Take me home please
BJ's, 330 Barking Road
Season 2012-2013
A splendid early autumn day was the setting for the Pie Club's first trip to the Canning Town area on official business. The destination: BJ's Pie House on the shady side of Barking Road. The modest and unassuming shopfront of number 330 makes it quite possible to walk right past without noticing a bona fide traditional London Pie House.

Formerly the site of world-renowned Wally Pope's Pigeon Chandlery, the premises were acquired in 1983 by Brian Jacobi, hence the wholesome monicker of BJ's. The shop is now run by his son Nathan. Within its confines there is just enough room for three varnished pine table-and-bench sets, and it was on one of these that the finest minds of the Pie and Mash Club settled themselves in anticipation of the unknown pleasures ahead.

There was a popular motion to order a starter bowl of eels, an unusual move which was taken with good humour by the shop staff. They tolerated our communal bottle of chilli sauce as well; the stewed eels in their own broth with a splash of the hot stuff was a popular choice. In his detailed review our prosaic gourmand Mike Goldwater [right] described them as 'soft, velvety cushions of delectable loveliness'.

See 12/10/12 on the Pie and Mash Club's Facebook Timeline for more plentiful purple paragraphs.

Chris Champion Charalambous splashes it on all over.

A close-up of one of those velevety cushions.

Not long after, the pies started arriving.
The Pie and Mash Club in animated action. Once again we were grateful for some female company to leaven the laddishness. This time it was eminent London historian Judith Deschamps who had journeyed over land all the way from Catford for a plateful of working-class Victoriana.

There was the much-anticipated debut of Nick Clark [near right], but although this was his first run out on the pitch for P-n-M United, he is no stranger to the ambrosial tuck. That's because it's his customary appetiser for an evening of disappointment at the Boleyn Ground as a long-suffering West Ham follower.

Big Al Smith came up east for a basinful. Regular readers will recall that Alan was an apprentice eel-wrangler in his youth. As founder and leading light of the famous Cassell Raiders softball team in the early 90's, he had an indirect hand in the formation of the Pie and Mash Club. For it was the disband of the Raiders that prompted three renegade players to devise a new kind of league. One with less running around.

Golden delicious.

Now here's a culinary curve-ball: pie, mash, liquour . . . and chips. My platter heaved with this scrumptious but regrettably non-scoring extra. It's the chef's special; frozen, chipped spuds flash-fried in beef dripping for complete waterproof crispiness.

Hospitality was never far away in this cosy corner of Canning Town.

 

After the lunchtime rush, our effusive and enthusiastic host took a pew with his p-c-l to share notes on local history, folklore and pie shops of yore. Nathan claims that his is one of the few shops in London where you can 'park-and-pie', albeit on the other side of the street. It's down to an ancient local highway and byeway law about the right to tether horse and carriage. Or was it just pony-and-trap?


Nathan's lunch, showing a generous dash of the 'very hot' [far right].

 

That vinegar must have stimulated the conversation, but I can't remember what it was about. But just so you know, Nathan is not to be confused with 'Nathan's' of Upton Park, although Nathan's cousin owns local rival 'Traditional Eastend Pie & Mash' just up the road at number 538.

Other diners gamely paused for the pieparazzo.

This trio of ladies was tucking in large.

BJ's get the thumbs up from another satisfied customer.

Nathan's copy of Chris Clunn's black and white photobook 'Eels, Pie and Mash' [1995] made a good digestive talking point. Not least that this fantastic book, long out of print, regularly fetches over £60 on the second-hand market. If you do get your hands on a copy, there's a super pic of our host and his mum on page 172.

 

View from the bench.

Pie and Mash United.

In summary, we discovered for ourselves a little gem, full of character and characters, and a place to have a good feed at a decent price. If you're in the area it would be difficult to resist crossing the threshold, even if only for a portion of that singular local delicacy, liquor and chips. Brilliant.

 

Pig's ears and a butcher's hook.

On the way to the pub we paused at the Greenway. It's not, as you might imagine, a disused railway course, but a landscaped embankment containing the eastern section of Bazalgette's magnificent Victorian achievement, the Northern Outfall Sewer – inspired by the Great Stink of 1858.

If you're here, you're well on the way to Barking.

St@