It just wasn’t to ‘pea’ in the Vicceh Market…
Anybody from Nottingham will know of the Victoria Centre Market, most affectionately known locally as ‘Vicceh Market’. As a small child it was a place I frequented often with my Mum, then later as a teenager when my friends and I would go to spend our pocket money on the record stall. A sneaky lipstick or nail varnish would be a treat from the make-up stall if we had any spare change between us.
The highlight of the Market for me though was always The ‘Hot Pea’ Man for a tub of peeled prawns or cockles, a bowl of mushy peas followed by a mug of tea. Looking back, this probably wasn’t, and still may not be, everybody’s cup of tea. The surroundings perhaps left a lot to be desired too, but that never crossed my mind at the time.
I loved those mushy peas and I’m pretty sure there was a secret ingredient in them. Smothered in watered-down mint sauce they tasted like no mushy peas I’d eaten anywhere else. In later years when I worked in the city I would often sneak off alone during my lunch break for my fix and I always maintained over the years that the peas served there were the best.
You can imagine my devastation when I returned last year, after working away from the city, to discover The ‘Hot Pea’ Man had disappeared. There was however a new stall, Robin Hood Mushy Peas. OK, it wasn’t quite the same for me; it was a lot smaller but the peas tasted great and I found myself addicted again.
So why have I turned up this week to find that Robin Hood Mushy Peas has closed down? I’m gutted. Why did it close? Who let this happen? Don’t all Nottinghamshire folk need these mushy peas in their life? Aren’t they a part of our staple diet around here? We can’t wait for Goose Fair to come around once a year – the only other place I can say serves the same mushy peas.
The demise of the Victoria Centre mushy pea stalls has got me thinking. Where can I go for my fix?
Wherever you are from, mushy peas are most famously known as an accompaniment to fish & chips, but for me they’re just not the same. As long as I can remember mushy peas as a dish has always been associated with the region. Anybody unfamiliar with it can’t seem to grasp the concept of a bowl of mushy peas with mint sauce yet if you think about it, in cookery mint and peas is a great combination so why not? I’ve always felt a degree of snobbery towards them too, until now that is, as I see them appearing more and more on restaurant menus wherever I go. OK, they’re still served with fish and chips – but they’re mushy peas all the same. I’ve never eaten them in a restaurant but if I can get my hands on a splash or two of mint sauce then it’s worth a try.
So I’m on a mission to find the best mushy peas served in Nottinghamshire. I hear there’s a stall at the Riverside Festival but where it goes after that I don’t know. Could this be the stall on Mansfield market that I’ve heard people talk about? I’m told they’re pretty good.
The Ned Ludd serves ‘Goose Fair Mushy Peas’ – if they live up to their name my problem may well be solved! Surely the Salutation Inn, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and Bell Inn have the secret ingredient – they must have been serving mushy peas for longer than I’ve been eating them. I’m also hoping The Horse & Groom in Linby and the Fox & Hound in Blidworth may have picked up tips from nearby Mansfield market.
There’s got to be an art to perfecting mushy peas and I defy anybody that says there isn’t. Nottinghamshire has too many great pubs and restaurants serving mushy peas that I can’t mention them all but what I’d really love is for one of them to serve ‘Mushy Peas & Mint Sauce’ at least as a starter dish in its own right. I reckon it would go down in a treat. What do you think?