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Tubby Isaac’s jellied eel stall in Aldgate finally closes after 94 years

Paul Simpson running Tubby Isaacs' jellied eel stall [Picture: The Gentle Author] Paul Simpson running Tubby Isaacs' jellied eel stall [Picture: The Gentle Author]

Thursday, June 13, 2013
4:52 PM

The legendary Tubby Isaac’s jellied eel stall in London’s East End is closing forever tomorrow—after nearly a century.

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Ted Simpson, with Solly and Patsy Gritzman, 1940sTed Simpson, with Solly and Patsy Gritzman, 1940s

It has been serving passers-by at the Aldgate end of Whitechapel High Street since 1919.

Paul Simpson is the last of the line running the stall on the corner of Goulston Street, the fourth generation of the family selling the fresh seafood that was once the staple diet of the East End.

“I’m the last one ever to do this,” he said. “The business isn’t what it was years ago.

“All the East End eel stalls along Brick Lane and the Roman Road have closed—it’s a sign of the times.”

'Tubby' Isaac Brenner, 1920s'Tubby' Isaac Brenner, 1920s

Some of his regular customers were in their 80s and 90s who originally turned up at the stall with their parents in the 1920s and 30s.

“My father Ted Simpson had the business which he got from his Uncle Solly who took over from Tubby Isaac himself,” Paul revealed on the Spitalfields Life website.

“Isaac set up in 1919 and ran his stall for 20 years until he got a whiff of another war coming.

“He emigrated to America with his sons in 1939 so they wouldn’t have to go in the Army—but they got enlisted when America joined the War!”

Solly ran the business until he died in 1975, when Paul’s dad took up the reins.

Paul has been holding the fort since 1989, but has finally decided to close tomorrow.

He began working at the stall when he was 14, cleaning, washing up, cutting the bread and getting the beer or coffee for his dad.

The secret of good jellied eels is in the cooking, he revealed. The jelly exudes when eels are boiled and sets to create a natural preservative.

Families traditionally eat from a bowl and then put the remainder in a cold pantry, where the jelly would reset to preserve what’s left for the next day.

Tubby Isaac’s has been an impromptu landmark for generations, its reputation even spreading around the world.

It was also famous for winkles, cockles, prawns and mussels—nowadays even trays of oysters which attracted a latter-day professional class from the City close by.

But the cockney culture of jellied eels has vanished. Tubby Isaac’s has seen its day.

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