diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 11, 2005

Taken away

Here's a six-month-old photograph of Mam's Fish Bar, Bow Road's premier takeaway establishment, with Mam herself staring out through the glass from behind her deep fat fryer. She ruled over an unfeasibly salmon-hued takeaway, in name a fish shop but in practice a kebab dispensary. If you wanted slightly charred flesh or a tray of grease-dripped chips, Mam was your woman. Her warm and genuine smile beamed out from beneath a shock of red wiry hair, swept back and piled high on top of her head. You could sit and eat her fatty produce while sat at one of the cheap and nasty tables bolted to the floor along the far wall, perhaps sprinkling each trayful with thin weak condiment dripped from non-brandname bottles. I never went in myself, not since her battered cod disagreed catastrophically with my digestive system, but the local teenagers and the minimum waged worshipped daily at her temple.

And then two months ago, without warning, Mam's Fish Bar closed down. It wasn't long before the old shop was hidden behind shiny new black shutters, and workmen could sometimes be seen inside installing gleaming new cooking equipment beneath big metal extractor fans. But there was no food on sale, until yesterday. Where once was Mam's shabby sign, now shines a startling illuminated slogan declaring The Thrill of the Grill. The fish and kebab silhouettes have been replaced by four gleaming red chilis, and two big red posters scream 'Now Open' to slightly more upmarket passers by. Everything's seems just too clean, and much less amateur. You just know that the previous owner would have written 'nOW OpEN' in thin red marker pen instead, probably on a page ripped out from a faded notepad, and spelt at least one of the words wrong. The new menu also looks much more professional and has substantially 'upgraded' in content - with cod and chips replaced by jumbo king prawns and chickpeas, for example, and steak and kidney pie vanishing altogether. But the biggest change of all is behind the counter. The new staff all look as if they're fresh out of school, standing there in a row beneath corporate red baseball caps, eagerly doling out grilled meat to the weak-willed consumers of Bow. But of Mam herself there is no sign. She's sold out to a Kebabish franchise, presumably in lieu of early retirement, and her presence has completely vanished off the face of E3. I shall miss her siren smile staring out from behind the glass, attempting to lure me in from the pavement for a 90p bag of chips. But I won't miss her fish.

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