A FIVE-STAR FISH SUPPER PLEASE…
Metro – Tuesday 29th January 2002
The humble fish and chip shop could be earning a five-star billing similar to that enjoyed by top hotels, under a tourist-friendly grading scheme launched yesterday.
VisitScotland, the country’s tourist board, claims the food grading scheme is the first of its kind in the world and allows outlets – from local cafés to top restaurants – to show their quality to the world.
The scheme was launched at the L’Alba D’Oro chip shop in Edinburgh, which received a four-star rating.
VisitScotland chief executive Philip Riddle said: ‘Food grading is a new addition to our stable of quality assurance schemes and is another first for Scotland, as there are no other such schemes in operation anywhere else.
‘We aim to make Scotland a destination for good food. We have some of the finest natural ingredients in the world. But the scheme is not just about recognising haute cuisine, it is all-embracing and seeks to recognise excellence in all sections of the market, including the corner café or the local fish and chip shop.’
A FOUR-STAR SUPPER WITH SALT ‘N’ SAUCE
The Herald – Tuesday 29th January 2002
A New Town takeaway has been named Scotland’s first four-star chippy.
L’Alba D’Oro in Henderson Row was given the honour by tourism chiefs under a new food quality scheme.
Owner Filippo Crolla said: “I knew we were good, but I did not know we were this good. It is wonderful to be able to say we are a four-star establishment.”
Founded in 1975, the shop has gained renown for selling fast-food versions of crocodile, kangaroo, ostrich and venison alongside fish suppers in the past.
Amanda Clark, chief executive of VisitScotland’s Food Grading Company, added: “when people come on holiday to Scotland they really want to know the best place to go and eat for everything from a top-class meal to a take-away.”
The star grades will be reviewed annually in categories that also include pub-food, coffee shops and self-service restaurants.
FOUR STAR CHIPPY MAKES THE GRADE
Edinburgh Evening News – Tuesday 29th January 2002
An Edinburgh chippy has become Scotland’s first four-star take-away as part of a scheme to promote tourism and reward quality and achievement in the catering industry. L’Alba D’Oro, in the capital’s New Town, is the first establishment to be awarded the distinction by VisitScotland in what is thought to be the first scheme of its kind.
Amanda Clark, the chief executive of the Food Grading Company, which is administered by VisitScotland, said: “when people come on holiday to Scotland they really want to know the best place to go for everything, from a top class meal to a takeaway. Until now, VisitScotland has not been able to differentiate the good from the bad. The stars will be reviewed every year and if our taste experts believe that the standard has fallen, stars will be removed.
Filippo Crolla, owner of L’Alba D’Oro on Henderson Row, was delighted with the award. He said: “I knew we were good, but I did not know we were this good. It is wonderful to be able to say that we are a four-star establishment.”
He added: “I have always tried to use the best quality and the freshest food and this is what the award reflects, I think.”
David Wilson, a member of the Natural Cooking of Scotland committee, said: “In Scotland, the top establishments are truly world class but it is some of our pub grub and café fare that lets us down. This scheme encourages people to use Scottish ingredients wherever possible and to cook rather than defrost frozen produce that has been brought in.”
The food grading scheme was developed in co-operation with the catering industry including input from some of the best-known chefs in Scotland. VisitScotland expects that up to 1,000 businesses will join the scheme this year. There are nine categories and five stars available in each category. The categories include fast food, take-away, home cooking, pub-food, bar food, restaurant, self-service restaurant, tea room and coffee shop.
Philip Riddle, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: “Food grading is a new addition to our stable of quality assurance schemes and is another first for Scotland as there are no other such wide-reaching schemes in operation anywhere else.
“We aim to make Scotland a destination for good food. We have some of the finest natural ingredients in the world and many talented and committed chefs and operators.”
CHIPPY SERVED UP FOUR STARS
Herald & Post – Wednesday 30th January 2002
An Edinburgh chip shop was the first outlet in Scotland to be graded under a new scheme which will see every food provider in the country given a mark out of five.
L’Alba D’Oro on Henderson Row picked up an impressive four stars when Peat Inn owner and chef David Wilson and VisitScotland chief executive Philip Riddle called in this week.
The Scottish food grading scheme is the first of its kind in the world and will include every food outlet from the local café to smart restaurants.
Mr Riddle said: “Food grading is a new addition to our stable of quality assurance schemes and is another first for Scotland as there are no other such wide-reaching schemes in operation anywhere else.
“We aim to make Scotland a destination for good food. We have some of the finest natural ingredients in the world and many talented and committee chefs and operators.”
IT’S A CHIPPY WITH KRUG ON THE MENU
Edinburgh Evening News – Friday 1st February 2002
Fish and chips and £120 bottles of champagne. It can only be the New Town’s favourite fast food stop says Lara Macmillan
Raucous laughter can be heard on entering L’Alba D’Oro, and it’s emanating from Filippo Crolla, a loveable and larger-than-life eccentric – a man who can quite rightly be called an Edinburgh institution.
But then the owner of the best fish and chip shop in town has a lot to laugh about. His chippy has just been given a top award for its quality of food from VisitScotland.
It’s strange in itself that a chippy should be awarded with the first four stars in a new scheme by tourist officials. But even stranger is the fact that his shop is located in Henderson Row, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town where delicatessens and specialist food shops serving up sun-dried tomatoes and organic pastas are normally the order of the day.
That his shop exists at all, in an area where well-heeled professionals and some of Edinburgh’s oldest monied families reside, is an anomaly. That it is thriving is even more bizarre.
But this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill chip shop.
L’Alba D’Oro – Italian for Golden Dawn – also happens to sell Krug at a mere £119, Moet, Scotch, wine, beer, and Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs ice cream.
And foodwise, it offers both the old reliables and some more adventurous treats. Filippo has gained recognition over the years for selling fast-food versions of crocodile, kangaroo, ostrich and venison, although presently they have been dropped from the menu.
But he insists the problem isn’t that the good people of Stockbridge, Inverleith, Dundas Street and Silvermills aren’t adventurous enough, it just got a bit too expensive for their tastes.
“The demand for crocodile was wonderful and we sold thousands of pounds worth but then the price went up for us,” he says. “I was charging £6 per portion and then I had to go up to £8 and £10. It was too dear.”
But he is working on some new and exciting additions to his menu, although remains tight-lipped on what exactly they are.
Whatever he ends up serving, there’s no doubt that his clientele, which includes some major celebrities, will love it.
Robbie Coltrane strolled in one night to place a sizeable order of fish and chips, two pickled onions, and a black pudding all drenched in salt and vinegar. He must have enjoyed it because he has since come back for more.
Gavin and Scott Hastings are also frequent visitors as is royally-connected Julia Ogilvy, the managing director of jewellers Hamilton and Inches.
At present his offerings include haddock, prawns, scampi, tuna, salmon and squid. In fact, he claims to have the largest range of fish any Edinburgh fish and chip shop has to offer. Also on the menu are pizza, traditional and vegetarian haggis, while deep-fried potato fritters, babycorns and cauliflower are also there.
“But I don’t do deep fried Mars bars. The chocolate melts with the fat and spoils the fat for other people. It’s the wrong thing to do,” he says in his still-strong Italian accent.
Society has, of course, become far more health conscious in recent years, and he says he has moved with the times.
“We provide food for health-conscious people and vegetarians. We used to use animal fat but we switched to vegetable fat a long time ago. The customers really appreciate it. And this food is not nearly as fattening as people say. During lunchtime, we sell a lot more sandwiches, pasta and pizza.
“Our biggest seller, however, is fish. We spend more buying the best quality. That’s why the customers come back.”
L’Alba D’Oro is the first establishment to be awarded the four-star distinction by VisitScotland, in the first scheme of its kind which aims to promote tourism and reward quality and achievement in the catering industry. It also encourages people to use Scottish ingredients wherever possible.
The food grading scheme was developed with the catering industry, including input from some of the best-known chefs in Scotland. VisitScotland expects that up to 1,000 businesses will join the scheme this year.
There are nine categories with five stars available in each – fast food, takeaway, bar food, restaurant, self service restaurant, tearoom and coffee shop.
“It was very good to win the award and it is wonderful to be able to say that we are a four-star establishment. But I knew we were good anyway,” he laughs. “
“I love the business. We’ve been going since 1975 and it gives me great pleasure.
“We have had a lot of celebrities in. I never recognise them though. And when they leave, the staff tease me about it. But I can’t even tell you any of their names now because I can’t remember. Anyway, my regulars are more important to me.
“I think our success is as much down to our friendliness as it is to our food. Customers must be served with a smile. I think it’s very rude just to serve someone and take their money. In fact it’s very nasty.”
As if bang on cue, a woman comes in with her five-week-old baby and Filippo nearly dives over the counter to help her. She has been going there ever since she was a child and has just popped in to say hello. He oohs and aahs over them both.
In fact, he has the knack of making every customer feel special. Good food aside, this really is a feelgood place, as his customers are more than happy to testify. Brian Davis, 32, who works for Scottish Life nearby, says: “I come in at least once a week for the haggis. It tastes great. The chips are fantastic too.”
Jeanette Simm, of Silverknowes, agrees: “I’ve come in regularly for fish and chips for the last ten years. It’s so friendly. The staff are always chatting away and laughing. And the food is good.”
And Charlotte Bain, 31, who lives in Stockbridge, says: “I love coming in here. It always puts a smile on my face, no matter what. The atmosphere is great. He really is larger than life. I didn’t ever try crocodile to be honest, but I’m a big fan of the squid and I’m addicted to the chips. They definitely deserve this award.”
Filippo is a man who clearly adores his job. And it is easy to see why people keep going back for more. The 48-year-old is just so Italian – warm, passionate and, of course, loud. As he sits for our photographer, his staff and customers tease him about being a poser. He just shrugs and thanks them. “I like having my picture taken like this,” he laughs. “I could get quite used to it. Maybe I could become a model?”
Filippo, who lives in Portobello with his wife Celeste, says he owes the existence of his shop to the Italian army.
“I was working on my dad’s farm at Cassino when I fled to Scotland in 1972 rather than do 18 months’ National Service. I’m an ex-farmer who’s never been afraid of hard work.
“I arrived in Glasgow and worked in a chippy for two years. But then I met Celeste in Edinburgh and here I am. I’ve got to say, otherwise she’d hit me, that the shop, which has tripled in size, wouldn’t have been a success without Celeste.
“We have been married for 28 years and we are on our third generation of customers.”
Celeste was born in Edinburgh but her parents are Italian. She works by her husband’s side full-time and they clearly adore each other. They tease each other unmercifully. She complains that she does all the work and he gets all the credit. He shoos her back to the kitchen.
“Handling him is a full-time job,” she laughs.
I don’t think anyone would disagree.
– Lara Macmillan
The Sunday Times – Sunday 3rd February 2002
I’m delighted to see that one of the rocks which supported me through student life has been granted the recognition it deserves. Edinburgh’s L’Alba D’Oro fish and chipper, always ready with a few pickled eggs when I was in the midst of an essay crisis, has been named the first four-star fish and chip shop in Scotland. But L’Alba D’Oro hasn’t been awarded the top culinary accolade because it sticks to traditional Scottish food. If you are suddenly struck with a craving for ostrich or venison when strolling home one evening, then it’s the place to go.
Anthony Bourdain, bad-boy chef and author of Kitchen Confidential, who recently sampled a deep fried Mars Bar among other Scottish delicacies, will now be able to stop off in a place which combines the allure of fast food with the high standards of cordon bleu. Chippy Confidential anyone?
BLACK PUDDING AND BOLLY
Business a.m. – Friday 24th May 2002
Alongside the haggis suppers and margherita pizza, an Edinburgh chippy is selling everything from Cloudy bay to a Krug Rosé champagne for £119. He’ll even wrap it in newspaper if you like.
I’m standing in a fish and chip shop, mouth-watering aromas swirling round my nostrils, when a customer says: “Two bottles of Cloudy Bay, please.”
“There you are, sir. That’ll be £33.80.”
Bloody pretentious, I think. What’s wrong with a white pudding supper and some Irn-Bru like everyone else?
But this is L’Alba D’Oro fish and chicken bar and pizzeria (est 1975), which attracts some superlatives with the same consummate ease that the transport minister attracts flak.
L’Alba D’Oro (“golden morning”) has been awarded four-star takeaway status from VisitScotland because, basically, it is different class. Owner Filippo Crolla works hard to make it so, and the charmingly eccentric 48-year-old, originally a farmer from Cassino, is capricious enough to have a bottle of Krug Rosé champagne at £119 sitting alongside mince pie suppers at £2.50.
It is impossible to decide whether L’Alba D’Oro is a fish and chip shop selling wines, or a wine shop that sells haddock from Port Seton alongside Maltesers and teabags.
Crolla has amassed over 100 different – and extremely high quality – wines, bottles that would grace any cellar. He sells Dom Perignon (£69) and Bollinger (£47.50), Amarone della Valpolicella ’94 (£49.50), Prunotto Barolo (£16.80), Baron Philippe Pomerol (£11.80) and Chateauneuf du Pape (£10.26), as well as a host of more lowly priced sluggers such as Cote du Rhone at £3.70. He even has malts and port. And, of course, Cloudy Bay chardonnay, pinot noir and the legendary sauvignon (£14.50). That in itself is no mean feat. The stuff is gold dust. How does he manage it?
“I had to make an offer the importer couldn’t refuse,” says a grinning Crolla, who had originally gone solely for cheaper wines, believing that was what customers wanted. But that was wrong. “People are now wine educated.”
The turning point came one evening when a customer, who “honestly, looked like a bit of a tramp”, asked how much the Dom Perignon was. “I thought, this guy is a mess and he is wasting my time. I was busy. So I took the bottle down and he said ‘I’ll take four’. I thought he was making a joke, but he took out a bundle of £50 notes and gave me the £276. I couldn’t believe it.”
Crolla sells more than 1,000 carry-outs in a weekend and about 130 wines.
“There are some crazy persons,” he says in his delightful quirky English. “Last week, a guy bought five cases of wine and a load of pizzas for the warming of his house.”
But Crolla insists there will ever be a place for a can of juice with a fish supper.
“That’s life. You cannot take that away from the Scottish customer.”
Received wisdom in wine circles is that any dish slathered with vinegar is going to clobber any wine drunk with it. But if you go easy, you can get away with a sauvignon blanc or a dry and fruity rosé.
Crolla says: “I would suggest not too expensive. A £3 of £4 bottle. A soave, perhaps. That wine matches together with the fish. It’s fine.”
Crolla has 886 wines instantly on call “no problem”, and sells mixed cases too. He is adamant he can get any wine for any customer, “as long as it is in the country. It is my pleasure. You know, people say I love my wines more than my wife. But I don’t wish to comment.”
Mark Bargeton, a property management consultant, is the man who bought the Cloudy Bay, after trying to find it all over the city, including wholesalers. “Nobody had it because it has cult status now,” says Bargeton. “In fact, it was a wine shop down the road that suggested I try the chip shop.”
– Bill Clapperton
ACT III: TO HAVE FISH (‘N’ CHIPS) OR TEA (WITH CAKES)?
Bon Appétit (US) – August 2002
A scene change now, from discreet street to chirpy chipper. Don’t leave Edinburgh without having fish ‘n’ chips at L’Alba D’Oro, where, for less than your taxi fare, you get a quota-busting lump of fresh cod in crisp brown batter with a hill chips, all sprinkled with vinegar and wrapped in paper, to be eaten, standing, with a plastic fork. Don’t take it home; it won’t taste as wonderful. And don’t bother asking for a smaller portion; there is no such thing in this part of Scotland.
FILIPPO AND THE GIANT MUSHROOM
Edinburgh Evening News – Friday 13th September 2002
A chip shop owner has picked one of Scotland’s biggest edible mushrooms. Filippo Crolla, 49, who runs the award-winning L’Alba D’Oro, in Edinburgh’s Henderson Row, spotted the 20lb fungus while mushroom-picking near Kelso.
Measuring 24 inches in diameter and 22 inches in height, the mushroom was so big he struggled to get it into the back of his Jeep.
Mr Crolla said: “I have been picked mushrooms for at least 30 years. But in all that time I have never come across a mushroom this bug. I had to get it to the restaurant to let people see it because I knew they wouldn’t believe me otherwise.”
On reaching his restaurant Mr Crolla used a reference book to identify it as a Devil’s Saddle tree mushroom or polyporaceae. They normally grow to just a few inches in diameter.
“This mushroom must be some age because of its size, so I have been told it will have lost most of its flavour. When I think of all the pizza toppings and pasta it could have helped make, it breaks my heart.”
Mr Crolla has now put the giant mushroom on display in his shop.
MONSTER MUSH A RECORD
The Times – Friday 13th September 2002
Restaurant boss Filippo Crolla could not believe his eyes when he discovered this giant mushroom.
Filippo found the devil’s saddle fungus near Kelso, in the Borders.
He said: “it is edible but, sadly, it’s far too tough.”
The 20lb beast is now on display at his L’Alba D’Oro chip shop in Henderson Row, Edinburgh.
Experts at the city’s Royal Botanical Gardens said it was the biggest one of its type they had ever seen.