Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pie & Mash


There was a time when Pie And Mash shops were as ubiquitous as Fish and Chip shops in London, now I only know of three. When you think chip shops outnumber other fast food restaurants by about 3 to 1 you get an idea of just how many have vanished. Actually, up until a couple of week ago I only knew of 2, one in Whitechapel and another in Greenwich, but driving through that rather desolate fringe settlement Croydon the other day I spotted another. So I set out this lunchtime to see how this tiny throwback was getting on. Cockney's of Croydon is actually something of a revelation.

It certainly looks the part, huge wooden backed benches separate large tables adorned with even larger bottles of vinegar (most of which seem to be recycled Jack Daniels bottles). However, the walls were adorned with some very nice black and white pictures of the proprietors making pies and, seemingly, some of the regulars eating lunch, the guys here obviously aware of the anachronism of the place but celebrating it on the walls. These guys make the pies on the premises and they come in one flavour: beef mince.

The pie and mash turns up smothered in green liquor, these days just a parsley sauce, back in the day it may have included liquid from the stewed eels that are also permanent fixture on the menus; all of it ready to be spiked with the traditional British condiment of choice for the last couple of hundred years, vinegar. This is food with simple warm flavours and textures. This isn't food to excite the palate, this is pure Northern European stodge, ribsticking, keep out the cold food. It is a pity that there aren't a few more of these places left, not for the nostalgia hit but for the fact that this is part of London eating that is all but gone.

Addendum: Found this rather good description of East End food from Peter Ackroyd's London: A Biography which seemed to conjure eating in London a hundred years ago:

There is a vivid account of East End food at the beginning of the twentieth century in Walter Besant's East London, with descriptions of salt fish for Sunday morning breakfast, of slabs of pastry known as "Nelson, " of the evening trade in "faggots, saveloys and pease pudding" and of course of the...pie houses or "eel-pie saloons"...a typical "cockney" menu would comprise of saveloy and pease pudding, German sausages and black pudding, fried fish and pickle, pie crust and potatoes, faggot and mustard pickle. Stong tea and lashings of bread and butter were the other staples of life


Andrew said...

There is a superb pie shop in Reading - Sweeny Todd but I am not sure if this classes as a pie & mash shop though.

cookiecrumb said...

OK. That's just too cool. And very gooey-looking. I loves me some comfort food.
SO: I googled "pie and mash," and located *four* shops in London. I particularly liked the description of Cockney's (on Portobello Rd): "The pastry was crisp; the filling quite generous, meaty and moist; and the parsley was clearly identifiable in the liquor."
Clearly Identifiable? Man, that's some recommendation!

anna said...

But how was it to EAT?! I like the way that the parsley sauce in gleaming in the light - and the way it is coming at the viewer over the rim of the plate. Looks a little bit scarey, but maybe I should go out and try some for myself?

Monkey Gland said...

It was pretty good! Great pie, though it was a bit heavy on the liquor!

Anonymous said...

I believe there's a pie and mash shop in Chapel Market, Islington. In fact there is:

Anonymous said...

There's one in Chapel Market, Islington.

Greg said...

Pie and Mash Eh? I think even an old California boy might like that. Great photo..I just want to dive into the gravy

Crikey said...

I'm living in Seattle now but I got the chance to go home a couple of weeks ago. First stop? The pie & mash shop in Tooting Bec. So reassuring to get the food I'd been weaned on (sigh)and the lady serving up the pie&mash was referred to as Mum by every person queuing up for their lunch. That was a nice touch.

St@ said...

Pie people please peruse a useful resource at:
Interestingly enough, the club was discussing the mythical pie and mash shop in Croydon just yesterday (10.03.06) at Cockney's in Portobello Road, so Mister Gland's review is a welcome addition to the literary canon of Pie and Mash. I have just added the shop to the list of known outlets at:
Many thanks for such a delicious write-up.

Bobajob1 said...

Just received my pie and mash - very very tasty! Was brought up in the Old Kent Road in London and often ate at Manzies (are they still trading?) - now classed as a blown away Londoner as living in Lincolnshire - but now can order pie and mash as good as Manzies. Will recommend to friends and natives of Lincolnshire.


Mouthwatering, only word to describe your brilliant pie and mash, I spread the word amongst the hammers exiles in cheltenham. Watch out for more orders coming soon. Superb

Rod Pyne

Get yours delivered anywhere in the UK

also you can obtain on ebay

Anonymous said...

They have pie and mash at a little stand inside the West Ham football grounds.

Anonymous said...

Pie n Mash shop directory

Anonymous said...

this might be a help -

Anonymous said...

Numbers have fallen, but there are many more than just 3 Eel/Pie & Mash shops left in London. Not my cup of tea really. I tried pie and mash at this one in Frith Road, Croydon old town (opposite Surrey Street market) and I thought the pie was full of fairly tasteless, runny mince. I have never really liked the parsley 'liquor' either. But each to their own. Others may like it. Here is a TimeOut guide to (some of) London's Pie & Mash shops. Well worth bookmarking or copying for those into this sort of thing.
Cheers, Dave*

Anonymous said...

Sadly your link doesn't work. Try this TimeOut review in lieu folks:-