If you find yourself down at Broadway Market of a Saturday – filling your wicker basket (plastic bags are a major faux pas) with free-range eggs, lemon drizzle cake and smoked oysters, perhaps stopping for a flat white or a Vietnamese coffee, and then deliberating between a lunch of Creole prawns, African jollof rice, mushroom risotto or a couple of samosas – take a moment to consider the pie and mash shop, which has been there since 1900 and served the same food ever since. Here you can choose from eels – which are available hot or jellied for £2.50, or live at market prices – and beef or vegetarian pies, served with mashed spuds and liquor, which is a fresh parsley gravy made from the stock those eels were boiled up in.
Like the menu, the shop’s marble façade and ornate gold lettering above the door have not changed since it opened. Inside, a long metal counter runs down one side of the large canteen-like space, and customers take their time over newspapers and cups of tea at marble benches. Original yellow and blue tiles and stained glass brighten up the walls, sawdust is sprinkled over the floors, and a vat of eels steams away under the window.
A row of framed family photos share wall space with a faded Princess Diana poster and ads for local filmmakers seeking locations, while a portrait of current owner Bob Cooke with his pit bull is given pride of place above the cash register. Bob’s customers vary from old regulars coming for lunch to local artists on shoestring budgets and curious tourists, drawn to peer inside by the charm of the untouched Victorian exterior. Bob’s greeting to all is uniformly civil: ‘Hello, Guvnor,’ he says to the young blokes, and ‘Hello, young man,’ to the older ones, while ‘Hello, young lady’ does well for any female that walks in, whatever her age. Unlike nearby Shanghai, which was once owned by the same family, the interior of this shop isn’t heritage listed. But it is beautifully maintained and, as Mr Cooke told me, recently featured in a Jack the Ripper TV series, The Whitechapel Murders. You can choose from a double or a single serve – that’s one pie or two – and it would be hard to find a more generous plate of food in the whole of London at this price. And, of course, this kind of hearty British grub is incomplete without a piping hot mug of builder’s tea.
9 Broadway Market, London, E8 4PH, Tel o20 7254 6458