Take me home please
Manze's, Chapel Market, Islington N1
Season 2015-2016

A lone sentinel guarded the entry point into Pie and Mash Season 15–16 at Manze of Chapel Market. That it was Graham MacLaurin assured me that everything was going to be alright.

A gentle hubbub of Friday luncheoners greeted the assorted associates of the Pie and Mash Club as they converged from all points of the compass to place their convoluted equations at the counter.

There was a shortage of ready-stewed eels which indicated that our arrival had not been anticipated; the pie and mash calling card must surely have been lost in the post.

When quizzed about the lost post cards, the club's mail-master, Chris Charalambous merely shrugged his shoulders. 'It's not my patch,' he stated before despatching a hefty parcel to the intestinal sorting office.

In a booth opposite, the immaculate Graham MacLaurin grinned gamely and brandished the pie shovel like the well-seasoned healthcare professional that he is.

For the sake of expediency I ordered a bowl of jellies as a starter. With dollops of Morrison's poky Habanero Sauce they made a delumptious and apposite appetiser for the stodge that lay ahead.

A gleeful Mike Goldwater ensconced for his first competition platter of 15–16.

Edward Mosse looked soberer. Chaos counterside caused this cautious countenance. You see, he'd paid for – but not received – his stewed eels. The smile was restored to his boatrace a little later on, once the misunderstanding had been ironed out and the missing morsels retrieved and masticated.

Mike's magnificent marblescape.

The quick solution to a shortfall of stewed eels is to rework the jellies. Removing the jelly and heating them up presents firm and plump-looking medallions, but they do leave a vinegary tang on the tastebuds. We've come across this practice a number of times in recent years, and if you're fussy you should probably check before you order.

We were graced with the grizzly physog of nautical crooner Brian Catchpole, last seen in action almost two years ago to the day. Our octogeneric oppo was looking limber and lithe thanks to an assemblage of hi-tech replacement parts [one new knee still to be installed], a calorie-controlled diet and regular lengths of London Fields Lido.

Big Al Smith presented his usual youthful appearance, though I detected a smudge of grey about the temples. A man whose year is unmarked by winter's chill fingers must surely be living the dream.

A cosy corner of Islington.

Avast ye landelubbers and groundegrubbers there's a pierateer on board! His name is Pierateer Rob and he's part of a select crew of three whose mission is to digest, review and rate every commercially-available pie known to mankind. Known to the club for sometime, Rob finally found time in his hectic schedule to join us for lunch before heading off to the Food Bloggers Connect Convention. Find out more about this Pierateer's epic quest at:

http://www.pierate.co.uk/

As a magpie is drawn to shiny objects, so the Brentford Warbler is attracted to all things hi-vis and day-glo. Doug Benford's brand new faux-leather satchel is certainly eye-watering, but is it a bit girly?

Jean Cunliffe and Judith Deschamps: the presence of these two ladies ensures the whole shebang will not descend into a testosterone-fuelled lads' lunch.

 

Ian Burr tackles his tuck like a dyed-in-the-wool Northerner – if mushy peas and gravy had been available they would have ended up on this plate.

Across the marble-top Charalambous had already expressed 5 pies, 3 mash, 3 liquor and 1 eels. I thought I detected a hint of digestive discomfort.

[Below]. An authentic Pie and Mash Shop will always contain within its premises a portal to another dimension. Look out for Manze's 'goblin door' towards the rear of the shop.

The old-fashioned wooden booths make Manze's an agreeable and cosy meeting point for young families and old friends alike.

Chapel Market Chaps.

It was something of a relief to hand over the Champion's Shield to its rightful owner. Around the corner in the Craft Beer Co. I captured an intimate portrait of Charalambous relaxing with his priceless porcelain prize.

Out in the yard, the Pierateer elucidated the finer points of the Pie-rating system. The criteria for ranking is based on the 'Seven C's' [great play on words, arrr!]: Colour, Consistency, Capacity, Chewiness, Cheapness, Content and Condition. [See ye here for details.]

As Benfo looked on sceptically, Rob hinted at the dimensions he sometimes faces in this important work.

Manze's fare seemed a little lacklustre compared to what they served up this time last year, perhaps because we caught them on the hop. Nevertheless it's still a wonderful venue for heartwarming scran and convivial banter.

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