Known as the potato chip in North America, the humble British crisp is a beloved national treasure. So, it comes as no surprise that HipChips, a café and bar that serves hand-cut crisps and elevated dips, is thriving in London’s Soho neighbourhood.
“From kids in the schoolyard, with their pack lunches, to CEOs in the office, everyone loves crisps—it’s that deep-fried crunch,” says HipChips head chef and co-owner Scott Davis. “But, we wanted to pick it up a notch.”
Hailing from West Wales, Davis moved to London in 1995 and honed his culinary chops at some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. HipChips, which opened in 2016, came out of his desire to get back to basics.
He buys potatoes from a family farm in Northumberland, just south of the Scottish border, that grows a variety of heritage spuds. They are a little harder to grow, Davis says, but have a lot more flavour. He pairs these with dips that challenge the palate by blending savoury and sweet—such as beetroot with lemongrass marmalade and lemon tart with raspberries.
“It’s great to watch people [taste the dips],” Davis says. “They’ll recognize the flavour but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is—it’s fun and a great conversation starter.”
Q: Why is there such an unwavering affection for the crisp?
It’s ingrained in our culture, and the combination of salty and crunchy fits the palate perfectly.
Q: How do you come up with all these unique dip flavours?
The No. 1 rule is it’s got to be good; the balance of flavours must be right. We start with classic combinations—you can’t reinvent the wheel—and from there we move the dial slightly and make them a little quirkier.
Q: What are your favourite dips?
The katsu curry, the tomato ceviche—which is sharp and spicy and goes incredibly well with crisps and a cold beer—the creamy avocado wasabi, which has a nice kick to it, and the warm cheese fondue dip with pickled red onions goes down [great]. I also love the passion fruit and the chocolate pudding with salted caramel.
Q: Do you have special dips planned for the summer?
We’ll have an asparagus and parmesan dip, and we’ll also have a carpaccio dip. A summer flavour people often forget about is the gooseberry; I love gooseberries. And, maybe damsons—a sour plum that grows in British gardens—if they have a good season. Once you add sugar [to cut through the sourness], damsons have quite a bit of complexity.
Q: Have there been any challenges?
One of our biggest challenges is making sure the starches don’t change to sugars too quickly, so once the potatoes are harvested they go into big, dark, temperature-controlled barns. I have a great deal of respect for the process and the work the farmers do.
Davis’ Soho Picks
“Southern Asian plates with super clean flavours. I like the vibrancy. It’s a funky bar.”
“I like the Peruvian and Japanese-style food and the place has a good energy.”
“Modern British food in a great setting and it has the best steaks.”
“Small plates with authentic Indian flavours. The open kitchen gives a nice vibe.”