Fish and chips the way Kelowna has always loved them - InfoNews

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Fish and chips the way Kelowna has always loved them

Fish and chips, Shady Rest style, as they've been served for decades
May 05, 2019 - 2:30 PM

KELOWNA - It was all done on a handshake.

Shady Rest British Fish and Chips is Kelowna’s oldest continuously occupied restaurant, being at its Sutherland Avenue location for an estimated 73 years. For 52 of them, it was owned by Mel Pearson.

That changed in January of last year when Darran and Keri Cawood quietly took over ownership. That was about three years after Pearson announced he wanted to sell to someone who would keep the historic shop much the same as it had always been.

Darran and Keri Cawood bought Shady Rest Fish and Chips a year ago and are quietly continuing the shop's traditions
Darran and Keri Cawood bought Shady Rest Fish and Chips a year ago and are quietly continuing the shop's traditions

“He wanted it to stay exactly the same – to stay as a fish and chip shop, at least,” Darran told iNFOnews.ca. “He’d had some people interested in it as storage and as a Chinese restaurant. That (keeping it the same) is part of the reason he wanted to hold out and, as it happened, that’s what we were interested in.”

In fact, the Cawoods approached Pearson more than a year before they bought it.

“We came in and gave our number and nothing happened,” Darran said. “We had some life stuff going on and once that was all finished, we thought we would come back again.”

There was no contract signed binding the Cawoods to keeping anything the same.

“It was all on a handshake,” Darran said.

Keanan Mak cooks the hand cut fries at Shady Rest Fish and Chips
Keanan Mak cooks the hand cut fries at Shady Rest Fish and Chips

But, nothing stays the same, even the old Shady Rest.

It was originally built on what was the main street out of Kelowna, then known as the Old Vernon Road, Darran said. There was a stairway inside the rather tiny building that led to a rooftop patio where diners could sit in the shade of the surrounding trees overlooking Mill Creek – hence the name Shady Rest.

Since taking over, there have been some behind the scenes renovations like a new roof, upgraded cooking equipment and a TV over the ancient pop cooler.

Sam Bell oversees the vat of cooking cod.
Sam Bell oversees the vat of cooking cod.

But there’s still only one table with four chairs, along with five stools at the windowfront counter, for people wanting to dine in. Most come for take-out, with their fish and chips in the traditional newspaper wrapping.

The recipe for the batter came with the shop and is a key to maintaining the quality that keeps Shady Rest as one of, if not the, top rated fish and chip shop in Kelowna.

Darran, who grew up in Yorkshire and loved his fish and chips (in similar type shops but without any seating) is thinking of adding mushy peas to the menu since he’s getting numerous request for the traditional British dish. Sausages may be next but he plans to take it slowly as people don’t like dramatic changes.

Even though it was Darran who brought the love of fish and chips into the buying decision, he’s not on site much during business hours as he’s a foreman at a machine shop in Vernon.

It’s Keri who does most of the hands-on work of ordering supplies and keeping staff stocked with smoothies to counter the heat in the kitchen.

She gave up her nursing job after working in the field for 17 years in order to buy Shady Rest, preferring to have more time with their four young children and not having to deal with shift work.

Sam Bell pats the cooking oil off the cod.
Sam Bell pats the cooking oil off the cod.

Before meeting Darran, she was not a big fish and chip fan so they both had to learn from Pearson how to cook on a commercial scale. Their philosophy is that all staff members can do all things so Keri will take a hand at the oil vats when the rush is on.

On the other hand, while Darran can cook when called upon, he’s kept away from the till and the phone. He mainly does prep work in the evenings.

Another change has been in the staffing. Most were part-time and moved into other work when Pearson left. Sam Bell is the longest serving staff member at four years.

Sam Bell gets ready to wrap up the fish and chips
Sam Bell gets ready to wrap up the fish and chips

They’ve retained many of Shady’s former customers, including an elderly man named Freeman who comes in each Friday evening. They get worried if he’s late.

They’ve also attracted a lot of new, younger customers through the increased use of Facebook and Instagram (shady.rest.71) and they’re looking for any old photos of Shady Rest to add to their growing historical collection.

Shady Rest doesn’t offer any formal dining ambience and it’s not health food, but it drew a line-up of satisfied take out customers on a Wednesday evening in May, along with some satisfied sit down diners enjoying the funky atmosphere.

It’s open at 1359 Sutherland Ave. (west of Burtch)  from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. with your choice of cod or halibut (or a combination of both).

Almost all wrapped up and ready to take home
Almost all wrapped up and ready to take home

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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