Jellied eels – silvery, grey, wavering under blocks of wobbly, translucent jelly; the sway and shimmer of a rock pool. An ingot of jelly with a neat morsel of eel embalmed within it. Jelly quivers on tongue for a moment, dissolves, liquesces with a shift of salt, a wash of malt vinegar, Teeth peels flesh from a comb of sharp bone, fleecy and firm and just a bit gelatinous and mild and meaty, with a hint of boiled milk.
Meanwhile, it’s Thursday evening and Goddards at Greenwich – ‘Traditional pie and mash since 1890’ – is doing brisk business, and going about it with well practised crispness. Over the chest-high counter flow pies – single, double and even triple (chicken & mushroom, chicken & ham, steak & kidney, steak & ale, lamb & rosemary, chilli minced beef, minced beef,The Banks Veggie soya, cheese & onion and even pie, mash & eels) and mash, double mash, peas or beans – and puddings, more pies, fruit this time, crumbles and a bread & butter number and sticky toffee – well, there had to be, didn’t there – and chocolate sponge with ice cream and/or custard; and tea, coffee (Latte/Capucciono; now there’s a sign of the times), hot chocolate, fruit juice in cartons, Coke/Sprite/Fanta, bottled beer, lager, cider (that’s more like it) and bottled water (hard to imagine that going down in 1890).
To – sharing my table with benches like pews on either side, sort of booths without walls, are two Spanish young woman, nattering away over cups of coffee; a family group a couple of tables down discussine the merits of custard over ice cream ; and two blokes, regulars ; and a middle-aged black man who takes his usual and departs; a stubbled young man with a baseball a cap and a parka edged with rabbit and, , well, the same kind of folk who have been coming here since Goddards opened its doors over a century ago, decent, kindly, everyday folk who feel at home in the warm fug and the bright light from the plastic chandeliers that droop from the ceiling, with the walls with white tiles above the dark tongue and groove panelling.
But I’m just here for the jellied eels (not hot for me), that delicate, subtle, fishy, meaty, simple, sophisticated, simple, mysterious, firm, fluid, mild, sharp, comforting, refreshing delicacy. Oh, another spoonful. Is there another food that releases such a complex series of sensory sensations?
Goddards at Greenwich, 22 King William Walk Greenwich SE10 9HU