Pitching up outside the Old Compton Street branch of Poppie’s you get the feeling you’ve stepped into a hipster-friendly time-warp. The East London fish and chip institution has opened in Soho, but while the fun ’50s vibe remains intact – complete with union jack bunting and a red chopper bike chained to the front – the food isn't what it once was.
Everything that arrived on the white formica tabletops came with a dinky jar of sauce. And most of it needed it. Poppie’s has built a cult following around being a top quality chippie, but while my ‘regular’ cod looked the part – all flaking white fish in golden brown casing – the batter was on the oily side and the huge pile of chips a tad anaemic. A steak pie was equally hit and miss. The pastry was buttery perfection, but the filling, though meaty, had a distinctly salty aftertaste. Happily, decent, unpretentious starters, like the prawn cocktail (served with two thick slices of soft buttered bread) or breaded and deep-fried mixed seafood, show that retro doesn’t have to mean rubbish.
Poppie’s has buckets of East End nostalgia, but can be a bit of a wobbly ride. My tip? Head to the small takeaway counter at the front, where the same huge portions cost half the price.