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The Best Pie & Mash Shops In London

Aug 19, 2023


August 30, 2023

Pie and mash shops have been a part of London’s history for centuries. The cockney staple of flaky-lidded beef mince pies, grout-worthy mashed potato, and milky green parsley sauce was once a mainstay for London’s working class community. Especially for those in east and south London.

These days, many of the traditional, family-run shops have shut as tastes change and the reality of jellied eels is bookmarked as TikTok content. That said, the surviving shops—tiled time capsules where regulars have frequented for donkey's years and doused chilli vinegar ad infinitum—are reminders of a straightforwardly comforting kind of hospitality.

You get the feeling that many of Maureen’s regulars quietly dream of being adopted by the tough love gang of matriarchs who run this pie and mash shop. The self-described cockney food bar has been doling out quality pies and salt beef for over half a century on Chrisp Street Market, and first-time visitors can quickly gather why. The pies have a genuine depth of flavour in their gravy. This mince isn’t bare, it’s bathing in sauce. While the luminous liquor (not too gloopy) has handfuls of parsley as well as a MasterChef-inspired touch of mint. Look around the white-tiled, caff-like space and you’ll see a mix of young and old, head down, spoon in hand. Just as it’s always been.

F Cooke’s Broadway Market location stood for 120 years before closing and turning into a glasses shop that purports to offer ‘HOT JELLIED EELS’. Thankfully, its Hoxton sibling hasn’t fallen to this decidedly east London fate yet. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and given this was the location of our first pie and mash experience, there is a degree of bias. However F Cooke’s spoonfuls of mash, mince, and liquor still hold up as the best. The pastry is the star (a well-browned top with a soft suet bottom that’s begging to be doused in vinegar), though the beef mince is decidedly meaty. And the mash could well be a useful stand-in were you thinking of relaying your driveway anytime soon. Lunchtime is always appreciated in this bright and homely, marble-topped room.

The beautiful shop on Roman Road more than likely has a handful of east London natural wine enthusiasts slathering for its pristine art deco fittings and marble-topped tables. But, thankfully, this pie and mash spot is going nowhere. While homemade apple crumbles with jugs of custard should be close to the top of your mind, the pies aren’t half bad either. Pastry is cooked to a crisp on top and the beef mince filling is treated with the care and gravy it deserves. Open since 1939 for good reason.

Alongside Cooke, the Manze name is to pie and mash what the Rouxs are to haute French cuisine. You can find the beautifully tiled, time capsule restaurants in Deptford, Elephant and Castle, and Peckham. But it’s the original on Tower Bridge Road we find ourselves most drawn to. Long brown booths, green checkerboard tiles, fizzing chilli vinegar, and everyone’s addressed as “darlin”. The suet leans soggy but the mixture is pleasingly traditional, especially alongside smears of almost-smooth mash. With the right dusting of salt and pepper this is a plate that can be quickly shovelled down, and you can even finish with a scoop of Manze’s ice cream.

Where other pie and mash establishments have leaned into their history as a means for existing in the future, B.J’s has pivoted not to merch, nor to alternative pies, and certainly not to card machines. No, this cash-only spot in Plaistow has diversified with its potato offering. Namely, chips. It’s a small spot that swaps some of the idealised pie and mash aesthetics for West Ham memorabilia and chilli vinegar in old Jack Daniel’s bottles. Even so, the mince in gravy is some of the finest in town, and the same goes for the service.

If every caff looked like Arments then London could have a culture more akin to diners in New York. The Elephant and Castle pie and mash house has been around since 1914 and is a beautiful mix of cream tiles and wooden booths. The colour of these pies are similarly pleasing, if a little overdone in our experience, while the filling and sauce is fairly bog standard. A generous shake of both vinegar and pepper is needed here.

True pie and mash aficionados will rightly treat Goddards at Greenwich with suspicion. Lamb and… rosemary? Chicken, ham, and mushroom? There is, quite frankly, too much potential for flavour in these combinations. That said, there’s a mix of eager tourists and old locals in this wooden-panelled two-floor space. Traditionalists are better off sticking with the classic minced beef variety. Or, treat yourself with the chilli minced beef. Regardless of what you go for, the overriding flavour will be one of heat. Not of chilli, but of a burning third-degree burn. Credit should be given to the pastry’s crispy texture and the fresh herbiness of the parsley sauce.

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

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