Pie and Mash shop
204 Deptford High Street
Tel: 0208 692 2375
Pie and mash shops were the hub of the working-class community, carrying with them unmistakable cultural importance, but gentrification and the rise of veganism have seen the demise of London’s greatest asset.
If I was a guy, I’d be a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, big portions, not an ounce of mung bean on my plate. However, I’m an ethnic woman raised on cumin and garlic. I’m proud of my ethnic roots and love the traditional food that I’ve been raised on. However, I had an epiphany of sorts, when my Mum first introduced me to the delights of Cooke’s pie and mash shop in Shepherd’s Bush and it stole my heart. Cooke’s, established in 1899, no longer stands, slain by the giant that is Westfield with its plethora of trendy restaurants.
The first pie and mash shop opened in 1844. These were the first de factor working-class restaurants in London. Sawdust was freely sprinkled on the floor as a buffer for all those spat-out eel bones and some of the original white tiling still stands in some establishments. Pie and mash shops were the hub of the working-class community, carrying with them unmistakable cultural importance, but gentrification and the rise of veganism have seen the demise of London’s greatest asset. People need a sense of nostalgia, therefore gentrification shouldn’t feel like a moral antidote to deprived working-class areas.
So my search led me to Manzes in Deptford, run by George Manzes, the great, grandson of the founder, Michael Manzes who founded it in 1902.
As soon as I pushed the steamed-up doors open, the comforting odour of potatoes and vinegar tickled my nostrils. They don’t stand on ceremony here, you order at the counter. Pies are thrown on the plate swiftly accompanied by a slab of creamy mash potato – peeled and freshly cooked daily – then a ladle of steaming green, parsley liquor is poured lavishly over for less than a fiver. The liqueur’s recipe is a state secret, much like the true shade of Donald Trump’s hair. You’re then left to collect your own cutlery and find a seat on one of the Formica tables.
The establishments have consistently been merited with a five-star rating for hygiene. How many establishments can attest to that? And one shouldn’t concern themselves too deeply if the beef in the pie is ethically sourced. Rest assured – it isn’t. Ethically sourced meat comes at a price. Your integrity for animal welfare costs a pretty penny. The pies have a golden hew to them and a buttery, flaky consistency that just melts in your mouth, you slurp the liquor from a spoon and if you’ve ordered jellied eels, you’ll chew around it like a dog to a bone.
Seating is quite limited so invariable you share a table. I’ve had many a good conversation with pensioners, market traders and some of the homeless, who have nipped in for a quick pit-stop to re-fuel. You’ll never get a sense of isolation, but the pie and mash shop is an ideal eating alone venue.
I vividly remember perusing a menu at a Hotel in Devon because I fancied a Sunday roast – being it was Sunday. I’d ordered roast beef and all the trimmings. When the said dish came, I could tell it had been nuked in a microwave from the afternoon sittings. It had all the appeal of the scrapings of a budgies’ cage.
Manzes does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’, it delivers hot, fresh, scrumptious food at reasonable prices. Even a wonky bench can’t diminish the enjoyment.
The working-class are being marginalised and losing a sense of their heritage and identity; I can see the demise of the Fish and Chip shops in the not too distant future. Yes, we all need to monitor the fat, salt and sugar contents that goes in our bodies or we’ll all be having cardiac arrests, nonetheless, how many achingly trendy coffee shops or Gastro pubs selling strawberry Belgian beer, or cereal cafés – I just can’t get my head around that concept – do we need?
The unfiltered voices of the working-class are being lost in the cracks of the pavement. Local cafes are being revamped to trendier version to appeal to hipsters, stripping all of their authenticity. The hipsters have colonised East London with their artisan bakers selling extortionate price bread, coffee shops grinding coffee beans from some indigenous population that gets minimal profits.
If I was the CEO of the pie and mash trade, I would take the fight to the streets. I’d introduce pop ups in the City and drum up trade during the busy influx of hungry City boys. One waft of that familiar smell would entice them to forsake that fig and prosciutto sandwich forever. It would be a David and Goliath battle against the conglomerates and if I ever needed a strategic planning advisor, I would call none other than that other bastion of working-class eateries, Mr Greggs himself, Roger Whiteside, who’s revolutionised an ailing old bread shop into a multi-million pound profit company. Does anyone know his number?