We visit the legendary seaside chippy where cod and chips now cost almost £15

This Weston favourite has been run by the same family for more than 30 years

‘Build back batter’. That was the tongue-in-cheek election campaign message from Boris Johnson when he made a prime ministerial visit to Papa’s fish and chip shop in Weston-super-Mare back in 2019.

Johnson stopped off for a traditional cod and chips lunch during a whistle stop tour of the West Country to woo voters.

He’d already had a pasty in Somerset but this was his second lunch of the day and he was photographed with Papa’s staff - a copy of the photo is next to the till. Maybe it didn’t quite make the final cut for the wall.

Fast forward three years and the cost of living crisis, the war in Ukraine and the fallout from Brexit has meant that fish and chip shops are grappling with a perfect storm when it comes to eye-watering costs.

One trawler company claims the amount of cod Britain is allowed to catch has reduced by 40% since leaving the EU. Sunflower oil is one of the main food imports from Ukraine and prices have risen around 60% since the war with Russia.

Factor in the cost of energy to keep those huge fryers bubbling away all day, as well as paying staff a decent wage, and many fish and chip businesses are fearing the worst. Some simply won’t last the distance.

And the customers are now finding the cost of their favourite seaside dish rising quicker than high tide. What was once a ‘poor man’s’ meal has become a treat for special occasions.

For a family of four, for example, the total cost of a meal with drinks and dessert is now similar to a trip to a fancy restaurant.

The cod and chips served at Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare
The cod and chips served at Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare
The cod and chips served at Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare

Unlike other food in Britain, fish and chips was regarded as such a working class staple, it wasn’t rationed between the world wars but now they are facing their biggest ever challenge.

Papa’s has been open for just over 30 years and it’s still run by Adam Papa, whose Cypriot father ran fish and chip shops in Kent in the 1960s.

Regarded by many as the best fish and chip shop in Weston-super-Mare - a town with dozens of places serving this Great British staple - it has a takeaway and restaurant.

As I stood next to the ‘please wait to be seated’ sign, I could see walls lined with pictures of fishermen, charts of different fish species and autographed photos of famous customers.

Next to my table, there were signed photos of Ken Dodd, Val Doonican, Frank Carson and Danny La Rue.

Younger visitors may have to Google these famous faces but for a certain generation - mostly the customers taking advantage of the daily ‘senior citizens special’ served between 11.30am and 5pm - they are reminders of a golden age for this seaside resort.

The laminated A3 menu is illustrated with colour photos of the meals, and it’s not just fish on offer. There are chicken dishes, burgers, pies and even a sirloin steak with all the trimmings.

A board advertising daily specials includes fillet of Scottish salmon, Mediterranean Sea bream and Anglesey sea bass, and fish can be grilled if deep-fried and battered isn’t your thing.

One of the most popular options is the lunchtime special - £15.25 for a prime fillet of 6oz cod, chips, bread roll and butter and a choice between tea, coffee or a soft drink.

The walls of Papa’s are dotted with signed photos of famous customers past and present
The walls of Papa’s are dotted with signed photos of famous customers past and present
The walls of Papa’s are dotted with signed photos of famous customers past and present

Although plaice, haddock, huss, scampi and salmon were available on this visit, I went for the best-selling cod and chips (£14.25).

Cooked to order, it took 25 minutes to arrive - at one point I thought the team of chefs in Peaky Blinder caps had popped over to the seafront to catch it themselves - but it was worth the wait.

The thick fillet of fish was pearly white and steaming hot within its crisp and light golden batter. OK, a few of the chips had brown spots - usually the sign of bruised potatoes - but they were chunky and greaseless.

I didn’t have room for dessert but there is range of proper old school favourites - treacle sponge pudding, spotted dick and apple crumble with custard.

With a pot of tea at £2.90 and £14.25 for the cod and chips, the bill came to just over £17, which isn’t a cheap lunch whichever way you look at it. During my meal, I did notice two families sit down, look at the menu and walk out again, presumably because their budget didn’t stretch to it.

After 30 years, Papa’s is a Weston-super-Mare institution. It’s a high quality fish and chip shop that carries on a great British seaside tradition but it now comes at a higher price than ever.

Papa’s, 20 Waterloo Street, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 1LN.