Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Golden Pie, Battersea
A few months ago a new pie and mash shop appeared on Lavender Hill. A new pie and mash shop. Somewhere you can knock back plates of jellied eels and liquor, washed down with a cup of builder's tea, the kind of place that hitherto has only existed in obscure parts of Hackney and in Anthony Bourdain travelogues. A new one opened in Battersea. Its arrival was, to say the least, unexpected.
I've been twice now. My first visit was on the way back from work on a Thursday evening, at the time the only day of the week it stayed open after 6pm. I bought a little box to take home with me and it cost £3.50, a bargain even if it had been less than good, but I was quite pleased with it - nice crispy pastry, good flavour in the beef filling (even if there wasn't very much of it) and plenty of salty luminous green parsley sauce.
I didn't go back for months after that because of their wilfully odd operating hours. It opened after the morning commute and closed before the evening commute (in Battersea for God's sake) so your only chance was either to go on a Saturday (and I don't know about you but I have higher hopes for my Saturdays than pie and mash on my own) or, as I eventually did, pop in on a weekday lunchtime whilst working at home waiting for someone to come round and fix the boiler.
This time I ordered a big plate of pie, mash and eels for £7.
"I'll give you a little plate for the eel bones." The lady behind the counter said in a broad East London accent, with just a hint of friendly concern that I hadn't quite understood what I'd just ordered. "Would you like a cup of tea, darling?"
I don't drink tea or coffee, so I ended up half-heartedly choosing a can of Lilt from the cabinet. "It'll just be another couple of minutes for the eels, alright darling?". That was two mentions of the eels within my first five minutes - I think she was expecting the penny to drop any second and for me to realise my mistake. But instead I took a seat and cracked open the Lilt.
As before, the food was pretty good. A large portion of not overly-buttery mash soaked up a good pint of that green liquor, and the handful of eels, though surprisingly gelatinous for the 'stewed' option (I hadn't asked for 'jellied'), still provided a decent 'surf' to the beef pie 'turf'.
Halfway through my lunch an old local boy struggled in with one of those wheeled shopping trolleys and ordered a "single" (presumably a single portion of pie and mash, though I didn't see any mention on the menu of any way of doing a "double"). He and the waitress chatted away happily for a few minutes, then before I had even had a chance to spit out my first eel bone, it was "See you Friday darling" and he was gone.
It was all very… strange. It's odd enough that in 2012 a brand-new pie and mash shop has opened anywhere in London, never mind in comfortable, boring commuter-belt Battersea, but the homely service, the wildly unsuitable opening hours and the nostalgic pricing seemed more suitable for the set of a soap opera than a functioning restaurant. I'm compelled to write it up partly out of curiosity but partly because I have this eerie feeling I will be walking past one day and it will have completely disappeared and been replaced by an estate agents, with neighbours claiming no knowledge of its existence and nothing but the faint smell of pastry to mark it had ever been there at all.
Or perhaps it's an elaborate theme restaurant, a kind of Cockney TGI Fridays. Just like Polpo needs its Aperol Spritzers served by tattoo-ed hipsters and TGIs its slappable "Hi my name's Jerry!" cretins with their braces and fifteen pieces of flair, Golden Pie wouldn't work without walls hung with pictures of the Queen and a motherly Eastender offering a cheery hello and making sure you have enough tea. Perhaps they even hire their own themed customers - I mean Lavender Hill is all estate agents and hairdressers. Where on earth did they find a octogenarian pie-and-mash-loving regular barely six months after opening?
But there it is anyway, and if you ever happen to be wandering around Battersea on a weekday afternoon with £3.50 burning a hole in your pocket then you can certainly do worse. And if you can't find it, I can only promise it was there and I didn't dream it and for a brief moment in 2012 there was a bloody pie and mash shop on Lavender Hill. Because if I hadn't been there myself, I wouldn't believe it either.