The East End seems forever associated with jellied eels – but why? Well, one of the main reasons was the setting up of a famous jellied eel stall almost 100 years ago. Tubby Isaacs’s famous jellied eel stall stood on the corner of Goulston Street but, regrettably, is no longer there.
The business was founded in 1919 by ‘Tubby’ Isaac Brenner, who soon gained a reputation as the East End supplier of choice for slippery jellied eels to the masses. After almost 20 years of trading, Tubby emigrated just before the outbreak of the Second World War, settling in the USA. As a result, the business was taken over in 1938 by his assistant Solly Gritzman.
Solly had begun working with Tubby on the stall from the tender age of 11. After almost 50 years association with the famous stall, Solly succumbed and died in 1982 at the age of 73. Solly was succeeded by his nephew Ted, and Ted’s son Paul who started working on the stall in 1989. But, all good things come to an end, and as cockney tastes have changed over the years, the stall has finally been closed down.
So, why were jellied eels so popular amongst the poor of the East End? Well, when eels are boiled, the jelly that exudes during the cooking sets to create a natural preservative. As a result, no jelly is added as it effectively creates its own jelly. And that jelly was a crucial factor before refrigeration as a poor East End family could eat from a bowl of jellied eels and then put the dish in a cold pantry where the jelly would reset preserving it for the next day…