Pies might have fallen out of favour in recent years, what with the trend for healthy eating, but these rich, filling parcels were once a staple of Britons’ diets. It’s true they’ve come a long way in the centuries since they first arrived in the UK – the main difference being that the pastry is now designed to be eaten, rather than used as a disposable case for the meat inside – but there remain a few traditional shops in London that still serve a slap-up plate of pie, mash and liquor.
Fans of this traditional meal will know what we mean by ‘liquor’ but for the uninitiated, it’s worth mentioning that we’re not talking about alcohol here. Liquor, in this context, is a savoury parsley sauce traditionally served with London-style pie and mash. It used to be made from the water used to stew eels in, but very few places do this now so diners can rest assured that the slightly off-putting green colour of the liquor is down to the parsley rather than oil from the snake-shaped fish.
Speaking of eels, these are still available in many of the pie and mash shops we’ve listed below, though you’ll struggle to find them in more modern outfits. And while pies in the 18th Century were often filled with eels caught in the Thames, today you’ll only find them as an accompaniment to meat and vegetarian pies.
There are all sorts of pies on offer in our list below, from traditional plates of pie, mash and liquor to gluten-free pies, vegetarian pies and fruit pies. No two pie shops are the same, as most use age-old family recipes, so we think it’s only fair that you give them all a try. Looking for the truly authentic experience? Try adding vinegar to your mash – it’s not pie in the sky, it really works!
What: Folks have been going to Kelly for jelly – that is, jellied eels and pies – since the 1920s, though this particular shop didn’t open until 1939. Since then it’s served up more pie, mash and liquor than anyone could possibly count and continues to do a roaring trade with hungry east-enders today. As G. Kelly is still family-run, the owners use the original 80-year-old recipe and continue to make their own rough-puff pastry, mince their own beef and serve all their pies with liquor and mash.
Where: G. Kelly, 526 Roman Road Market, Bow
Eastenders Pie & Mash
What: Not much has changed at this popular shop since it opened its doors over 40 years ago, but since its recipe for pie, mash and liquor is such a winner, that’s no bad thing. Everything is made fresh each day, with meat for the pies delivered fresh from Smithfield Market and the eels – served stewed or jellied – from Billingsgate Market. You’d think such good quality ingredients would command high prices, but it seems these haven’t changed much since the seventies either, which is just one more reason to visit.
Where: 171 East India Dock Road, Poplar
Goddards at Greenwich
What: Established in 1890, Goddards remains a family-run pie and mash shop to this day. As such, the owners know a thing or two about what makes a good pie. If you’re looking for traditional, you can’t go wrong with Goddards’ handmade minced beef pie with mash and liquor, though you could also opt for chicken, lamb or soya instead. Whatever you go for, be sure to save room for one of Goddards’ delicious fruit pies for afters.
Where: 22 King William Walk, Greenwich
The Windmill Mayfair
What: This smart Mayfair pub serves all sorts of British classics, but it does have a particular passion for pies. You won’t find the traditional pie, mash and liquor that east end pie shops major in, but if you’re in the mood for an award-winning steak and mushroom or Hampshire venison, smoked bacon and wild mushroom pie, you won’t be disappointed. There are loads of other fillings too, plus a warming mash-topped fish pie, all of which can be washed down with a cask ale or craft beer.
Where: The Windmill, 6-8 Mill Street
What: According to a credible source (M. Manze’s own website), the brand needs no introduction as it’s been trading for well over a century. It’s a bold statement to make, but this super-popular pie and mash chain can back it up. Not only does it still have three London locations (down from 14, but whatever) but its Tower Bridge outpost is the oldest eel and pie shop still in business today. The thing we like best about it, though, is that M. Manze delivers its freshly-made pie, mash and liquor UK-wide, so you can get your pie and mash fix any day of the week regardless of your postcode.
Where: 105 Peckham High Street; 87 Tower Bridge Road; 226 High Street, Sutton
What: Most of Pieminister’s restaurants are located outside London, but plenty of London pubs stock their deliciously flaky pies and there is one outpost on Leather Lane that’s perennially popular with City workers looking to line their stomachs. There’s tons of variety so while you won’t find a traditional pie, mash and liquor option, you could go for chicken, chorizo, olive and butterbean pie or perhaps a vegan ‘chicken’, celeriac, smoked garlic and sherry-stuffed creation. Mash – plain, cheesy or vegan – is served separately.
Where: 91 Leather Lane, City
What: As you’d expect from the name, this place is more focused on the mash element of ‘pie and mash’ but that doesn’t mean it can’t do a plate of traditional pie, mash and liquor. Popular with office workers and shoppers alike, Mother Mash has a nice, simple mix-and-match system that allows diners to assemble their own lunch or dinner by choosing a mash, a main – sausages or a pie – and a gravy. Naturally there are vegan options, plus a couple of fruit pies for the sweet-toothed.
Where: Mother Mash, 26 Ganton Street, Soho
The Barrowboy & Banker
What: Pies are a pub staple, but this Borough boozer doesn’t just feature a token steak and ale job on its menu – it majors in handmade pastry pies. Hungry punters can opt for a traditional east end meat, posh mushy peas and liquor combo, or try something a little more adventurous, like the mutton, ginger and apricot pie served with red wine gravy. For the truly committed, there’s even a pie tasting board.
Where: 6-8 Borough High Street
The Noted Eel and Pie House
What: If you’re looking for the cheapest pie and mash London has to offer, head east to The Noted Eel & Pie House. The service leaves a lot to be desired, but when it comes to quality pie, mash and liquor at bargain basement prices, this pie shop can’t be beaten.
Where: 481a High Road, Leytonstone
Battersea Pie Station
What: Confusingly, Battersea Pie Station is actually located in Covent Garden’s iconic market – a prime location for a plate of pie and mash. Classic options include steak and Guinness, and chicken and mushroom, but there are plenty of more creative options including a vegetarian butternut squash and goat’s cheese pie. Each comes with creamy mash and lashings of thick gravy, making it the perfect pit-stop for hungry shoppers and theatre-goers.
Where: 28 The Market, Covent Garden
Not fussed about the mash? Check out our round-up of the best pies in London.