It’s quite possible that the advertising for Pukka Pies is some of the best ever created. Forget that surfer riding waves made out of horses while “tic followed toc”. Or an orange man slapping strangers for no real reason. Or even Melanie Sykes offering up a flake to that sweaty runner in the middle of the desert.
No, what I want from an advert is some ludicrously overblown image of a man and woman dressed in full eveningwear sat in a limousine tucking into a pie so 70s that it is still kept in a plastic bag while it’s warmed up. Or one featuring the same couple (probably – I’m going from memory here) now undressed and in bed. They’ve moved on from the car and are now smearing the half eaten pie onto the man’s chest under the motto “All Steak Full Filling Experience”. Just genius.
Alongside the old fashioned advertising, I always think there’s something immensely comforting about the continued existence of pukka pies. Sure they might be pappy, with a filling that never quite actually manages to taste of anything. But they are there, in every decent chippie up and down the land. A resolute “fuck you” to the sweeping foodification of the country. A reminder that things can be sort-of tasty even if they are clearly crap and made from the cheapest and worst bits of meat in a factory where no one cares about the end product.
Faulkners on Kingsland Road serves Pukka Pies. Of course they do. They are the archetypal chippie. With tiles on the walls, and posters explaining the fish of the world alongside glowing reviews from the likes of the Jewish Chronicle (whose readers know a pretty decent amount about what makes good fish and chips, their ancestors having helped invent the dish 150 years ago a couple of miles down the road) and Zagat (whose readers probably don’t being American). Next door is a sit-down restaurant, complete with napkins and cutlery and a more comprehensive menu that lets you actually choose if you want your fish grilled or fried. But tonight we’re in a hurry, so it’s the takeout door we go through.
And emerge, 11 minutes later with a paper bag groaning with fried goodies. Another three minutes and we’re back inside E-8te towers, with our dinner plated up and still crisping up from coming out of the fryer. As it’s only moments from our door, we’ve been to Faulkers a few times before and the food can be a bit hit and miss. Like all chip shops, I think it depends on if you catch the grub just as it’s come out the oil or has sat around congealing and cooling. Tonight we must have timed it perfectly. Our large cod is perfect, the batter crisp and light, the fish flaky and fresh. Despite being rather anaemic, the chips are also great – in the chunky chip shop tradition rather than anything fancy.
It makes me sad every time I go, but Faulkners don’t serve gravy. So we make do with a mushy peas and a curry sauce. Both taste exactly like they always do at every single chippie in the land. But that’s what you want with them; like Heinz Tomato Soup, when you want sauces in the chip shop you want them to taste like a memory and not be prettied up or improved.
And the Pukka Pie? Yes, we do have one. It’s chicken and mushroom. And there’s not really enough filling. And the pastry is pappy and tasteless. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Faulkners is basically one of the best fish and chip shops I’ve been to in London. If only they’d put some of those old pie posters up and it would be perfect.