Pie And Mash: The Epitome of British Cuisine

It came to my attention recently, that despite living in London for over 2 years now, I had never ventured through those hallowed doors into a pie and mash shop. Pie and Mash being the standard London meal, I felt this would not do, and five minutes of investigation showed I had such an establishment down the road from me in Tooting.

Boom.

So off I trotted after a morning of hard work not listening to my lecturer, and arrived to the little, slightly run down looking caff called Harrington’s. The windows were steamed up and the doors closed tight against the pouring rain; at first I thought it was closed so I was relieved when I made my way in to find it reasonably busy. 

The woman who served me was brusque but friendly, throwing together my pie, mash and parsley ‘licker’ quickly. The pies had been cooked that day and were still hot from the oven, and the parsley sauce loosened up the mash beautifully.

I wasn’t ready to face the jellied eel, although I came close enough given the parsley sauce is made with the water the eels are stewed in! But sitting at that bench with the women behind the counter chatting amiably way, salt and vinegar on the tables and the tiled walls, it was easy to feel I’d slipped back in time. From old men who’ve been visiting the same place for 50 years for their fix of pie and mash to young families who pop in for the warm, cosy and traditional feel of the place – its universally loved. And cheap with my meal clocking in at roughly 3 quid. 

It was warming and homey and everything you could ask for from pie and mash.

I will be returning, and hopefully pie shop hopping around London. This new area needs to be explored to the fullest. I want to eat all the pies I can. ALL THE PIES. 

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Oh, there’s a picture of the pie. Wasn’t exactly the most beautifully presented plate, but that wasn’t really the point any how. Trust me when I say it tasted better than it looked. 

Don’t look at me like that. It did. 

Avery Edison

This is pretty disgraceful, and though this blog generally keeps it pretty breezy, I couldn’t just leave this post from The Belle Jar.

The Belle Jar

Here in Canada, we tend to think of ourselves as claiming a sort of moral high ground when it comes to social justice issues. We think of ourselves as liberated, fair, and anti-oppression; we look down on other countries for their medieval legislature, patting ourselves on the back for being so good, so forward-thinking, so tolerant. And then, every once in a while, an event occurs that proves just how awful and backwards we really are.

On Monday morning, 25 year old British comedian Avery Edison tried to enter Canada through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, hoping to visit her partner and pick up a few of the possessions she had left behind after moving home to England. Knowing that she had previously overstayed her student visa, she travelled on a non-refundable return ticket and brought with her a copy of her London lease – unfortunately, this was not good…

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Rehaul

So those of you that know this blog will have noticed it looks a bit different. Perhaps a tad shinier, with a few more pages. 

There is more to come. 

Its all about to appear. Possibly in a puff of smoke. However, over the next week or so, excuse the slightly higgledy piggledy look of some of my pages as I get them in order.

Soon I’ll be starting up a series of interviews with people around London – about a whole variety of things. That’s right guys, I’m spreading my wings. Watch out for that in the next week also…

Just a short note. Out for dinner tomorrow at a mystery location (it’s a mystery to me too, as of yet, so this is exciting for all of us). 

(Hopefully good) Vibe Bar

A few days ago I made my reasonably regular pilgrimage to Beigel Bake. I won’t bore you with that bit, having waxed lyrical about the (delicious) beigels you can get there already, I shall move on.

Although they are amazing. 

Wandering down Brick Lane, a sprained ankle resulted in a decision to head to the first bar we found – for both a sit down and some medicinal drinking. This actually turned up a doozy, surprisingly enough, with ‘Vibe bar’.

Having walked past several times on my moochings around East London, I had always assumed it was just part and parcel of Brick Lane’s Sunday market – having never been there any other day. There’s a large courtyard with stalls, so a safe assumption I guess. However, once the market had packed up and we noticed people were still drinking merrily, we felt that warranted some investigation. 

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9Proof of the misleadingly placed stalls. One sold sausages, one did Mexican food I think, and the other shisha. An odd combo but it worked.)

A bottle of wine was quickly ordered and decanted into a plastic…well, decanter. The wine glasses were also plastic. At first we wondered if the bartender had simply assumed we were particularly klutz-y, before quickly realising this was probably to avoid smashed glass all over their yard. Fair enough really. So safety first – a pretty solid basis for a good bar.

Despite being reasonably spacious inside we decided to sit outside, given the reasonably temperate night and the lit up trees (cue another photo):

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Look how pretty and atmospheric!

The courtyard was set aside from the street, so it didn’t have the slightly claustrophobic feel of tables simply plonked on the pavement in the way of passers by and right next to cars. Several tables meant there was ample seating, and it was easy enough to people watch. I think a bloke cycling past with a rocking horse on the front of his bike that he was shouting at has made my Hall of Random (Like a hall of fame but for random stuff instead…) 

Having noseyed at the bar website, they apparently do food too. Unfortunately I was more preoccupied with the wine side of things and did not sample the culinary delights to be had, although I am sure they are indeed delightful. The kitchen closes at 6pm however, so if you want to go for the grub you need to get there afternoon time rather than for dinner. Although the stalls meant food was readily available. I don’t know if they were with the bar or late set ups from the market after all, but they were there…

Bottle of house red wine was £15.50 – pretty cheap for a central London bar. They run a whole load of events from gigs to DJ sets to comedy shows…

Basically a nice way to round off a day around Brick Lane, or possibly to start off a night in Shoreditch. Or get lunch, but at this point, that is mere speculation on my part. I’d just say pop along for the lovely atmosphere, the good location, the decent prices and happy hour cocktails – and perhaps have a burger or 5. So…a slightly premature Bon Appetit, and enjoy the wine. I did. 
Square Meal

I Found My Mojo

I’m afraid that title is a shameless pun, because not only did I find my mojo, I was lucky enough to see a play: funnily enough, called Mojo. 

With a sparkling cast list including Rupert Grint (yes, Ron Weasley for the Potter fans out there), Colin Morgan and Brendan Coyle from the universally loved Downton Abbey – to be honest, the play could have been dreadful and I’d probably still just have basked in their amazing…ness? Aura? 

I don’t know. But I’d have been basking.

Luckily, the play wasn’t awful. It won the Olivier aware for best new comedy, admittedly back when it was new – but the comedy was no less fresh than I imagine it was back then. Dark, hilarious and poignant – often all simultaneously – it was hard to tear your eyes away; but easily the best performance came from Ben Whishaw as Baby. 

A deeply disturbed, abused, scary and unpleasant character, he played the role with a certain amount of vulnerability that left the audience both loathing and pitying him. The play, despite its comical ambition, could also be seen as a study of his psyche as well as – as Billington wrote in his review in The Guardian – ‘a critique of a patriarchal world in which men talk big in order to disguise their loneliness, panic and fear of emotional contact.’

Sometimes the lack of set movement can become slightly claustrophobic admittedly, however one can’t help but think that that’s probably the point – given that this group of men has more or less become trapped inside the club they work in after the owner’s brutal murder (he’s found in two bins.)

Given the language and the sometimes coarse humour, it’s perhaps not a play for the faint hearted – but without this, the dialogue would be liking the sharp fizz and crack it so effortlessly conjures. 

Overall, whilst funny, this play had a much deeper message to it, backed up with loud 50s rock ‘n’ roll music and a certain amount of dancing. The run ends on the 6th February; if you can, I would suggest you run to grab a seat…its definitely worth a watch. Even if just to watch Ron Weasley spout very rude words and play at being a gangster. That’s entertainment in itself. 

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The Curse Of The Killer Tonsils Followed By An Ode To Take Out Food

Earlier this week, I went out to the student union at my university for drinks. My friends bought me a dirty half pint (for those not in the know, this is a concoction of several different alcohols. Its usually pretty deadly.) I downed it despite my burning throat, and I think the last couple of days have been the revenge of my tonsils for daring to put them through such cavalier usage. 

The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry, and though I am neither a mice nor a man, my plans have joined theirs in…well, going awry, wherever that is. 

So no museum, no ice cream in Camden, and sadly no work. Simply bed, enough pills to make me sound like a rattle when I move, and endless episodes of House (Who doesn’t love some Hugh Laurie…) 

But they have merely been postponed, and for now, I felt I would write on a subject I personally know rather a lot about. That’s right. 

Take Out.

Now, in London, it’s a risky business allowing somewhere to make and deliver your food. Everyone’s had that experience, with the shaking and the stomach cramps and the head in a toilet for 24 hours. If you haven’t, well, you haven’t eaten enough take out. Get out a pizza menu for goodness’ sake, its like a rite of passage. 

But its also a smorgasbord for just about any food you can think of. From Caribbean jerk chicken to Brazilian pastels; Japanese sushi to Thai green curry – its all available within the hour. We’re not just talking Dominos pizza either (although they are pretty good). There’s plenty of independent places just dying to feed you. 

Where I live now (Tooting), is crawling with curry places (although I’m told Brick Lane is the king of curry houses. I’ll need to test that theory out, I think…) We’re also surrounded by plenty of Thai places – although the best ones I’ve had are out in Putney – namely Thai Square, and the other one is throughout London but none of their branches are close enough to me – they’re called Jasmine Garden. If you live close to one, enjoy, but don’t be surprised if I quietly seethe with jealousy. 

Avoid fried chicken as a rule – although Favourite Chicken and most Morleys are usually okay. I’m always deeply suspicious of it though, having seen friends and house mates pale and feverish and sick for days. I’m less suspicious of chicken than kebabs though. I’ve never eaten a kebab in my life. Everyone is utterly horrified by this fact; I guess you may think that leaves me unqualified to talk about take out food. If you want to chomp away on meat that’s been left to ooze merrily away on a hot stick for days, then be my guest, it just isn’t for me!

But I digress. For Mexican food, if you’re in South West London, Mexican Fresh is generally a good bet. For pizza, there’s any number of places. I liked Perpericon (and no that isn’t a misspelling),and Basil Leaf Pizzeria and Grill. Generally best to choose a place that specialises in pizza rather than one that kinda does it on the side. Trust me on that. 

Although when you get home at 3.30 am and you want something to eat, pizza from anywhere will do, I’ll admit. In that case, just-eat.co.uk will keep you right with the places that are open!

After that long, slightly feverish ramble, I feel I will leave sharing one thing I discovered today whilst innocently looking for pictures of pizza – because who doesn’t like pictures, right?

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(from, as you may have guessed, allweirdpics.com) 

Now that, my friends, is indecision gone wild. Enjoy! 

 

Essays And Other Boring Things

I’ve been very boring. Writing about three thousand (well, three, but y’know…) essays, working ridiculous hours at work and trying to head to university have meant most of my London exploits have been from inside a bus. I could write a very long and detailed account of the noise the doors make when they open, the lack of timetable rigidity, and indeed the varied grumpiness of bus drivers. But nothing much about London.

I did venture out to the Siberia of our city (i.e. Purley) this weekend, in order to play pool and ogle the ten pin bowling whilst resenting how expensive it was. But that wasn’t particularly exciting, or worth mentioning, or London-y. There was a wild tram ride and a death defying trip through the McDonalds drive through – without a car – but that’s about it. 

This week, I have fewer deadlines, which is good news. I have friends coming to visit for a belated birthday celebration (I’m now 22. Not even 21. Is there such thing as a quarter life crisis? Because I think I’m having one.) So mission Camden will be go. 

I even have a swanky new book about London. That’s right.

I do have some exciting news though. But I’m saving that up…so get your tenterhooks out and hang on them, whilst I go and make a cup of tea and…well, leave you guys hanging. 

Les Miserables: A Slightly Different View Point

Before we saw Les Miserables, and before I bestow you with my – possibly slightly skewed – view, there was food to be had. Always important. 

We had to Pizzeria Trattoria – I believe there’s a few in the area, but the one we headed to was right beside Leicester Square tube station. They have a special menu: 2 courses and a glass of wine for £10.95; very reasonable for the area, and even more so given the standard of the food. 

I opted for bruschetta – the portions were generous for a starter; 3 large chunks with chopped fresh tomatoes and olives. They made sure to offer ground pepper and I cleaned the plate! To follow, despite there being pizza and pasta on offer on the menu, I went for pollo del piazza (chicken with tomato sauce and mozzerella, fries and a salad). Now you can probably tell that I am not a natural food critic. I’m not picky enough. For me, ‘it’s tasty’ will do. So yeah. It was tasty. 

With the amount of Italian restaurants around Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Soho – very few stand out. This one did because of both the low price and the quality of food. I mean, you couldn’t get better portions or taste for so little in many places in central London. For that reason I’d definitely recommend it.

Although watch out when you’re putting your coat on. The artwork on the walls is somewhat sharp, and when I clumsily knocked it with my hand, I found this out the hard way. 

On to Les Miserables.

I learned 3 things over the course of this play. You may or may not agree.

1. Eponine really needs a stiff drink, a cigarette, a hug and for God’s sake, won’t someone tell her there are plenty more fish in the sea?

2. Javert is a bit of a drama queen. It was bread. Get over it. 

3. The Incredible Hulk was apparently based on Jean Valjean. 

Okay, that was perhaps slightly flippant. I really did love the story, and I definitely preferred the stage version to the film. Several moments moved me, almost, to tears (not all the way. But then, I have a very cold heart.) 

The set changes, the design, the acting, the songs – it was all pretty spectacular. I could definitely see why the show has been running for 26…27? Years. I would happily go again. It seems to be a show that gives opportunity to a lot of brand new drama school graduates, and it’s always nice to see some fresh talent. They always throw a lot of enthusiasm into the performance! 

It really is a pretty amazing show of theatrical skill. One of my favourites so far, and one that I think everyone should see at least once. 

Now, I’d best be off. Essays to write and such. But voila! 

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Blow Away The Cobwebs and Get Rid Of The Tumbleweed – I’M BACK

A broken laptop, a thousand essays and a million hours at work have meant I’ve more or less become a pyjama clad troll, emerging from bed only for work and for food. But no more!

New laptop (shiny…), new year and new hair mean I’m ready to go out there and…do things. 

Well, that sentence was a bit of an anticlimax. 

I would like to say, I really am sorry to all of you, and thank you for following my little old blog. I promise, in fact, I make an OATH to you all now that you’ll be getting regular posts again, to fill the hole that I know my silence left in all of you…

Alright, don’t all rush to agree. 

If you’d like to know what I’ve up to in my absence – it’s mainly been sleeping. A lot of sleeping. Travelling up and down and all around the country for the holidays. And admittedly drinking. I’ve had some beauteous hangovers (one actually involved me going to work in someone else’s dressing gown. I know.) Definitely time for a detox.

What have you wonderful lot been up to over Christmas and New Year? I hope you all had a wonderful time full of merriment, family and food. Lots of food. 

Any way, see you over the weekend for post number 2 of 2014. Guess who’s off to a musical tomorrow? That’s right, I’m getting back into being all cultural and stuff. 

Hope you’re all well!

London's hidden gems, on a student budget