A lunch meeting cancelled at the last minute led to me walking around Spitalfields fairly aimlessly looking for somewhere for lunch. In fact I had somewhere in mind that a colleague had recommended, and relied on his description of the location – ignoring the fact that I have the world’s worst sense of direction – so of course was unable to find it. As I was about to check the map on my phone, I noticed a sign proudly declaring I had stumbled across “The best independent fish & chip restaurant of the year 2014.”
Well, that was enough for me – the chip shop is my favourite kind of takeaway and I needed to see for myself just how good this one was. Poppies has branches in Spitalfields and Camden, and offers both eat-in and takeaway – but at the Spitalfields branch, the restaurant area was very small with a long queue, so I plumped for takeaway. Poppies is definitely a cut above other fish and chip shops even in terms of its website – a well designed site, it has information about the origin of the food, facts about sustainability, and a section about the ‘Poppies experience’. I didn’t realise this at the time, but the owner has been serving fish and chips in London’s east end all his life, and the Camden branch has life music going by the hashtag “fish n gigs”. Check out their blog as well with stories about traditional east end cuisine and which celebrities have popped in recently.
The menu is a bit more varied than my local chippy as well, with jellied eels (which I could never bring myself to eat) and desserts including sticky toffee pudding and ice cream from the Minghella family business on the Isle of Wight – my local only offers deep fried banana fritters! The food really isn’t cheap, which I would put partly down to the quality and provenance of the ingredients, partly the Spitalfields location and perhaps partly the restaurant’s reputation – they charge more for their food because they can. I paid £11.40 for a regular cod and chips which is a lot more than my local chip shop would charge. And was it that much better? The fish was tender and flaky, encased in a tasty batter, and the chips were chunky, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, just how I like them.
The takeaway is served in traditional newsprint containers which appeals to the former journalist in me – we always used to say today’s story was tomorrow’s chip wrapper – but would I go out of my way to go here? Perhaps if I was able to get a table, but for a takeaway lunch, it was a bit pricey and actually a lot more filling than I would usually want at lunchtime. But judging how busy they were, a lot of people seem to disagree!