Daughter shares secrets of what made Boden's much-missed fish and chips in Chesterfield so popular
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Cara has many fond memories of her dad running Boden’s Falcon Restaurant, which overlooked Low Pavement, a snack bar and chip shop all in the same building which customers entered from Falcon Yard.
She said: “I think one of the unique selling points was that you could have your fish and chips how you wanted, ie served upstairs by waitresses followed by classic English puddings – jam roly-poly and custard was a particular favourite, or in the snack bar with your pals and a cuppa, wrapped in newspaper down the yard and you could even buy chilled battered fish in the front shop to heat at home later.
"Passion was the most important ingredient. Having a passion for quality, good taste and value for money. Dad had fish and chips for his lunch at least four times a week….quality inspection he called it."
Renowned for its crispy batter and chips, Boden’s secret ingredient was cottonseed oil. Cara, who lives in Holymoorside, said: “It has a high smoke point meaning you can cook at much higher temperatures than other oils. It also had a neutral taste which can’t be said for some of the chippy oils used these days.”
Spit roast chicken was among the specialities at Boden’s. Cara said: “For many years there was a rotisserie in the front shop; eventually the chickens had to be spit roast in the big kitchen upstairs as demand outstripped the size of the rotisserie available downstairs. I remember the wonderful smell of the chickens roasting away in the rotisseries, the potato rumbler busy peeling all the potatoes in a preparation room next to the chippy and the sound of the steam machine in the snack bar.
"Sometime it was a real family affair, I vividly remember on one occasion Mum and I having to gut and quarter what seemed like thousands of chickens. I assume someone must have been off work and it needed doing.
"Undoubtedly, one of the success factors during my father’s time were the people that worked there with him. Dad considered many of them almost as extended family and most of the team were loyal and passionate about what they did.”
Cara, a retired executive director in the private sector, said that takeaway outlets were rare in Boden’s heyday. She said: “From my recollections town centre competition was limited when it came to fish and chips. There was a chippy in the Shambles which ran off coal fired fat fyers. There was no fast food to talk of. No McDonalds, not even a Wimpy and pizza was something you only found in Italy and maybe the US. There were no Indian or Chinese takeouts – nothing!"
Her father ran Boden’s from the late 1940s until the mid 80s before retiring and leaving it in the capable hands of his trusted right-hand employee Barbara Marshall who had been his stalwart for many years. Cara said: “I remember him asking me when I was about 19 if I would be interested in taking over the business. At the time I was living and working in London, had recently had my hair shaved and dyed in a leopard skin print pattern, had recently experienced my first McDonalds and could think of nothing more dreadful than moving home to run the family business. Maybe I was wrong but with the way things were changing and without the money to modernise I think it would have been doomed!”
Cara’s great-grandmother Adelaide is credited with founding Boden’s fish and chips in Chesterfield. Adelaide is believed to have been a widow when she arrived in England from Germany in the mid to late 1800s. She found love with a ticket collector on the railways and married him in Chesterfield.
In the late 1890s or early 1900s Adelaide opened a fish and chip shop on or near Saltergate which was quite something for a woman to do on her own in those days. The shop was running when the Great War broke out. Cara said: “Adelaide was classified as an ‘Alien’ during the First World War but was allowed to continue running the chippy.” Fish and chips were regarded as a tradition and food staple in both world wars so was not rationed.
During the First World War, Adelaide’s son John (Jack) Boden was awarded a DCM (distinguished conduct medal) for gallantry and devotion to duty. He returned from the conflict missing half a leg but met his future wife, Elsie, a former mill worker, in the war injuries hospital where she was volunteering.
By the time John came home to Chesterfield, there were two Boden’s chippies – one on Sheffield Road and one on Occupation Road.
When the Everest Dining rooms on Low Pavement became available, John bought the building and set up Boden’s Fish Buffet. Cara said: “In those days they stayed open into the evening but had to water the vinegar down after a certain time of day due to some characters wanting to drink it neat!”
John and Elsie had two children, Mary born 1923 and James (Jim) born in 1925, two years apart but both on January 25.
Jim joined the RAF in the Second World War as an aircraft instrument repair person, spending most of it in Egypt while his father continued to run Boden’s. At the end of the war, Jim returned to England where his father trained him in the business and handed it over to him around 1948/49.
After her father died, Cara found pieces of crockery and cutlery stamped with Boden’s Falcon Restaurant in his garage. She has recently donated them to Chesterfield Museum, ahead of her move to Cornwall, saying: “They belong in Chesterfield.”
Recently the Derbyshire Times asked readers ‘which Chesterfield restaurant or cafe no longer with us would you love to eat in again?’ and Boden’s came out as the number one suggestion with many readers sharing fond memories.
Amber Rose said: "Boden's on Saturdays with my nana after shopping."
Lisa Wilde added: "Boden’s Chippy so many happy memories of eating there with my mum." Kristy Louise Millward said: "Boden's with my nana."
And Ann Barker said: "Boden's fish shop was the best!