The Carron Fish Bar, Stonehaven
Scotland is famous for many things – tartan, whisky and beautiful scenery to name a few, but a modern invention has brought it fame and shame in equal measure. News reports on Scotland’s abysmal health record are almost always sprinkled with references to that culinary legend, the deep-fried Mars Bar.
So what is it about deep-fried food that makes it so special, so delicious? In Scotland every town has its chippy, serving fish, sausages and even haggis as ‘singles’ or ‘suppers’ (that means served with chips). For decades, the deep-fried pizza has been a permanent fixture – delighting Scots and horrifying more health conscious onlookers. So wrong, and yet so right.
Rewind to 1995 when the deep-fried Mars Bar was first spotted in the Haven Fish Bar in Stonehaven on Scotland’s north-east coast. Now called The Carron, it has been serving them ever since, and the huge ‘Home of the deep fried Mars bar’ banner outside suggests that they are not embarrassed by the ignominy it has brought the nation as a whole.
In truth, despite their worldwide fame, they are not actually that common (and Scots don’t live off them). They can be easily found in tourist traps like Edinburgh’s Royal Mile but in 2004, The Lancet (yes, The Lancet) surveyed the availability of said treats and only found them in 22% of chip shops. I’m not sure what that proves. In other areas, inventive souls riffed on the idea, most famously The Reiver Fish Bar in Duns which has diversified into deep-fried Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. Oy.
So, the million dollar question - what does a deep-fried Mars Bar taste like? I chose a ‘single’ - you can order it with chips, but that’s just wrong - and it was freshly made to order. It looks more or less as you’d expect, like a Mars bar in batter - not particularly pleasing to the eye. However, the batter is crispy and light, encasing the sweet hot goo inside which runs out on first bite. It’s sweet and savoury, crispy and gooey – in short, a taste sensation.
Saying that, I had no desire to take a second bite and I can’t imagine how anyone could eat a whole one, but it was certainly interesting. If Scotland is going to be famous for a national dish it could be a lot worse.
How to get there
The Carron Fish Bar is at 1 Allardice Street, Stonehaven AB39 2BN. It is on the A957 (main road from the A92 going into Stonehaven from the south).