North London's Cultural Guide

Review: Poppies Fish and Chips, Camden Town

One look at the place reveals the scale of the ambition. It’s been completely transformed, with original fixtures and fittings throughout. But what's the cod like?

A 1940s style waitress poses at Poppies, Camden Town. Photograph: Stephen Emms
A 1940s style waitress poses at Poppies, Camden Town. Photos: Stephen Emms

Poppies caused a bit of a sensation when it opened near Spitalfields a couple of years ago. Fish ‘n’ chips, that old take away classic, re-presented with lashings more style and carefully sourced ingredients.

In the bubbling London foodie climate, it was an inevitable launch, successful too. And now a second branch has just opened. There was plenty of local buzz online at first news of the restaurant coming to Camden Town, as much for the promise of 1940s theming as for top quality fried fish.

The site, on Hawley Crescent – one similar to that of Pizza East on Highgate Road – has seen a succession of lacklustre operations try and fail over recent years, so there’s genuine excitement that Poppies is going to be the one that sticks.

Poppies Wurlitzer


And one look at the place reveals the scale of the ambition. It’s been completely transformed, with original fixtures and fittings throughout, from classic Underground station tiling to salvaged MOD pendant lights.

A Wurlitzer jukebox stands effortless on the ground floor while, beautiful in a different way, heavy-duty Thomas Crapper loos grace the toilets. Hand-painted murals on the walls offset the genuine 1940s signs and pictures, while the waitresses swish around in sharp cut, period uniforms from Camden Lock Market.

Sourcing things hyperlocally has been of paramount importance to the Poppies team, as they told us over lunch, with ices from Marine and bottled lagers and ales from Camden Town Brewery. Their first branch had the vital authentic factor via owner Pop’s East End fish frying roots. For the move into Camden, the market, music and industrial heritage has been the focus.

In fact, the only key non-local ingredient is, unavoidably, the fish. This comes direct from prized third generation firm T Bush of Billingsgate. The classic cod (£11.90 or £13.90 for large) was light, fluffy and very plump beneath its thin and crispy batter. Haddock (same prices) was equally fresh, if less of a texture sensation.

Poppies cod A sprawling Hot Seafood Platter, bearing a selection of battered whitebait, calamari, scampi and cod ‘bites’ was a decent scran, but we preferred the purity of the single fish with – of course – a mound of pitch perfect chunky hand-cut chips and a couple of sides.

Mushy peas (£2.45) bore a rich pulse flavour, while gherkins and pickled onions, attractively presented, added new layers to the dishes they accompany with their delicately acidic spike.

All fish can be served grilled too, making this potentially the healthiest of the posh fast food options clamouring for a piece of our waistlines at the moment. A short but well-chosen drinks list sees almost all the wines available by the glass for under a fiver, while the soft drinks are all of the heavy glass bottled variety. The six seat bar tucked at the back of the ground floor had potential as a fun, if hectic, cocktail stop off on the Camden drag too.

The 1940s touches are fun and have been lovingly incorporated everywhere by cool K-Town design team Avocado Sweets, yet, squint as we might, the biggest aesthetic barrier to total immersion in the past is of course the modern curves of the building itself.

Poppies outside The living room area, where live music – another Camden-specific touch – is played on Fridays and Saturdays remains, at least for now, as a rather simple stage in front of a sheet glass window. We’re sure the vibe will bed in over the coming weeks, especially with the MTV monolith next door.

A cleverly separate take away operation next to the main restaurant (check the vintage cinema seating on which to enjoy it out front too), means this opening appeals on many levels, certainly not just to fish supper-seeking market tourists. Locals will appreciate the real quality of the food, the impressive interior and all the little touches, such as the bespoke newsprint packaging.

And Camden has just got itself a brand new micro music venue too.

30 Hawley Crescent, NW1 8NP. Kentishtowner rating 8/10. Fish ‘n’ chips from £11.90 eat-in. Meal for two with a couple of sides, bottle of house wine and service, around £50

10 thoughts on “Review: Poppies Fish and Chips, Camden Town”

  1. I had takeaway fish and chips here last night. It was very good. The staff were upbeat and welcoming and the service was very fast. They gave me free freshly made tartare sauce to try and said I should come back for music nights, Really worth a visit.

  2. It does sound good and I’ve always wanted to go into the one by Spitalfields when I’ve walked past it, but that is pretty staggeringly expensive for fish and chips.

  3. Awesome place! Went on Friday night for a takeaway but decided to eat in as the band sounded great! Food was really good, if not a little pricey for Fish and Chips (its generally the sides that get expensive) service was attentive and all the girls were always happy to help and couldnt do enough.

  4. I’m just wondering if in both poppies restaurants waitresses are working without any contract, with different salary per hour every week, and without any conviction that they will have this job in next week. cheers.

  5. Before you accuse I the reviewer of being too bourgeois i.e. I think the fish and chips served here is here really basic and nothing out of the ordinary or too proletarian i.e. I think the prices are way to high in the portion (and quality) to price offering, consider this, as a fish and chip shop the food offering is nothing special. You can glam up a restaurant all you wish but if the thing which you come for is not up to standard then this place really falls into being a pale imitation or retro pastiche of what it should be and you can dress it up anyway you want but if its below par it is below par with many soggy claggy chips mixed into the ‘better cooked ones’ as if nobody would notice and fish that was really average in taste and texture. As for the award boldly then with it boldly claiming that it is ‘Number 1’ you may need to question the reliability and validity of these surveys when there is a near identical sign almost directly opposite form another eatery in Camden that makes about the exact same claim about the quality of its Fish and Chips being sold (did the Towner spot this also?) I can’t help think ‘tourist trap’ when places makes these claims, surely the food and reputation needs to speak for itself then it trying to catch unsuspecting passers by out. I will let you form your own opinions of these signs, but if you want to see it in full swing – just walk down a certain street not far from its Spitalfields outlet to get the full picture of what this relativistic slipping of signifiers and signified can become.

    I will also leave you the reader with this thought and rather graphic image, upon leaving Poppies I happened to need dispose of some items in their litter bin outside and was not much surprised, but a little taken aback, at the amount of food had been thrown away by the take away customers that eat huddled around the outside. It was just at that moment when I had placed my items in the bin that another customer who had given up on eating their meal and their partner having deciding that she too could no longer pick at these pathetic offerings of chips, realising this place was not as cracked up as it was claimed to be, hurtled it into the bin also .Truly reminding me of the fried chicken and kebab scenario where some offerings are only best consumed by a palette ‘numbed with alcohol’.

  6. Went today and had the best calamari ever, cooked to absolute perfection could of eaten it again but I was fit to burst.
    Will defo go back again 🙂 maybe I get Harry ramsden to come with me for a lesson in the perfect fish n chip resturant xxxx well done x

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