You Must Try: Pie and Mash in London
Although it pretty much matches every stereotype applied to English food (stodgy, unhealthy, unsophisticated), pie and mash is rib-sticking ambrosia. Growing up working class in South London, it was a real treat to go to a traditional pie and mash shop, where huge pots of mash, liquor (a kind of parsley gravy made with the cooking liquid from stewed eels) and trays of meat pies (ground beef usually) sat on a counter at the front, giving off a divine aroma. You could also order jellied or stewed eels to get slopped onto your plate, but they are an acquired taste, and not something that I ever loved. We always had our pie, mash and liquor with a cup of strong tea, and put a ton of malt vinegar on the liquor. Bliss.
Pie and mash shops are always full of real local characters. If you want to see true Londoners, and hear cockney accents at their finest, just sit there with your meal and people watch – you’ll get up close and personal with the natives.
Sadly, many of those traditional pie and mash shops of my youth are gone, although you can still find them in some places. M Manze is a family owned chain that has been operating with pretty much the same recipes since 1902, you’ll find one of their shops on Tower Bridge Road, Peckham High Street, and Sutton High Street (where London borders Surrey). G Kelly is located on Roman Road (which has a one of London’s oldest street markets on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and is a great authentic experience well worth checking out) and has been there since 1937. Arments, on the Walworth Road, has been serving loyal patrons since 1914.
If you don’t have the time to seek out a real old fashioned pie and mash shop, you will find several modern takes on the dish in central London, where restaurants like Mother Mash (just off Carnaby street) have turned this traditional favorite into something trendy. The food there is good, for sure, great even, but it could never quite be the same as at a traditional pie and mash shop. Should the opportunity present itself, go into a good old fashioned one and treat yourself to double pie, double mash, and don’t skimp on adding lashings of malt vinegar to your liquor.
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