Take me home please
Manze's, 87 Tower Bridge Road, SE1
Season 2016-2017

Regular readers of this column [are there any?] will have a keenly-developed sense of déjà vu. For this is the club that returns to the same places for the same lunch, year in, year out. But these field observations and notes will ultimately comprise a document of the passage of time and fortune upon London’s Pie Houses and the social landscape they inhabit.

Here upon the Borough/Bermondsey border, the tentacles of gentrification [gentricles?] have extended from the Shard down Bermondsey Street to reach the former working-class neighbourhood of Tower Bridge Road. Witness artfully graffitoed street furniture, coffee-themed bike shops [or vice-versa] and below-the-street bogs transformed into a subterranean cocktail lounge.

Stoutly resisting this flux is the green-awned edifice of 87 Tower Bridge Road, wherein Manze's Pie Shop has operated without pause since the year 1892. Aside from the tariff and a few plastic vinegar bottles, there is nothing here to discomfit the Victorian time traveller.

In a manner of speaking, the Pie and Mash Club is a time machine, and on this occasion we were pleased to welcome aboard a fellow traveller, Mister Ray Goldstone. Recent retiree Ray of Ruislip is a longtime enthusiast of pie, mash and liquor, and made a big splash on his club debut – a large dollop of liquor found its way onto his freshly-laundered dickie dirt.

Other faces you may know: Goldwater [far right] and [l to r, below] Jean, Judith and Denise. Former Bermondsey girl Jean recalled the days when 2s old money used to buy a decent lunch of p-n-m or f-n-c on this once-throbbing artery of commerce, where it was possible to procure any item for hearth and home. We reckoned an inflation of around 4000% on mid-1950’s prices.

Alan Smith, festooned with a liquor green jersey, kicked off with a starter of hot eels. Though the portion was generous, we both concluded the delicacy was stewed to the very brink of disintegration. However, I thought the pies were much improved from any of our previous visits to this shop.

In the rear booth, this gent pontificated on preferred pies past and present, during which we both reached agreement on the late, great Duncan's of Upton Park. But the presence of a knife at the table could compromise his credentials with the purist. I recently heard from club associate Peter Rolfe who has now discarded the fork, ascending to the level of Pie and Mash Master with only a spoon in his hand.

There were two platefuls of gravy in this scene. Although a lecture on the nutritional benefits of parsley fell on deaf ears, it was heartening to see the working man at the marble top.

Our pieman, with dinner ladies of emerald green. Cheer was in plentiful supply.

The Manze’s display area is lengthier than most – imagine dusting that lot.
The London Fire Brigade was in attendance; the extra liquor is a rapid response measure. However these two gentlemen were taking a statutory lunch break – I checked. Lucky for me I wasn’t doused.

Pie-vates on parade.

 

A hundred yards or so to the north, The Marigold offered a convenient, sunlit refreshment post.

There followed a pilgrimage through the back streets of Borough for three remaining diehards. Their destination – or ‘bitter destiny’ – another unreformed Victorian establishment, The Royal Oak at Tabard Street.

To your most excellent health,
St@