Fish and Chips shop in Spitalfields reveals its secrets as it competes with TV chef Rick Stein
As one of our great East End chippies has been short-listed among the UK’s best independent fish and chips shops, the Advertiser paid a visit to discover the secret behind their success.
This week’s paper version of the Advertiser, includes a 10 per cent of voucher for Poppies (terms on conditions are printed on the voucher)
Poppies, which opened 18 months ago in Spitalfields’ Hanbury Street, off Commercial Street, is up against the likes of TV chef Rick Stein’s fish and chips shop in Padstow, in the competition run by Seafish, the government’s authority on seafood.
Later this month owner Pat Newland will find out if is among the three shops, out of 10 shortlisted, to make it to the final in January.
Pat said: “It’s incredible to be up against people like Rick Stein, after all we’re only a fish and chip shop.
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“It’s lovely and special to be recognised, after all the effort we have put into the shop, even if that’s not why we opened up.”
Instead it was a lifelong dream of opening an East End chippie and a desire to offer customers a taste of the old East End that brought 70-year-old Pat out of retirement.
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He started in the frying trade even before leaving school at 15, when he worked in Phil’s chip shop in Roman Road in 1953, the year of the Queen’s Coronation.
When he opened Poppies, Pat brought on board veteran fish fryer Salih Sadik, aged 68, along with young member Recep Newland, affectionately known as “Pat’s son”, as his floor manager.
Brimming with 1940 and 50s memorabilia ranging from army uniforms to a washing machine, radio and jukebox, the retro layout of the shop is a step back to the old East End.
Even chart-topping music from those decades is played in the restaurant, where the wall is lined with black and white photos of British showbiz stars. Waitresses also wear traditional aprons and head scarves from that era.
There is also a touch of the old East End with the border above the spotless tiles, lining the wall inside his restaurant, inscribed with Cockney rhyming slang.
Even 12 tonnes of special newsprint, which Pat says will not run out in his lifetime, were ordered for wrapping takeaway fish and chips when the shop opened.
Featuring old pages from British newspapers you can read about the Queen’s coronation, the arrest of the Kray twins and the ghost hunting Hanbury Street while tucking in.
Fish and Chips at Poppies cost from �9.90 to �14.90
Owner of Poppies Pat Newland and floor manager Recep Newland share the secret behind their tasty fish and chips:
The Fish: “Our fish comes from the seaside town Peterhead in Scotland. It is delivered to our door from T Bush at Billingsgate Market. We use six to seven stone of fish each day.
“We use cod, haddock, halibut, rock, skate, plaice, lemon sole and scampi in our fish and chips.
“Once the fish is fried it can be left in the cabinet for display but if it’s been in there too long we always fry customers a fresh piece.
“We also serve a seafood platter with whitebait, cod, calamari, scampi, and homemade fish cakes.”
The Batter: “We make our own special batter using half a kilo of white plain flower, 250 grams of crushed white flower which we crush ourselves, salt and pepper, and half a kilo of water.
“The secret is that we change the batter at least every half an hour to ensure you get that crispy and tasty texture.
The Oil: “We use clear peanut oil, called groundnut, for frying which is very tasty but expensive. We pay �40 per gallon. Most fish and chips shops use vegetable oil costing �15-18 a gallon.
“We keep a special pan with vegetable oil for anyone suffering from nut allergies.
“We change the oil in the fish fryer every two to three days and then use it for chips. Some places keep their oil for months.
Deep Frying: “The perfect time for frying is no more than seven to eight minutes at no more than 190 Celsius degrees. The fish is turned in flour and blanched before going in the fryer.
The potatoes: “The best potatoes for chips are Maris Piper which we have delivered from Billingsgate Market. Each day we use 50 bags weighing 25 kilos.
“After going into the peeling machine we clean all the potatoes and check them individually for quality and any black skin.
“They are then cut into finger-sized chips, the machine is set at 8 to 16mm, and left in clean water for 15 to 20 minutes before they are cleaned again and fried in peanut oil.”