This Hole-in-the-Wall Life

UNION JACK FISH & CHIPS is the name of two small restaurants in Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa that fry fillets to puffy, golden perfection. Union Jack also fries scallops, clams, oysters, shrimp and zucchini, and you can order these items in meals named after English icons—Picaddilly, Big Ben, and so forth. British favorites such as bangers, steak & kidney pie are available. And Union Jack also sells food products—curry sauces, custards, mustard, onions, everything a British expat could need for condiments. But forget British food: let's talk candies.

Both Union Jack locations stock many boxes of British confections, each topping their American cousins for flavor, size and ingenuity. Many of the selections come from Cadbury, the renowned English candy consortium that makes Hershey's seem as bland as spackle. Foremost among Union Jack's candies are Crunchie bars, chocolate-covered toffees that resemble a Twix bar but are imminently better. The secret is in the center—through the wonder of candy technology, the toffee takes on the shape of a honeycomb. This means each bite results in a different sensation—sometimes tough, sometimes airy: a roller coaster in your mouth. The Violet Crumble is the Australian version of a Crunchie and is neither violet nor crumbles—discuss.

The Crunchies and Violet Crumbles are the most famous British candies here. Give some thought to the lesser-known varieties. Maltesers are like our Whoppers but don't have the same bitter flavor. Some candies have green, bubbly centers; others are packaged in wrappers with Arabic inscriptions. I didn't see any Cadbury Cream Eggs (the company's most famous export to America), but that just might be because we Yanks only see them on Easter.

One item, however, upsets me: the KitKat Chunky. One of globalization's unforeseen consequences is the rise of multinational brands molding their product to meet local tastes—halal McDonald's, for instance. Or the KitKat Chunky. It's nothing more than a regular KitKat bar, except more so—three times a regular KitKat. Perfect for Americans, no? Yet I've never seen KitKat market their Chunky to us, the people who drive the billion-dollar chocolate industry to record revenue, even as we drown in a sea of heart disease and love handles. And so, I ask Nestlé, the makers of KitKat: what the fuck?

UNION JACK FISH & CHIPS, 333 E. 17TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 645-5440; ALSO AT 17916 MAGNOLIA ST., FOUNTAIN VALLEY, (714) 962-9500.


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