The Romfood Review: A bit of the East End in Essex

Stevie Goddard

Stevie and Jason outside the Upminster shop, recently opened - Credit: Stevie Goddard

The Romfood Review, the Recorder’s food column is trying out the latest and tastiest eats from across the borough.

During these testing times, with hospitality shut during three long lockdowns, restaurants have suffered the most and in a bid to support our local and independent eateries, here we will be championing their efforts and showcasing their skills and innovation.

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The East End favourite trio - pie, mash and parsley sauce - has come to Upminster. We caught up with the couple behind Hugo’s Pie and Mash to sample some pie and find out how they're getting on.

After moving out to Brentwood, Londoners Stevie Goddard from Poplar and Jason Thirkell from Battersea longed after their old childhood quick supper, both growing up next to pie masters; Jason, near to Harringtons in Tooting, and Stevie next to Maureen's in Poplar.

Squabbling over whether south London or east London pie and mash was the best, the pandemic and subsequent lockdown became the perfect opportunity to create their own version and put the debate to rest.

Like many, Jason lost all his work in construction as the virus took hold, so he had more free time. The duo bought a rundown horsebox and did it up into a mobile kitchen based in Hutton, with Jason putting his building knowledge to good use.

Stevie Goddard

Little Hugo, Stevie and Jason's son, the namesake of the pie shop, outside the Brentwood horse box - Credit: Stevie Goddard

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Keeping things East End, a lot of cabbies who were driving passengers around London pre-pandemic were recruited as drivers for a delivery service, including Stevie's uncle.

She also tells us it's quite the hub for cabbies, now regular customers, who come to wolf down some pie and mash and "get the gossip."

After becoming established in the Brentwood community, the pies now sell like hot cakes (pies). "We weren't prepared for how popular it would be," said Stevie.

Hugo's recently got its first takeaway shop up and running in Upminster.

Tracey drizzling the parsley sauce over my portion

Tracey drizzling the parsley sauce over my portion - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

So what has been the secret to its success? Tracey, who runs the Upminster shop, hails from Hackney and says that she grew up on the cockney favourite, "but you just don't get it there much anymore".

What's more, over the past 40 years or so, East Londoners have moved further east into Havering and Essex, leaving them pining for a nostalgic reminder of traditional grub from the East End.

This is why pie and mash now goes down a treat in Essex - not as a touristic relic of Victorian London, but as a regular takeaway which, at Hugo's, only costs £12.50 for a meal for three.

Stevie and Jason's offering comes complete with homemade parsley sauce (liquor, as it's known) and chilli vinegar - a new addition to the classic trio but Stevie says it's very popular.

Hugo's also stays open for longer hours, until 8pm during the summer, as neither Stevie or Jason found any pie and mash open beyond lunchtime.

Taste test

The pie takeaway ensemble

The pie takeaway ensemble - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

Things are kept simple at Hugo's. The menu is simply how many pies you want. Traditionally, the pies are made with a suet bottom to save on pastry costs but this tasty modern version was light and crispy. 

Adriana Elgueta

There are also homemade puddings on offer - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

The filling was also no nonsense - a simple beef stew that you can't go wrong with. Stevie says the source of the business's traditional pie filling is its best-kept secret.

Adriana Elgueta

Where the pies come from is a Hugo's secret - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

The liquor, which Tracey says often leaves delivery drivers having to request ID at drop off, has no alcohol in it. It is homemade and wonderfully light and not overpowering.

An interesting touch, which I wouldn't have imagined to be the most natural combination, is Hugo's chilli vinegar, which they sell in bottles and also splash onto their pies.

I found the tart flavour worked really well, in same way that vinegar on fish and chips makes it for me.

Adriana Elgueta

Hugo's sell the special chilli vinegar in the Upminster shop, along with some merchandise - Credit: Adriana Elgueta

So whether it's lunch or dinner, Hugo's are keeping the East End grub alive for a very reasonable £4.50-£12.50, available on JustEat in Upminster and Brentwood.