It started out as a dare. No one in their right mind would deep-fry and eat a Mars Bar, right? Wrong.
Twenty five years ago, Stonehaven schoolboy John Twaddle dared his mate Brian McDonald to try the chocolate bar – in batter – for his lunch.
Evelyn McGowan, the fryer at The Haven Chip Bar (now The Carron Fish Bar), found the concept funny but was unsure how to go about deep-frying the chocolate, nougat and caramel confection, so she phoned her boss for advice.
He talked her through it and the bar emerged, melting and ready to be devoured.
The lads loved it. When they returned to Mackie Academy, they told all their classmates, inspiring pupils galore to pop in and ask for the unusual delicacy.
The quirky tale attracted local publicity, before it appeared in various national and then international newspapers. Suddenly everyone was talking about deep-fried Mars Bars.
TV presenter Keith Chegwin ate one on The Big Breakfast and the BBC World Service ran a feature on it.
Even Jay Leno, host of NBC’s Tonight Show, name-checked the snack in 2004.
To this day, The Carron Fish Bar is known as the birthplace of the deep-fried Mars Bar and it continues to attract fans in search of the calorific treat from across the globe.
As the iconic Scots snack marks the milestone, owner Lorraine Watson said it’s just as popular ever, although it’s not locals who are its biggest fans.
She and her husband Charlie took on The Carron Fish Bar in 2012.
“People from all over the world flock here just to try one,” said Lorraine, 59.
“There’s still a big buzz around it, even 25 years on. In summer, even with lockdown, we were selling about 200 a week. The demand is there.
“We don’t have anyone local buying it on a daily basis. It’s more that tourists and students come here especially to try one. It’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists.”
Lorraine got fed up of people claiming the battered treat had a staggering 1,200 calories so she had it tested by food scientists last year. It turned out it has only 306 calories.
There’s no doubt the deep-fried Mars Bar has helped boost tourism in the north-east over the years.
“We feel quite proud of that,” said Lorraine. “It’s all about community spirit.
“If the deep-fried Mars Bar brings people to Stonehaven to spend money – whether in the shops, at Dunnottar Castle or here in the chip shop – then surely that’s a good thing.”
The Carron Fish Bar, which was crowned the best in Scotland at the UK Fish and Chip Shop of the Year Awards in 2019, is still beating rivals who copy it in a bid to cash in.
While The Carron charges £2.50 for a deep-fried Mars Bar, some chip shops in London charge up to £5.
The appeal of the treat is global, and sampling the original version of the treat in Stonehaven appears in “must-do” sections of multiple travel and guide books of Scotland.
Singer Eddi Reader is another fan of the treat. She popped into The Carron during a break in filming for an episode of Songs of Praise at Dunnottar Castle last year.
Many people thought the hype would fizzle out over time, but it hasn’t.
The reality is that the deep-fried Mars Bar is here to stay.
The battered treat deserves a round of applause for holding the grand title of the unofficial national dish of Scotland for a quarter of a century.