"And a scallop please."
Spend an hour or so at Regal Charcoal Chicken in Charnwood and you'll learn a critical life lesson: potato scallops go with absolutely everything.
Customers of the takeaway - which glows with bright yellow menu boards and branding, and is manned by a team of men who literally never stop smiling - add a scallop to every single thing they order.
I visit Regal on a Friday lunchtime as part of my quest to find Canberra's best potato scallop.
A tradie comes in and orders a hamburger with the lot. And a scallop. An elderly lady orders a chicko roll. And a scallop. And then a mum with two young kids orders two tubs of Greek salad. And six scallops. I'm jealous of those kids. Could there be a better Friday night dinner?
Regal owners Angelo and Mary Galanopoulos have been cooking Friday night dinners - and all meals of the week, really - for the people of West Belconnen for 15 years. The takeaway's menu ranges from salads and pizzas to dim sims, but their potato scallops are legendary. A couple of weeks ago when I put the call out on social media for the capital's best potato scallops, the resounding answer was 'Regal'.
It's little wonder the couple makes unbelievable potato scallops.
Angelo and Mary have been standing at the deep friers in one way or another for almost 50 years. When Mary was a girl, dad Con Galaktidis opened one of the north side's first takeaways, Macgregor Takeaway, in 1976 (where Kingswim Macgregor now stands).
The family then owned takeaways at Mawson, then Kaleen, and when Mary met Angelo in the 1980s, he joined the family business.
The couple bought Regal at the Charnwood shops in 2003 - "partly it was convenience, we live just across the road" - and have been perfecting their scallops ever since.
Today, Regal's crispy, creamy, deep-fried potatoes draw visitors from both north and south Canberra. Child customers from the early 2000s, who have graduated to suburbs even further north, like Bonner and Forde, and now have families of their own, come back weekly just for the scallops.
The secret, Angelo says, is in the batter.
"I can't give away too much but we are still using the exact same recipe that Mary's dad used in 1970," he says.
The huge potatoes for Regal's scallops are trucked down the Hume Highway from Sydney and the hand battering process is undertaken three times a week. The takeaway sells about 3000 scallops a week.
Angelo is strict about the cooking process and never wants to see the white paper bag containing his Regal scallops turning clear with fat.
"The perfect scallop can never be oily," he says. "It's all about the crispy batter."
Regal "has never advertised", Mary says, and doesn't have any social media accounts.
"When the food is good, it sells itself, people talk."
Having perfected the much-loved potato scallop, the couple admits it may soon be time to hand over the Regal reigns. Angelo starts work at 6am and finishes at 9pm, six days a week, and is after a bit more work life balance.
But don't worry, a succession plan is in place. Son-in-law Paolo Pazzona has been working at Regal for five years and knows the takeaway's magical scallop-making process inside out.
"The plan is for Paolo to take it over - if he wants to, it's his," Mary says.
"But no pressure."
Skin crispiness: 9/10
Potato creaminess: 7/10
Batter to potato ratio: 10/10
Salt ratio: 10/10
Verdict: Dear Canberra, I finally understand your passion for Regal. This scallop is to die for. The crispy batter is its defining feature. Bravo, Regal, bravo. You've done Charny proud.
Stay tuned for: Hughes Takeaway.
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