The first time I tried fish ‘n’ chips was shortly after I first arrived. My editor Rachel kindly invited me to join her and some friends for dinner at Dean Street Townhouse in SoHo. It’s a sorta posh gastropub that I thought/hoped would be less expensive than it was, but then again there was wine. Lots of it. (As is pretty much always the case in these parts.) But I digress. Fish ‘n’ chips. I had yet to have them and everyone at the table convinced me that I should totally order them there since even though it’s a pretty basic dish, it’d probably be prepared really well at such a nice place. In fact, Rachel was ordering it too. Usually that’d be a deterrent for me as I think it’s silly when dining companions order the same dish. (Sharing is caring!) But in this case, I saw it as a seal of approval. Plus, we were seated at the opposite ends of the table, so I went with it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t terrible. And the minty mushy peas that came with it were to die for. Seriously, I’d bury myself in them if I could. But the fish was just…fried. Like, really, really fried. The greasy coating fell off in chunks. Not only do I not really eat fried food like that, but it was also hard to, er, swallow that I had just paid about $23 for something that in my mind should be eaten with a plastic fork on the side of the road by the sea. (Or for $1.49 in the form of a sandwich a la the divine Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s. Childhood favorite. Yum.)
Since then, I sorta decided I didn’t need to have fish ‘n’ chips again. In fact, I was going to try not to have FOMO if I didn’t get to sample every type of “classic” British food while here. The key word being try. I’ve since eaten faggot, treacle and black pudding. Meh, yum and tastes like mushroom, respectively. Oh, and jellied eels and cockles served in a cone are a must on the agenda.
And then today I woke up fiercely hungover. Like, left-the-house-without-brushing-my-teeth-because-I needed-ginger-ale-so-badly hungover. I went immediately home, but once I came to — around 4:30p.m. — and felt my mental capacity could be challenged enough for a stroll, I walked north a bit toward Spitalfields. I didn’t really have an agenda, which was lovely, so I just veered in and out of a few shops. When my stomach started to crave the grease, as one normally does when its pal the liver had, the night before, been served enough red wine to turn my blood into something even Sookie would love to suck, I remembered that there was a Poppies nearby, which many people had recommended for its fish ‘n’ chips.
It was the time, and this was the place. I was going in.
Poppies is named after its 70-year-old owner Pops Newland who’s “been serving ﬁsh and chips in the East End all his life.” While he only opened the spot in 2011, the place feels (and looks) totally retro, complete with a jukebox, waitresses in ’50s aprons and old wartime photos on the walls. What’s more, the fried piece of cod I had was delicious and totally hit the spot. I ate all the chips, had a second helping of tarter sauce and even had not one, but two cream sodas. And let me tell you, our Dr. Browns has a serious competitor in Ben Shaw’s creamy, sweet pop. I also got a side of mushy peas — to keep things even (natch). While still good and green, they actually didn’t compare to Dean Street’s. So although Poppies wins for the main meal, drink and price, DS gets the award for the mush. All in all, satisfied and have got the growing gut to prove it. I’m SO glad it’s going to be nearly bikini weather when I get home. Sigh.