This traditional cockney comfort food, once a staple of London’s working class, often Italian communities, is, simply, a minced-beef meat pie served with mashed potatoes and a thin green parsley sauce, called liquor—which, incidentally, contains no alcohol. The other item on the menu at your typical pie-and-mash shop? Jellied eels. (Someone in the 19th century decided they complement each other well, and who are we to argue? In fact, the liquor sauce that accompanies the pie and mash was traditionally made with the liquid left over from stewing or boiling eels.)
Hearty, cheap, and—yes—tasty, pie and mash is one of the few true London foods you can still find today, albeit in an ever-shrinking handful of old-school, cash-only shops with short, odd hours … and lunchtime lines of old-timers extending out the door. Pie-and-mash may be one of the last culinary vestiges of old Victorian London, but this dish, and the shops in which they’re found, are still very much relevant and beloved by their communities today.
Where: Dead-smack in the middle of a trendsetting street, Clark’s (071-837-1974; 46 Exmouth Market, map) is a hard-to-miss relic of another era, where the news of the day still gets discussed over the glass counter. Established in 1910, it’s small and white-tiled inside, with wooden pew-like booths and tables.
*Sadly, Clark’s closed back in 2013, following the fate of so many of these old pie-and-mash shops. See our alternate ideas for where to find another one.
Order: One pie and mash, with liquor (small/large, £3.50/£3.60), and you really should try those eels too. (They are good! Really.) The potatoes arrive in yellow balls—controversial for those who prefer their mash spread out and around their pies, all over the plate—but with a little spoon work, the pie and mash here are easily mixed into tasty, meaty submission. You may choose to enliven your plate with a little of the vinegar and white pepper provided, and wash things down with a refreshing cream soda.
Alternatively: Most of the old-timey pie-and-mash joins are clustered in the East End, as that’s where the working-class lived back then, and farther out in suburban Essex, where rents are cheaper. In Bermondsey, try M. Manze (multiple locations including the original at 87 Tower Bridge Rd., map)—the oldest pie shop in London, dating to 1902—or in Hoxton, F. Cooke Pie + Mash (150 Hoxton St., map); both the Manzes and the Cookes are surviving families of the good ol’ eel-pie-and-mash days of yore. (If fact, Joe Cooke is said to have been the first to pair liquor with pie and mash, in 1862, per Taste.) Find more pie-and-mash options over on Time Out London.