Since I moved to the UK nearly three years ago (!), I’ve passed through so many phases of obsession with British food.
First it was curry and mango chutney and then it was scones and afternoon tea. (The romance with that one died quite quickly — the scene’s much less romantic when it’s just you at home wiping spilled clotted cream off your PJ bottoms.)
And for quite a while now, it’s the humble pie.
London Thing 122 of 1000: Eat pie and mash at L Manze in Walthamstow.
If it involves food, you don’t have to tell me twice. The 1,000 Things book kindly offers up 11 whole pie shops scattered throughout London for my adventuring and my tastebuds.
But it also gives a dire warning: “Visit these family-run businesses while you can, for each year another one closes, and with it vanishes a slice of old London.”
We squeezed through the narrow doors of L. Manze in Walthamstow in northeast London. The shop’s interior won a Grade II listing last October, and it hasn’t changed at all since it opened in 1929.
The menu is simple: You get pie, you get mash, you get eels or you get some combination of the three.
I’m not brave enough to try eel just yet (warm or jellied … eek), so I waited at the counter for my turn to order my usual.
“Two pies with mash, please.”
“Say again, love?”
I need to work on my Cockney accent or Americans need to start frequenting these places more often.
After I was finally able to communicate my order and paid the whopping £10.40 for two pies, two mashes and two Pepsis, we sat down on the dark wooden benches and tucked in.
The pie and mash comes topped with a greenish gravy called liquor, which is, surprising for British tastes, non-alcoholic and something I hadn’t tried before. I love the 1,000 Things book’s description of it: “an unfathomable lubricant loosely based on parsley sauce”.
These pie and mash shops must have been the kebab outlets of the East End in their day. As tastes change and the working class moves on and moves out of London, we’re losing these places fast.
But they’re still my food obsession.