chefs had obviously been there for years. There were pictures on the wall of them from the 70s, and it was still the same chefs. It was only like three tables plus four seats at the bench. It was just a totally authentic sushi experience. You could tell that that restaurant had been there for a long time. It was really well-known. The food in Osaka was just amazing.”
So you went to Japan to showcase Fish City’s food and left even more impressed by the local food?
“Yeah, the local food was so, so good. Really healthy. Everything was really fresh. We went to an area of the city with lots of different street food stalls and restaurants. It was just amazing. The busiest place I’d ever been. On the Saturday it was just packed. The streets were absolutely rammed, and everyone was still really polite and so respectful.”
Would you do it again?
“Oh, absolutely! Absolutely. In a heartbeat. It was brilliant. I absolutely loved it. The big thing for me is I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, and you go to Europe, America, Australia even, but the cultures aren’t vastly different from here. The culture in Japan is so, so different to ours and incredible at the same time.”