As part of my farewell (or more accurately, good riddance) to London, I asked Voucher Boy to show me 'his' London. Even though I live in east London, I've never ventured far from Canary Wharf or Greenwich (both which are south-east of London). So on a sunny afternoon, I met Voucher Boy in north-east London, and we went to his local 'pie and mash' shop, BJ's Pie House.
The first time I came across a pie and mash shop was when I first moved here just under two years ago. At the time, we were living near London Bridge and we walked past this unassuming shop that had people lining up to get in. As the Lawyer would tell you, I have an irrational phobia that if I enter into a working class establishment I fear that the punters can tell I'm middle-class snob and they would rise up in anger and give me the middle-class version of a bum's rush.
I was very curious to try BPH, as I've also heard that in addition to being famous for serving pies and mash, pie and mash shops also serve jellied eels. In the days leading up to the lunch, I was deciding whether to try the jellied eels. While I don't mind eating eels steamed in black beans at yum cha, and I absolutely love the Japanese grilled eel (unagi), I was squeamish with the idea of jellied eels. And as Voucher Boy doesn't like seafood, I didn't have a clue what they would taste like.
The BPH is a simple set up - kinda like a fish and chip shop. There are two communal dining tables, which local punters come to eat. It has a nice, almost family, feel to the place. Behind the counter are the women who serve the meals.
I got the single pie and mash, while Voucher Boy got double pies and mash. On top of both is the parsley gravy. The pies have a plain meat filling and were nice and simple. I felt the mash was a bit to starchy for my liking, while the parlsey gravy didn't have much parsley flavour to it. I'm told that many people like to eat thier pie and mash with a good squirt of brown vinegar - it certainly helps give an appetising piquancy to the dish.
While Voucher Boy finished off his plate, I managed most of the pie (except for the pastry) and most of the mash...in doing so, I incurred the wroth from one of the women behind the counter, who demanded which person it was that didn't finish their plate. When I said it was me, I think she let me get off the hook as I explained that I liked the food but it was too much for me - and also perhaps that I obviously wasn't a local. It's certainly a hearty meal, and I can definitely see this being a very comforting dish in the colder months.
I chickened out in trying the jellied eel...maybe next time!
A good, simple place for comfort food. It's clearly a favourite place for the local people.
BJ's Pie House
330 Barking Road
Canning Town E13 8HL
Telephone: 020 7474 3389