All photos: Nathan Bickerton
I spend far too much time on TikTok. I lounge for hours on the sofa, flicking my thumb through my FYP feed. But this weekend, it was taken over by chip shop videos – and I bet yours was, too. Binley Mega Chippy was just a humble suburban chippy in Coventry until it exploded into a global viral internet sensation practically overnight.
The chippy was slowly gaining notoriety on TikTok after a user named @craigs.kebab.house initially posted it as part of an appreciation slideshow of British chippies, set to music from Dutch hardstyle producer DJ Isaac. But its meteoric rise to fame truly came after @binleymegachippyfan53 created a jingle that quickly turned into a trending sound – which subsequently became the soundtrack to thousands of ironic admiration videos posted by users from around the world. On Friday 27th May, the Binley Mega Chippy jingle had only been used in 299 TikTok videos, though #BinleyMegaChippy had seven million views on the app. By Monday, the jingle had been used in 3,741 videos and the hashtag had over 100 million views – which is a ridiculous amount of views for content made about a chippy. A bunch of lads even travelled to the chippy to singe the jingle outside its door. As far as trends go, Binley Mega Chippy is well and truly mega. When I first spotted it on TikTok on Friday, I told my girlfriend that we had to visit the famous Binley Mega Chippy. At the time, she didn’t take me too seriously – probably because the chippy is over 150 miles away from our home in Liverpool and it would take two and a half hours just to visit a chippy. But isn’t it funny how things work out? Because just three days after joking about it, here we were, sat on a train from Liverpool to Coventry to visit Binley Mega Chippy.
It took us two trains and one Uber to make it to the promised land. “It’s pretty famous around here, to be honest,” our cab driver said of the chippy. “Even before the TikToks, it’s a big local chippy and very well known in the area. I’ve taken plenty of people there this weekend, but the TikToks are bringing lots of people to the area - many more than usual.” After driving for nearly 20 minutes, we finally pulled up to our destination. There it stood, in all its red and golden glory. With all the shutters down. Closed. Stupidly, we’d arrived at 3.30PM and the chippy was shut until 4.30PM – unlike any other closed chippy, though, Binley Mega Chippy was already buzzing. Its car park only has about 10 spaces, but it was 70 percent full by the time we turned up. There were cars coming and going; people stopping to take pictures, pulling up in cars on FaceTime to their friends, and driving past beeping at all the commotion.
Those I spoke to in the car park said they had come from all over to visit the chippy. Most were from the UK; there was a group of lads from Coventry, two lads from Kent, one man from Manchester, and a couple from Newcastle. There was even one American lad from Texas who claimed he’d paid an extra two grand to add a layover on his flight to Paris just so he could stop and visit the world famous Binley Mega Chippy. Mental behaviour – have to respect it, though.
Fifteen minutes before the chippy reopened to the public, a queue of around 20 started forming. You could feel the buzz of excitement: Everyone was on the same page. Yes, no one really understood why they’d made the hundreds or thousands of miles journey to the Binley Mega Chippy, but nobody seemed to care. Everyone was there for the hype alone, even if you could sense the general miasma of irony. “What the fuck am I doing here?” someone laughed.
Deep down, I think no one really cared. Everyone was in on the joke – after all, it’s pretty special to be at the centre of a trend that literally everyone is talking about at the minute. Apologies to any infuriated millennials and boomers reading this, but maybe this is just how our generation gets our kicks.Finally, the shutters began rolling up at 4.30PM on the dot. People at the front of the queue ducked under the shutters just to be the first in. It was Black Friday minus the discounts and extreme violence – and all at a suburban chippy in Coventry.
By the time we got inside, it had only been open five minutes but things had already started to move fast. I used to work in retail and hospitality so I know how stressful it was to have crowds build up at the till – still, the staff kept their smiles welded on as they rushed around behind the counter taking and packing orders at a pace that would make Gordon Ramsey burst into tears of pride. When I made it to the counter I tried to order the Morbius meal but the staff told me it doesn’t exist (shock), so I ordered a large fish and chips with mushy peas and a ginger beer - the closest thing on the menu to the now-viral joke meal.
While ordering food, I asked a female member of staff if she knew about her employer's newfound fame. “Yes, it’s crazy,” she told me while she was shovelling hot chips and packaging fish into paper. “So many people [have] been here [these] last few days. It’s very busy all day. When we open: queues. And when we close: queues. Everyone is very nice and very friendly – just very busy. But we are happy.”
Given the incredible hype surrounding this chippy, I had high expectations for the food. Now, disclaimer: I do not have a pretentious palette. I eat my fair share of greasy fast food and you’ll never catch me doing any fine dining. That being said, I know a good chippy when I taste one. And Binley Mega Chippy is a good chippy. I ordered my chips drenched in salt and vinegar and they came chunky and piping hot, the kind of lip-smacking artery-clogging chips you only find in a suburban chippy – about as good as chips can get. Next up: the fish, which was surprisingly nice considering Coventry is completely landlocked – greasy, very filling and about the size of my forearm and fist. Then came the mushy peas: standard, green, mushy and tasted like peas. The ginger beer was revolting, but that’s just my personal opinion (I can’t stand ginger beer).
I managed to talk my way into the back of the chippy, where I found shop owner Kamal Gandhi with two friends. The trio said they knew the eatery was getting attention online but didn’t know exactly how much fame they had, which is when I whipped out my phone to start showing them the 100 million views that the hashtag had already accrued – and they were even more astounded when I explained that it was way more than the number of people even living in the UK. Gandhi told me he only realised the chippy was trending on TikTok last week. “I noticed new people coming and then I thought, ‘busier than normal’,” he said. “Even [on] Sunday, there was 35 cars in the car park. [The] shop was closed and people [took] pictures. I don’t know where they [were] coming from.” He admitted he had “no idea at all” where his new customers are coming from, especially since people only usually line up on Fridays and weekends. “We have usually queues but not like that – not Monday [and] Tuesday.” Despite the jokes flying around online, he said that everyone IRL had been “perfect, fine” when visiting the chippy.Before I made the two and a half hour journey home, I had to ask the final thing bugging me. How on Earth did he come up with the name Binley Mega Chippy? “I didn’t make it, I just bought it,” Gandhi said, having purchased the store off someone else just eight months ago. ”They already had the name with Binley at the core. There are a few other [chip] shops in Binley, down Binley Road. But clearly, there’s only one Binley Mega Chippy.”@nathanbickerton