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Reliance Fish Restaurant in Gravesend to celebrate 100th anniversary in 2020

By Jenna Dobbs

A much-loved fish and chip shop is gearing up for its 100th anniversary.

The Reliance Fish Restaurant in Queen Street, Gravesend, has been serving locals continuously since 1920, unstopped by even the Second World War.

Owner Jack Kamenou, 52, took over the shop 33 years ago in 1987, alongside his wife, Helen, and dad, George.

Reliance Fish Restaurant, Gravesend. Reliance is celebrating it's 99th anniversary. Picture: Matthew Walker
Reliance Fish Restaurant, Gravesend. Reliance is celebrating it's 99th anniversary. Picture: Matthew Walker

The family, from Catford, south east London, have “always been in the fish and chip trade”, and Mr Kamenou said the shop had gone from “strength to strength” since they took ownership.

He puts its success down to the quality of the food, but when asked for his secret, he said, “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you”.

Among its many accolades, Reliance has been a finalist in the National Fish and Chip Awards four times, and had a place in TripAdvisor’s hall of fame for the past five years.

Although for many Gravesenders the restaurant building is synonymous with fish and chips, it has also served as a pub and sweet shop over the years.

The Dolphin pub in Queen Street, Gravesend, before it was established as a fish restaurant
The Dolphin pub in Queen Street, Gravesend, before it was established as a fish restaurant

It started out as a pub called the Five Bells between 1658 and 1880, before being rebuilt to its present appearance in the 1880s.

It then became The Dolphin pub from 1898 to the early 1910s, when it turned into a confectionery selling Papa’s ice cream, according to Mr Kamenou.

Loyal customers have helped paint a picture of the chip shop’s past, including historian Christoph Bull, who runs regular talks at the venue.

Mr Kamenou said: “We are very proud that Reliance has been here for 99 years, and is one of the oldest chip shops in the country.

Staff Jack Kamenou, Hollie Calla and Ricky Dickenson. Picture: Matthew Walker
Staff Jack Kamenou, Hollie Calla and Ricky Dickenson. Picture: Matthew Walker

“There have been five owners since it opened in 1920, Mr Frank Swift, Mr Daveny, Mr Sparks, Mr Symons and ourselves.

“Gravesend is a nice little town and the customers have been lovely. When you get to know everyone it’s a friendly place, and I love it here.”

When asked about the reason for Reliance’s longevity, Mr Kamenou said: “We’ve done it by providing top quality food and always doing the shop up, but keeping it traditional.

“Our standards are really high, and we’ve done our own thing for the last 30 years.”

Next year, staff hope to celebrate the centenary with special offers, a party for customers and a quiz night.

Share your memories of the restaurant at gravesend@thekmgroup.co.uk

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