Update 14.5.2019: Staff at F. Cooke said last weekend that they could now be open for as much as two more months. Fin and Flounder are not thought to be taking over the lease “for a while” and the shop will certainly not be closing this week, as previously suggested.
One of the oldest traditional pie and mash shops in London’s east end will close
next week. Hackney Gazette reports that F. Cooke on Broadway Market — one of the trendiest streets in Hackney — has announced that the lease has been sold to Fin and Flounder, which operates a fishmonger at the London Fields end of the same street.
Its closure — after more than 100 years of service to its East End community — is now a familiar tale of demise: M. Manze on Chapel Market in Islington announced its closure in the summer of 2017, after 106 years, A.J. Goddard closed in Deptford last autumn, after 128 years, and G Kelly, which opened on Roman Road in 1939, has been “temporarily” closed for two years.
Broadway Market — which hosts a Saturday street food and farmers’ market — has become one of the most popular places to reside among east London’s comparatively new creative class. It’s home to butcher and wine bar Hill & Szrok, a Franco Manca pizzeria, Climpson and Sons coffee shop, and the first natural wine business (a retail space called Noble Fine Liquor) by the owners of P. Franco, Bright, and Peg. More recently, an outpost of “high-end, plant-based skincare” brand Aesop arrived, simultaneously next-door-but-one and a million miles from Cooke’s.
Owner 71-year-old Bob Cooke, who has been preparing pies at the shop since he was five, said the closure “was one of those things,” pointing to new fast-casual restaurants on Broadway Market as contributing to slowing sales. “In the past there were [no fast casual restaurants] and you never heard of a pizza...Now you go in every pub and there’s food.”
In the 1970s, he remembers guests rushing in the door after hours: “At 11pm when the pubs closed it would be packed. It was a different generation,” he told the Hackney Gazette.
In an essay for Taste, Eater London’s James Hansen wrote last year:
“...the shops are still serving hot, cheap, sustaining food, but as London’s restaurant culture has grown exponentially, pie and mash has been pushed to the margins. The aspiration that built them in the 1850s has been eroded over time in favour of the restaurant rhetoric that they made their own: Pie and mash shops are not restaurants, and so restaurant culture leaves them and their unwritten rules behind.”
Many factors — including rising rents, changing tastes, historical erasure, ageing clientele, displacement, not veganism — are responsible for this trend, where the inner-city is unable to provide a market for this cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Hatchman, who has visited every remaining pie and mash shop in London, counted Cooke’s as his favourite: “As well as being one of east London’s oldest remaining pie shops, F. Cooke on Broadway Market is also one of the city’s most charming.
“Stepping through the narrow double doors is like stepping back in time: saw dust coats the floors while the simple tiles, lean marble tabletops and bench seats epitomise the pie shops of the past. A 1920s Medical Research Council Report disclosure highlights the high dietetic value of eels and is proudly framed. As for the food, the pies are well-browned with their flaky pastry lids, filled with a good amount of gravy and the vivid green liquor demands to be enlivened by a glug of chilli vinegar.”
Like almost all of London’s pie and mash shops, the buildings have been given protected “Grade II listed” status, so won’t be able to be altered by the new tenants.
It is not yet known what Fin and Flounder will do with the space.