Yesterday I went for my first experience of pie and mash. Strange I might hear you say, pie and mash is on every gastro pub menu and comes as a ready meal. Yes I know and I’ve eaten plenty but this was special.
This was Saouf Lundin pie, mash and liquor – translation South London meat pie, mash and parsley sauce.
I was in Bermonsey and am in the process of discovering what’s around our new office near Shad Thames (hence the radio silence – acquisition, moving and house move!).
With two Saouf Lundin colleagues who regularly go to this particular gaf (aka the pie shop), I was very excited at the thought of trying this British classic in its truest roots.
Manze has been around since 1892 and many a famous face has eaten their pie and mash – Posh Spice to name one – and they have photos of their celebrity clientele in photo frames on the shelf behind their serving area, along with lots and lots of bottles of vinegar. This I found bizarre, there were no chips in sight!
The shop has a big green awning that you can stand under if you fancy eating your pie outside on the street, as there’s a window cum serving hatch that allows you to do so. The serving counter is long but I noticed everyone gathers near the entrance to order.
The menu is simple –
1 Pie and liquor
1 Pie 1 mash and liquor
2 pie 1 mash and liquor
Etc – you get the drift.
And, to my delight, they had jellied eels on the menu!
Following the lead of one of my colleagues, I asked for 1 pie and 1 mash. However I chose gravy on the side rather than liquor. Because I so blatantly didn’t have a clue what I was doing the lady serving gave me liquor on the side too so I could try it.
The food really is dumped on your plate. There are no airs and graces. The women working in the shop are proper, hardworking, local gals (girls). They are proper grafters.
Down I sat with my colleagues on a wooden bench, a bit like a pew, which has probably been there since they opened. The walls are covered in green and creamy white tiles and are incredibly clean. Each ‘booth’ was full and there was a steady stream of people in and out the door.
I soon found out what the vinegar was for as I watched my colleagues smother their already liquor smothered pie and mash in vinegar. They tucked in with gusto!
I was more tentative. It didn’t look that appetising to me and I have to say I was yearning my homemade salad I’d taken into the office.
Gingerly I cut into the pie and a thin trail of gravy mixed with, what I can only presume was grease, slid across my plate. Good start.
Taking a bit of pastry and some of the mash, I dipped it into the gravy. My thoughts had come true, this wasn’t a ‘White Cross Street’ pie. The pastry edge was tough, mash was lumpy, as was the gravy.
Reserving judgment (most unlike me) I carried on, spurred on by the obvious relish my colleagues were taking in tucking into their lunch.
Bit of mash, bit of pie and alternate bit of gravy or liquor was the routine I established to finish it.
It’s not so bad I thought. The liquor didn’t taste of anything in particular and I avoided the lumps in the gravy.
Then I got to the meaty end of the pie.
A female colleague had warned me about the taste of the meat when I’d innocently asked if I got a choice of beef or chicken. There is only one choice – ‘meat’ pie. Or as she put it, ‘dog meat’ pie.
So on to me getting to the meat. Yes, it tasted like how I imagine dog meat to taste. It had that overwhelming smell of dog food about it and that took away any pleasure from the potential of the meat – which I’m pretty sure was beef.
I finished the pie, I had to, it was my own challenge to prove I wasn’t a food snob plus I’d spent £4 on it when I had a perfectly good packed lunch at work.
But who am I kidding. I am a food snob and I can’t help thinking that if they cut down on the amount of salt they use, added some pepper and maybe a bit of red wine and herbage then the pie would be great. As for the mash and sauces, I actually think they should leave as is. It’s like being at home when you can’t get the lumps out of the bisto and you haven’t put enough milk or butter in your mash.
Would I recommend going. Yes. My colleagues love it. They were brought up on such food when there were many more pie and mash shops in London. It’s an experience and like I said before, the ladies working there were lovely and I’ve never seen a place more cared for or more clean in my dining years.
Will I be going back, no. I don’t need to. I’ve now experienced this London institution and ticked that box.