MANZE: PIE & MASH FOR NOT MUCH CASH
What a difference one little letter makes.
Last week, DH dined at Maze and for just over £100 came out considerably less than whelmed by an experience that quite frankly evidenced the shallow, depressing nature of our city’s current dining scene.
Move on a few days and add an “N” and I found myself in a utilitarian, austere dining room that has been feeding Londoners, honest, good value food for just over 100 years.
The original Tower Bridge branch of Manze’s Pie & Mash shop opened in 1902 and precious little seems to have changed since then. Pies are still made on site daily, fresh eels are cooked in liquor to be served warm or jellied and mashed potatoes are piled onto plates to fill the stomachs of a mixed crowd of office workers, locals and, nowadays, tourists brave enough to walk this far South of the bridge.
I was driven to make the great march down from Old St after last week’s dispiriting meal at The Hat and Tun, where a risible and ill researched attempt at pie & mash (not forgetting that dreadful Scotch egg) saw me leave £15 the worse off. I realised that it had been far too long since I had tried the real thing and so bundled up in Bermondsey just after the shop opened at 11am to join the line that had already formed.
The menu is limited and the biggest decision to be made is how many pies? How many spoonfuls of mash? Eels, stewed or jellied and, most important of all, tea, cup or mug? Once you have got over that, the food is spooned out immediately and I squeezed myself into one of the communal tables where a family of South Londoners, having lunch with their “Nan” were taking great glee in the fact that they had all been given court appearance dates on the same day.
No one would ever claim pie & mash to be fine food, but for £5, I was presented with a hefty plate containing a meaty pie with a delicious filling and flaky pastry crust and a handful of eels from which to suck the flesh before discarding the bones on the side of the plate. An added dash of vinegar sharpened up the parsley rich liquor, which I soaked up with slightly gluey mashed potatoes and the whole lot was washed down with a large mug of strong tea.
London is ever changing, of course and this most unfashionable of establishments is becoming one of an increasingly rare breed as demographics and dining habits change. I don’t mind that, London is after all predicated on constant change, but I couldn’t help thinking how unlikely it is that, in another hundred years, anyone will wander in to The Hat and Tun or Maze for a meal that has fortified generations.
To confirm the gentrification of the area, across from Manze’s on a corner where I was regularly accosted by ladies of the night while waiting for a bus back to Peckham after a student pub crawl, I came across sixwineseight (www.sixwineseight.com), a smart wine retailer with an interesting twist.
Opened just under a year ago, sixwineseight, eschews the idea of classifying wines by grape or country in favour of offering them by styles and occasions with, as the name suggests, a rotation of six wines available in each of eight categories. It is the sort of smart idea that will have the purists fuming, but on a cursory inspection they have some interesting choices at very reasonable prices, starting at £5 a bottle.
Well worth a visit and, perhaps if Manze’s started offering BYOB to the new affluent residents of Bermondsey, it might well be around for another hundred years. Er, Maybe not.