Neil Alexander and Steve Jones reached across the Atlantic Ocean to make sure their British-style fish and chips were as authentic as could be.
Alexander and Jones are two of the six owners of The Chippy, which serves the British favorite, plus traditional meat pies, savory pasties, British sausages and British sides for lunch and dinner.
Fish and chips are the stars of The Chippy’s menu. The fish come from the cold waters near Iceland, and the chips — or fries, as Americans call them — are prepared the English way.
Alexander, who hails from London, and Jones, who’s from Macclesfield, near Manchester, opened the restaurant last year, to the delight of fellow expatriates who had been longing for authentic British cuisine.
The idea came out of an expat get-together more than a year ago.
“The six of us were discussing what we thought Colorado Springs was missing in terms of British flair,” Alexander said. “We all have other jobs, but we decided that fish and chips is what we needed to try.”
Alexander and Jones both have backgrounds in food service but had taken paths that led them to tech careers. Alexander is a database administrator, and Jones runs E-Tech Recyclers, an electronic recycling and data destruction service.
After that conversation, though, “my focus changed,” Alexander said. The restaurant business “has always been something that I’ve wanted to get back into.”
The partners pooled their resources and spent almost a year looking for the right space and finding the right sources for the fish — fresh Atlantic cod and haddock, flown in six days a week from Iceland.
“When the fishing boats go out in England, they go into the same Atlantic waters that the Iceland boats go out into, so basically they’re fishing the same waters,” Alexander said.
“We could change the quality and get the fish from Alaska, but the whole point of doing this was so that we could get fish from Iceland and make sure it was really good and true.”
The same quest for authenticity went into developing the recipe for perfect British chips.
“We soak them in water anywhere between four and 10 hours to get rid of some of the starch,” he said. “Then we fry them twice. It’s a little effort, and it takes much longer than getting a bag of frozen fries and throwing them into a fryer, but it’s worth it.”
The result is a chip that’s not thin and crisp like American fries, but crunchy and golden on the outside and fluffy and moist inside.
“They’re designed to be fat and have a little bend in them before they break,” Alexander said.
They debated building out a site versus setting up in an established restaurant space.
“The costs of building out were just grander than we had in mind,” Alexander said.
They found a former gyro restaurant on Austin Bluffs Parkway that turned out to be the perfect space, complete with a functional kitchen, booths, tables and chairs.
They did have to replace most of the kitchen equipment — with fryers.
“There’s not that many places that need five bays of fryers,” Alexander said.
The Chippy had a natural constituency — a Facebook expat group, and once they shared news of The Chippy’s opening, word spread.
“We had a large influx to begin with — close to 200 tickets a day, so anywhere between 200 and 400 people on average,” Alexander said.
As managing partner, Jones usually spends mornings at his other job and comes in for afternoons and evenings.
“The rest of us sort of come in when we can,” Alexander said. “Our plan has always been to try and maintain our other jobs and then just spend as much time here as we could.”
The biggest challenge was finding good staff, he said, and a few course corrections have been necessary.
“We had grand plans of selling all kinds of British goods and turning it into a store and restaurant, and we’d planned to get an alcohol license early on,” he said. “We’d planned on some dessert items, things like pickled eggs, which is a very British thing. We wanted to try and do Scotch eggs as well, but they have to be done right.”
The restaurant does carry some imported British products, but the expanded menu and alcohol service got pushed back.
Business has stabilized at 130-150 tickets a day, with numerous repeat customers.
“At the moment,” Alexander said, “we’re just focusing wholly on making sure that it is true to an authentic British fish and chips shop.”