HIGH STREET FISH AND CHIPS (55 Underhill, at Lawrence, 416-510-8905) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a pot of tea. Average main $8.50. Open Tuesdays to Fridays 11:30 am to 8 pm, Saturdays noon to 8 pm. Licensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NNNN
High Street goes well beyond the regular two-fish, one-chips format with such distinctive Scottish items as battered haggis (okay, maybe distinctive is an understatement), tattie scones and shortbread.
But authenticity isn't the place's only strong point. This is a serious food-serving facility built for efficiency and comfort, staffed by personable, hard-working servers and owners, namely Frank and June McNie, long-time fish and chip veterans.
With so many restaurants staffed by well-intentioned amateurs and distracted actors, this hands-on professionalism is a welcome respite. And it's obviously a big hit with the loyal clientele, who packed out the room on the Tuesday night we were there.
If you don't want fish and chips, you can always try High Street's great-looking house-made meat pies or the fish cakes with chips ($6.20), which were exemplary: all soft mashed potatoes and fish flakes with a golden-brown breaded finish.
But fish and chips is what most people come here for. The haddock ($8.20), which comes from the Bay of Fundy, is a sprawling, perfectly cooked, oil-burnished slab of Atlantic satisfaction. Frank takes great pride in his haddock and can tell you the name of the fisher who catches them.
Keep in mind, as I later discovered, that the haddock, like most, is trawler-caught as opposed to the more sustainable line-caught. So if you have concerns about fish stocks (as you should), go for the Alaskan halibut.
The "and chips" part of the meal is noteworthy. These crisp, chunky, greaseless fries retain their potato flavour by spending just the right length of time in oil that, given the colour and taste of the chips, must be changed more often than the manual recommends.
Other High Street high points include a very fresh, creamy coleslaw ($1.45), mushy peas ($1.45) with surprising vegetative integrity, and Onion Things ($1.75), a variation on onion rings that are slightly marred by an excess of batter.
Be sure to try June's desserts, including the excellent sticky toffee pudding ($4.25) and her ethereal shortbread ($1.65).