Lovely jubbly! East End favourite pie, mash and liquor enjoys ‘resurgence’

Ernie Holmes with Laura Burnip with her Pie and Mash

Ernie Holmes with Laura Burnip with her Pie and Mash - Credit: Archant

It’s been a firm favourite in the East End for decades.

But now the humble pie and mash dinner is making a comeback – according to its purveyors.

Ernie Holmes, manager at Robins Pie and Mash in the Quadrant Arcade, Romford, said he had seen a huge rise in the popularity of the traditional dish in recent months.

The family business was started in 1929 by William Robins – the grandfather of Ernie’s mother-in-law June Robins, 78, who still runs the company.

Robins expanded all over the East End and Essex, supplying West Ham, but in the past few years its branch in Ilford and the original shop in East Ham have closed.

The business expanded into frozen meals of pie, mash and “liquor”, supplying Asda stores and even selling its ready meals at Iceland in Spain.

Now Ernie said the demand for pies is soaring again – with calls for the business to expand into trendy Shoreditch.

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“There’s been a big resurgence – we are looking for other shops around Liverpool Street Station and in Shoreditch,” he said. “It’s really good.”

The Romford restaurant even counts glamorous celebrities among its regulars, including pop star Rochelle Humes and former EastEnders actress Martine McCutcheon.

“A few years ago it was only English people who had it, but now it’s all starting to turn around and everyone wants it,” said Ernie. “It’s becoming part of ordinary culture again.”

Robins still makes all its pies fresh in each of its five shops, with prime scotch beef and fresh parsley for the liquor.

“When people ask what’s the secret ingredient, it’s pride,” said June. “That’s what makes it successful.”

To see what all the fuss is about, I paid a visit to the shop in Romford.

Growing up in the Midlands, I hadn’t been aware of the traditional “cockney” pie and mash supper until moving to the area last year.

Dishing it up, Ernie tells me the best way to eat it is with plenty of chilli vinegar drizzled over the top.

Tucking in, I asked him what was in the greeny-coloured “liquor” – a sort of parsley sauce – and said I had read online it was traditionally made with the water left over from stewing eels.

While he would not reveal the full contents of the Robins liquor – a “family secret” – he does assure me there hasn’t been any eel in it for the past 30 years or so.

Either way, I must admit I did very much enjoy my first taste, and am fairly certain it won’t be my last ever pie and mash meal.

With that East End classic out the way, next up will have to be jellied eels...