Hey all, I hope you’re all nice and warm in the cosy indoors. With winter around the corner, I’m thinking of good old hearty fare. You know, chunky vegetable soup, steaming hot-pots, bubbling casseroles and of course, Friday night dinner, fish and chips.

I still remember my local chippy, Sou’s on Wigan Road, Bolton. They still do one of the best fish and chips ever (check them out if you’re ever in the area, I promise you won’t be disappointed).

This Derby foodie nearly did a hop, skip and jump in excitement upon hearing about the 2016 National Fish & Chip Awards, organised by Seafish. Yup, national awards for this thoroughly British go-to supper are pretty cool, which is why I couldn’t wait to tell you about the UK’s top 10 fish and chip shops that were announced yesterday.

The shops, one from each judging region in the UK*, will now ‘batter’ it out (sorry, couldn’t resist) as they vie for the ultimate title – Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year – and aim to claim the title of the ‘best fish and chip shop’ in the UK.

Covering the length and breadth of the country, the 10 finalists are: Cromars in St Andrews, Fife (Scotland); Hikary’s Fish Bar in Neath, Port Talbot (Wales); The Dolphin Takeaway in Dungannon, County Tyrone (Northern Ireland); Mister C’s in Selby, North Yorkshire (North East England); Hodgson’s Chippy in Lancaster, Lancashire (North West England); Simpsons Fish & Chips in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (Midlands); The Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (Eastern England); Papa’s Barn in Ditton, Kent (London & South East England); Cox’s of Letchworth in Letchworth  , Hertfordshire (Central & Southern England) and Kingfisher Fish & Chips in Plympton, Plymouth (South & West England).

To get to this stage and secure a place in the coveted shortlist is no mean feat. Shops have been appraised across an extensive variety of judging criteria including responsible sourcing policies, shop appearance and facilities, staff training and development policies, marketing and promotional activity and local community involvement. They also received several mystery shopping assessments and in-depth audits by industry experts, to ascertain the quality of the fish and chips and the levels of customer service provided by staff.

Having being crowned the top shop in each of their respective regions, the hopefuls will now put their presentation skills to the test as they are put through their paces in one last judging round. Facing a specialist industry judging panel, consisting of representatives from the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), the National Edible Oils Distributors Association, the fish catching and processing sectors, past awards champions and the potato industry, they’ll be quizzed on a diverse range of industry related topics and have to showcase how they successfully run a profitable business.

Held in London on 19 January 2016, this final judging round will determine the overall national winner that will be announced at an awards ceremony taking place at The Lancaster London Hotel on 20 January 2016.

Handing over the crown will be current champions, Frankie’s Fish & Chips in Brae, Shetland, winners of the 2015 Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award. Carolyn Kearney of Frankie’s Fish & Chips said: “Being crowned champion was a huge honour for everyone here at Frankie’s. It was a goal for us since the moment we opened our doors in 2008 and since winning we’ve experienced so many benefits – including having customers travel over 700 miles just to get a taste of our fish and chips!

“The judging process is very rigorous and challenging, but it’s worth every second of the hard work and effort involved. It’s a roller coaster experience and we would urge anyone with a passion for producing high quality, great tasting fish and chips to join the ride.”

Paul Williams, Chief Executive of Seafish, said: “The aim of the National Fish & Chip Awards has always been to showcase the very best fish and chip businesses and individuals in the UK while setting incredibly high standards for the industry.

“The Independent Takeaway Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Award is one of the highest honours to receive as a fish and chip business. Many of our past winners and finalists have gone on to reap substantial benefits, including international fame through industry trips overseas, increased shop footfall and turnover and even launching their own products.

“We’ve had so many excellent shops come through for each stage of the competition this year and the final 10 really do excel in upholding the high standards we set.  I’d like to offer up my congratulations and wish them the best as they prepare to continue their quest towards becoming the new champion, but also thank them for consistently helping us to reinforce the UK’s reputation as the home of the world’s best fish and chips.”

Chris Gardiner, UK Marketing Lead for Heinz Foodservice, added: “We’re delighted to once again sponsor The National Fish & Chip Awards, recognising excellence in this most British institution.

“The level of entrants this year is truly impressive and we’d like to congratulate the top ten finalists in getting this far.

“This growing sector is an important one for us to support, as we know a good fish & chips meal and a great sauce are intrinsically linked. Heinz adds an element of trust and reassurance to the offering; almost two-thirds of people prefer Heinz sauces when out of home and 83% trust the Heinz brand.

“On behalf of Heinz, I wish the best of luck to all top ten finalists and look forward to seeing you all at the ceremony!”

Culminating in an awards ceremony at The Lancaster London Hotel on 20 January 2016, The National Fish & Chip Awards are recognised as one of the most prominent and respected seafood industry events in the UK. Widely considered as the ‘Oscars’ of the fish frying industry, they celebrate the great British tradition of fish and chips, recognising the best talent, quality and choice offered by fish and chip businesses.

As the top 10 finalists, Seafish will now invite the shops on an all-expense paid study trip later in October to Ålesund, Norway, organised by award sponsor the Norwegian Seafood Council, to witness first-hand why the country is regarded as one of the world’s most sustainable fishing nations.

For further information on The National Fish & Chip Awards hop onto website www.fishandchipawards.com or follow @FishnChipAwards on Twitter for the latest awards news and information.

Do you like fish and chips? Where is the best you’ve ever eaten? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.