London’s original fast food: pie and mash shops have been around since the mid 1800s. While synonymous with working class Londoners – primarily from the East End or south of the river – the capital’s traditional pie shops are slowly dying out, with some of the UK’s most popular now operating from Essex or Kent. Over the past four years, London has lost institutions such as A Cooke – prominently featured in Quadrophenia; M Manze in Islington; and Nathan’s, once popular with West Ham fans on match day, just around the corner from Upton Park. Meanwhile, a select number of traditional pie and mash shops continue to operate in London, often near street markets, with inexpensive, sustaining food available to eat in or take away. Some have adapted their menus to suit changing tastes and attitudes, others have adhered to their original offerings (for most, gravy remains a dirty word), while most only open for lunch and remain closed on Sundays.
While the holy trinity of minced beef pies with flaky lids, mashed potato and liquor — a vivid green parsley sauce, which demands to be paired with chilli-infused vinegar — isn’t for everyone, the dish continues to unite many working class Londoners as well as sparking heated debates on which shop serves the best version. Most will agree on a set of universal rules, however: liquor is essential, mash should be scraped rather than scooped, a fork and spoon will suffice; and one pie is never enough.Read More