There are times for 2-Star Michelin food and there are times for simple hearty grub, and that is not to say that either one is superior or inferior to the other, each has it’s place and I love each with equal measure. As a man, and an Englishman at that, I have a special place in my heart for Pie & Mash and I am not alone.
Pie & Mash has been the traditional choice for Londoners for centuries with the first Eel, Pie & Mash houses appearing as early as the 18th Century in the East End of London when Eels were cheap and plentiful, being caught right from the Thames, and offered a cheap filling meal to the masses. Traditionally the pies were filled with stewed eel but soon beef mince pies became the norm with stewed eels serves as an accompaniment.
The accepted way to eat your Pie & Mash is to cover it with liquor which is unique to eel & pie houses and each closely guards it’s own recipe, but it is basically a parsley sauce. Usually the mash is unseasoned and so salt and vinegar is liberally applied before tucking in to your pie!
When in London on my own I am known to seek out pie & mash to line the stomach before a couple of pints of foaming ale. So where do I go? For me the choice is an easy one, I head to London’s oldest surviving Eel & Pie house – M.Manze on Tower Bridge Road, Southwark, which has been serving Londoners Pie & Mash since 1892.
The building itself is a Grade 2 listed building which preserves it is a historic building and because of this it has not changed in years. Victorian tiles cover the walls and there are rows of tables and pews to sit at whilst eating your pie & mash. It is always busy with an eclectic mix of patrons from builders and cabbies to businessmen in suits and the odd tourist or two. More often than not there is a queue out of the door which serves to indicate how popular the place is.
Manze’s pies are made fresh each day with freshly ground beef and a little gravy in pastry cases, which I understand have two types of pastry, one for the bottom (possibly a suet pastry) and a flakier type of pastry on the top. They are then cooked in traditional stone ovens just they way that have done for over a hundred years and it makes for a sublime pie and a taste that has remained unchanged for centuries.
It doesn’t get more traditional than pie & mash and so when you are next in London I would heartily recommend a trip to a traditional Eel & Pie house for some traditional East End grub!