Launched in the UK in 1983, it has travelled around the world. There are versions in the USA and Asia, in Australia and Canada, across Europe and into the Middle East.
So popular has it become, that there are numerous spin-offs: Now That’s What I Call Christmas, Now Dance, Now That’s What I Call Disney, Now That’s What I Call A Wedding and so on.
The compilation is unashamedly pop. It picks the tracks that commercial radio, BBC R2 or the charts might feature.
There has never been an effort to be cool; if a song is the height of cheese but is popular with the masses, it will kick off the newest album. Though it’ll probably skip the opportunity for a summer 2020 special, called Now That’s What I Call Coronavirus.
The success of Now! brings us neatly to this week’s restaurant: Peepo, the region’s most enduringly popular pizzeria and gut-pleasing takeaway.
It’s owner, Phil Jeffrey, started the venture ten years ago and has gone from strength-to-strength. His work is characterised by innovation and he’s been a popular fixture in Bridgnorth for a decade.
No doubt he’ll continue for many, many years to come.
When Covid-19 struck, Phil closed. Staff were furloughed, grants sought to stay afloat and the correct health and safety procedures followed.
It didn’t take long for him to figure out a way to trade, however, and custom has become so brisk that he’s having to open at lunchtimes as well as evenings.
Phil is like Now! because he gives people what they like, whether it’s cool or not. So his revamped lockdown menu has become a collection of classics that people like to eat; it’s as simple as that.
Dessert is: a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The rest is posh comfort food: from burgers to pizza, from pasta to Chinese, from Asian to peri-peri, from steak and chips to fishcakes.
Just about every dish that puts a smile onto customers’ faces features and there is zero pretence.
Typically, he’s worked out the social distancing rules better than most.
While some restaurants are still inviting people through the doors, Phil has set up a counter outside so as to protect his four staff from the risk of infection, as well as providing the safest environment for customers.
When people arrive, they ding a bell and a member of his team comes running. Transactions are conducted by contactless card and there is zero physical contact. Takeaway bags are placed on the temporary outdoors counter, Peepo’s staff step back and people pick them up. Clever.
The venue has been given a make-over to signify the lockdown, with colourful rainbows in support of the NHS plastered across the front of the building.
It is cheerful and bright. Peepo’s popular cocktails have also been added to the cocktail menu. People can order take-home ciders, beer, wine, gin or a range of alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktails. They are served in self-sealing plastic bottles; and you’d imagine they’ve been so popular that Phil will probably get through thousands of them.
The food is typically good. A mish-mash of evergreen classics, there’s a fabulous range for people with disparate tastes.
We started with king prawns, served with garlic butter, lemon and parsley. A side of garlic bread had been added to our takeaway bag for dipping in the silky, sharp sauce. The prawns were plump and lightly cooked. It was a very pleasant dish.
A side of halloumi fries came with a rainbow of dips, including salsa, sweet chilli and garlic mayo. The chips were fabulously golden and provided an indulgent start to dinner.
Our final dish was a crispy Peking duck with sweet chilli and hoi sin. It had inevitably lost a little of its crispness by the time it arrived home, but a quick flash in a hot oven put that right. The meat was tender and unctuous, the dips perfectly matched.
We opted for pizzas as our main, with a selection of make-our-own using Peepo’s £1-per-topping ingredient list. My spicy beef also featured Spanish chorizo and Italian salami and was meaty with the kick of a mule. The base was thin and crisp and the toppings as generous as a drunk Santa on Christmas Day. My partner ate a roast chicken and bacon pizza with extra Prosciutto ham. It was equally good.
We ummed and aahed over dessert. Though the Lotus biscuit cheesecake and carrot cake both sounded good, we were drawn to either the Magnum choc-ice or Ben & Jerry’s, opting for a tub of cookie dough ice cream for the same price we’d pay at our local supermarket. Plenty of calories, a bucketload of smiles and a thoroughly reasonable bill made our dine-at-home indulgefest a treat.
In an age of multiples that smash independents like a baseball bat through a jeweller’s window, it’s heartening to have witnessed the rise and rise of Peepo. It’s stood toe-to-toe with competitors that have far-deeper pockets, seeing off a succession of all-comers as it’s become Bridgnorth’s jewel in the crown.
It doesn’t try to provide a gourmand experience, but it does provide something that’s a little out of the ordinary. Peepo has a desire to please and it does that brilliantly.
Just as people might have a favourite curry that they habitually eat when they visit their local Indian, so Peepo has customers who’ve been eating its mushroom tagliatelle, for instance, for the past ten years.
It’s an important part of the community, a place where people can relax, enjoy special occasions or meet friends for a thoroughly good night out.
Covid-19 has knocked the stuffing out of many restaurants who, even now, are only just getting to grips with serving their customers. In many cases, they’ve not even done that.
No surprises that Phil Jeffrey is three steps ahead of the crowd.
A delicious, comfort food menu featuring downhome classics at reasonable prices, he’s still showing the others how it should be done.
Starters three for £8
Southern fried chicken strips
Garlic king prawns
Pizza - 10 inch £8, 12 inch £10, add toppings for £1 each
Caesar salad or Greek salad, £7
Cocktails, three for £10
Long Island iced tea
84-85, High Street, Bridgnorth