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We review Shakey Shakey in Ramsgate, the fish and chip shop with a full vegan menu


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For those of a certain age, the phrase Shakey Shakey will sound like the chants of a cheering crowd waiting to greet Welsh crooner Shakin' Stevens in his heyday.

He was, after all, a man who brought a little bit of Elvis styling straight from the valleys and became one of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s.

Shakey Shakey is in Ramsgate High Street
Shakey Shakey is in Ramsgate High Street

Come on, we all remember This Ole House and Green Door don't we?

I can only assume he was the inspiration, therefore, for Shakey Shakey, a fish and chip shop in Ramsgate town centre. Or, far more likely, he wasn't. He didn't spell Shaky with an 'e' anyway. But I digress.

Once only found in Herne Bay, it (the fast food place not the singer) also opened in Thanet about five years ago and has set about developing a rather impressive reputation.

So on a baking hot Saturday afternoon we strolled into the unprepossessing premises on the High Street humming Oh Julie.

Admittedly, first impressions don't do an awful lot - it's a small takeaway with the enforced ugly screens between customer and staff which make the whole place look unfairly dated and a bit down at heel.

The vegan menu (the one with the regular fish and meat products is behind the counter in the traditional spot)
The vegan menu (the one with the regular fish and meat products is behind the counter in the traditional spot)

But I remind myself about not judging a book by its cover and that this is no run-of-the-mill chippy in a town which has more than its fair share.

Not only has it collected a number of awards for its cuisine over the years, at the time of writing it is ranked the number two restaurant in the town according to the reviewers on TripAdvisor.

It is beaten to the top spot only by the acclaimed sit-down gourmet grub served in the Corner House in the neighbouring village of Minster.

So in terms of the town centre at least, as Shaky did in the 1980s on the hit parade, it's a chart-topper.

Which, begs the question, why is it so popular?

This image does not do the scale of these chips justice
This image does not do the scale of these chips justice

Its main claim to fame - and the reason it pulls in punters from across east Kent - is that in addition to the regular battered fish products, beef burgers and assorted sausages - it boasts a full vegan and gluten-free range too. What's more, its vegan range has been declared one of the best in the UK.

So should you want tofish (its tofu, with marinated seaweed, in batter) this is the place for you. And you can have it with a side dish of vegan black pudding. I kid you not.

Now, just before you go scuttling off to the comments section to complain about anything which isn't made from a dead animal, or how can tofu in batter have the word 'fish' in its name (life really is too short, surely?) we decided to put the 'real' thing and the meat-free option head-to-head in a taste test.

We place our order for the two contenders and scan the details on the wall as we wait.

I learn that the fish being served today was caught in the Atlantic and that the spuds for the chips are Maris Pipers. Even the chef's name is on the board so, presumably, you know who to complain or send your compliments to depending on how your order goes down (although my failing eye-sight prevents me from being able to read it.)

Man versus chips...who would emerge triumphant?
Man versus chips...who would emerge triumphant?

There's a range of vegan snacks and crisps too, plus a sign saying how PETA declared it as "the first chippy in the UK to offer a full vegan menu".

Ten minutes later the food is being wrapped, a last-minute order of baked beans and tin of Diet Coke tacked on to the order, and £18.50 handed over in exchange.

Now, before we get on to the main dishes, I am a staunch advocate of baked beans being served cold. And only cold. They do not need heating up. They do not need their tomato tang tarnished by adding warmth. They should, let's be very clear here, be eaten as God intended - and that's going straight from opened can to my plate.

However, I forget the majority of the world seems to like their baked beans spoilt and so when I open the polystyrene tub they are, of course, far from chilly. It's a black mark Shakey Shakey may struggle to recover from.

But the baked beans were always going to be the support act to the headliners; namely cod, tofish and the humble chip.

Baked beans - these are warm. They should be served cold. No ifs, no buts
Baked beans - these are warm. They should be served cold. No ifs, no buts

The tofish, chips and shameful beans are piled high upon my plate (we escaped to our daughter's nearby home to devour them).

So let's talk chippage first. Now, while I often console myself with the old saying 'size isn't everything', when it comes to chip portions, it's hard to argue that anything other than generous is acceptable.

And boy is this portion packing it big time. They are not only big chips, individually, but as a collective they are enormous. Top marks.

They look splendid too - light and when given a bite, fluffy on the inside. Which you'd like to think is the very essence of a chip shop chip - but how often are they overcooked or served up looking discoloured due to grubby, over-used oil? These little fellas are just right. Another big tick.

Now comes the controversial entry on today's plate - the tofish. First off I should say as much as I love vegan food, tofu is something I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with. It's either delicious or appetite-crushingly disappointing.

This is not a healthy meal...delightfully served up by my good self (the key is, they always say, in the presentation)
This is not a healthy meal...delightfully served up by my good self (the key is, they always say, in the presentation)

The tofish comes in two bits - each hunk of tofu is in a seaweed coating which delivers the 'taste of the sea' and reminds you of what it's emulating.

Now, normally, anything deep fried in batter should taste delicious. And the tofish is very tasty. Delicious? Well, that's a strong word for a tofu dish. So we'll settle for very tasty.

The stand-out, it must be said, is the batter. I'm not sure what they do differently to a regular chippy, but this batter is as light as air and crisp around the edges. Just as it should be. It off-sets the tofu well. But it's still tofu.

Now for the cod - the classic.

Battered cod - can it defend its traditional crown as king of the chip shop menu?
Battered cod - can it defend its traditional crown as king of the chip shop menu?

The batter is the same - good start - and the fish is, oh my...mouthwatering. Flaky, moist and generous. It is completely moreish. There is, in truth, no competition for those whose diets include a bit of flesh.

But for those which don't - well how often can you go into a fish and chip shop and order a genuinely tasty alternative?

Variety is the spice of life, apparently, and there is no denying that with more and more of us wanting meat-free options for ethical or environmental reasons, the ability to go into a chip shop and emerge with some genuinely great quality food is a real treat.

Could I finish these last few chips off? No. I was beaten. A rare thing
Could I finish these last few chips off? No. I was beaten. A rare thing

The chips, though, proved too much.

Under all normal circumstances I force myself to eat them. They are, after all, the only takeaway food which is not as delicious the following day (see Chinese or Indian) and seem to go from hero to zero over the course of a few hours.

I rue the fact a couple of spuds probably died in vain and kicked myself for having breakfast a few hours before when that stomach space could easily have accommodated those stragglers.

Shakey Shakey - and the more I think about it, the less I'm inclined to believe my own self-started rumour of a connection to Shakin' Stevens - is indeed worthy of praise.

It manages to comfortably deliver a tastier fish and chip experience than you'll find in most other places and so, whatever your dietary requirements, it gets a very big thumbs up.

I'll even forgive them about the baked beans.

Tofish comes in a satisfyingly 'two big chunks' serving
Tofish comes in a satisfyingly 'two big chunks' serving

Shakey Shakey, 75 Ramsgate High Street

Food: Cod and chips gets ***** the tofish and chips a ****

Drink: What can you say about a Diet Coke? It was cold and Coke-y ****

Decor: It's not going to win any beauty contests - but let's blame Covid, in part at least, for that ***

Staff: Friendly and efficient (although they did lose my order five minutes after taking it) ***

Price: Pretty standard compared to elsewhere - but tastier *****

Ratings out of five

For more reviews on places to eat in Kent, click here

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