A dish that is decidedly not Texan has been getting noticed recently in San Antonio. It came here by way of a transplanted Brit who figured out how to make a meal that reminded him of home.
Matthew Rose—he goes by Rosey—has been living in San Antonio for almost 20 years, but he does miss one thing about England in particular.
“Everywhere in England you can get fish and chips,” he said.
The fish is fried, and the chips are what we call french fries. Before we get to how the 40-something Rosey came to make his fish-n-chips here, his journey getting here is worth noting.
“I have always been a big fan of travel, and when I decided I was going to go to university as a teenager, I decided I would study something that would allow me to have a semester abroad,” Rose said.
He studied Spanish and enjoyed a semester in Costa Rica. He then moved on to Argentina where he fell in love with Jessica, a teacher in Buenos Aires whom he later married.
“My wife is a San Antonio native. And so we moved back here in 2002 and I became a U.S. citizen about six or seven years ago,” he said.
He loves music, is a multi-instrumentalist, and has had several bands. For a while he taught elementary school, and for the last several years he’s been an Uber driver. But in all that time he pined away for the elusive fish-n-chips. So he figured that if no one else would make it the way he wanted, he’d better do so himself.
He’d never cooked fish before, but he started experimenting, and soon bought a fryer. It didn’t take him long to arrive at a recipe, and a way to make it properly.
“The batter’s got to be crispy. The fish has got to be flaky,” Rose said. “It should have a little bit of flavor, but not too much fishy-ness. And it needs vinegar.”
Friends started asking if he would sell them dinners. Yes, he said, yes he would.
“I would make the fish, wrap it up in the paper, put it in the cooler, and I (would) stick it on the front porch,” he said. “It was COVID times, right? So I was trying to do a zero contact thing. And then they would come along at some point, pick it up, put 20 bucks in the container, and ‘Bob’s your uncle,’ as we say.”
Then he got a surprise: The Dakota East Side Ice House asked if he wanted to do a pop-up there selling Rosey’s Fish-n-Chips. He said sure!
Over at the Dakota recently Navin Darayam, his wife and two friends just finished their plates of fish-n-chips.
“It’s excellent! Definitely excellent. It’s the way it should be done, and the way it should be served,” Darayam said.
It was served on a plate entirely wrapped in paper to keep its heat, that customers then unwrap to eat.
“I am from South Africa and basically, this is our bread-n-butter. We can go to any café around the corner and they will have your fish-n-chips,” Darayam said.
Julie Taylor is from Cape Cod, Massachusetts and she knows her fish.
“Very good batter. Very crisp. It’s authentic with the paper, the grease-stained paper, which is a mark of the English version,” she said.
Early next month Rosey will start cooking at a new place: an English-themed bar called The Dandy at The Inspire (formerly the Vistana) building’s street level. Rosey said they’ll have more on their menu.
“And you’ll be happy to hear that we’re going to be having not only fish and chips, but authentic Indian curry and vegan burger for those inclined,” he said.
He’ll soon leave the food truck spot at the Dakota, and will be cooking his Rosey’s Fish-n-Chips full time. But that’s not all Rosey does. Remember: he makes music.
Four years ago Youth Orchestras of San Antonio recreated the Beatles’ Abbey Road album for its Classic Albums Live Series. One of the bands bailed at the last moment, leaving Octopus’s Garden without performers. Rosey and his band Yesbody Else stepped in, and he played drums and sang the lead. YOSA’s Troy Peters enjoyed working with Rosey.
“He can play lots of instruments, he can play lots of different styles,” he said. “What I like about Rosey is he brought the humor and the joy to it, but also the impeccable musicianship.”
The Year after, YOSA tackled Prince’s Purple Rain album and Rosey was tapped to sing Computer Blue. But the most incredible moment happened afterward backstage when he and other musicians gathered for an epic impromptu jam of 1999.
Looking back on it, it was clear that the jam session was a high point.
“It was just a glorious moment. You know, everybody was just so jammed with with excitement and happiness about what we’ve just done. And we just didn’t want it to end,” he said.
While he will be working long shifts cooking his fish-n-chips, there might still be other opportunities for music making. The Dandy, where Matthew Rose will be frying up those fish-n-chips, will be staging live music, too. So music lovers, watch that space.