‘I like to pass on the love’: An interview with Abdul of Family Fish Bar
He’s such a babe
Long a part of the rich tapestry that makes Cardiff student life so vibrant, Family Fish Bar cemented its place as a Cathays institution by winning The Tab’s inaugural BTOC. Sweeping the board with 36 per cent of the vote, it’s clear there are many reasons to love the Salisbury Road chippy.
Yet, one stands out above all others – Abdul. To those who have met him even once, he’s a man who needs no introduction.
I took the unprecedented step of going to Fam Fish sober to talk to the man behind the magic.
Congratulations! How does it feel to have won BTOC?
It’s fantastic, I’m really happy with that.
Why do you think you won?
The food’s good, firstly. The battered sausage is the main one that’s loved. A lot of it is to do with service as well. We do a lot for Halloween. We try to put up as much memorabilia as we can for Halloween and they do like to come back like “Oh my god look at me I was drunk, look at the state I was in!”
Economically, we’re pretty cheap. You’ve been out, spent some money in the clubs, been drinking, spent 30-40 quid and you don’t wanna spend another tenner. This kind of food, it’s good for when you’re drunk. You’re on the raz, and you’re feeling bad the next morning. You’re hungry and don’t know what to eat, but this will sort you out. Sometimes, what makes you bad makes you better. That’s the hair of the dog – I do believe in that.
You really embrace students here
Definitely. The banter, we don’t mind them swearing, coming in here being loud – it’s all good banter. When you’ve got a quiet guy standing at the back, and you turn around and say “Alright mate how you doing?” the guy might look round and go “is he talking to me? Nobody talks to me” that can make your day.
If there’s trouble, we help out as well. If there’s a little kerfuffle outside or some boys out there and they see another boy over there and there’s a bit of “ooh he was staring me out in the club, that’s him over there”, we’ll keep him inside, say “mate come over here” and put the shutters down sometimes.
I imagine you could make a TV series out of the funny stuff that’s happened here?
We could certainly do one here!
On one occasion, Charlie Sloth came in, about 3am, I didn’t really know who he was then, but some of the students came in like “woah…Charlie Sloth!” so he started beatboxing. He had plenty of boys with him and had all the students involved joining in.
We get drunken girls coming in here, flashing sometimes. They say “we love you boys blah blah blah, we’re gonna do something for you.” We go ok fine, they run off outside then suddenly “waheey”. That’s happened quite a few times.
Lots of people leave their numbers with notes – “if you know what I mean I want your battered sausage”. Generally the customers, we build a rapport with them. And people remember it, it’s a memory.
Then it becomes a cornerstone of a night out. You go out, come to Fam Fish.
And that’s how that (Family Fish’s famous Halloween wall collage) happened really. One student had a camera and took some photos, then I brought mine the next day and it just took off from there. It’s just good uni memories.
Our aim is good quality food at cheap, cheap prices. We never give food to people we wouldn’t eat ourselves. If something doesn’t go right, we dash it, it goes on cost and we sell one more.
What’s Cathays like in the summer?
Very nice. Quiet, to be honest. Peaceful.
Do you get any non-students?
Yeah of course we do. We get a lot of passing trade coming in here as well, but there’s about 10 to 15 houses round here that maybe are residential, or non-students and they do come in. We’ve got a few regulars on City Road and there’s a few regulars on Richmond Road who’ve been coming for years. We’ve got an old chap who comes in, he’s been coming for the past 10 years.
What’s your favourite thing on the menu?
I’ve got two actually. Depends how I’m feeling, if I want fish today I’ll have a cod. Or I like the chicken leg. With the leg I like to fry it a bit more because you’ve got this bit of loose meat that you might just chuck away, but I fry it a bit extra and you can eat all of it. The leg tastes fantastic.
Tell me about the history of Family Fish
We’ve been running since 2003. It was a chip shop before that, it was called the same name, but they weren’t open until 3am. They weren’t very good and they’d have a cat on the counter. I don’t think they were doing 50 quid a day.
We took it over from there and started opening late. Seeing that there is a market for late night business, we pounced on that. There’s not enough residential people to keep you going and closing at 12 o’clock like normal chip shops do. You just can’t make your money. You’ve got to adapt basically. We adapted to that, and it’s worked out fine for us.
Everyone’s got to make their money, but I like to pass on the love.