Take me home please
Cooke's, Harold Hill
Season 2016-2017

The prospect of untried pies on a balmy April day in the Hilldene precinct was enough to lure eight single-minded individuals to this remote cultural outpost, situated over a mile from Harold Wood Station – a sub-suburb of Romford if you will – right where the metropolitan sprawl gives way to rural Essex.

Associated Television's Tom Leader made the long journey from Shooter's Hill, but for Harold-hillian Terry Moore, the lunchtime locale couldn't have been more local.

A spacious, tiled refectory decked out with traditional fixture and fitting was our chosen venue. My guess is the Hilldene Estate hails from the 1960's, but everything interior of these premises hinted at a much longer-established business.

This being 'F. Cooke', details such as the marble serving counter, marble-topped tables, wood and metal pews and even the scrape-style of mash echoed the shops in Broadway Market and Hoxton Street.

As Goldwater splashed the club's dash, Leader tucked into the first course of his literary lunch, his companion a rare edition of 'Jack on the Box' by Jack Trevor Story.

The club dash is Dunn's River.

The company was enlivened by the addition of one Kitty Lam, talented young designer and prospective film documentarian of the Pie and Mash Club. Kitty's 35mm gave us three-lens coverage on the day.

Here are some elevations of the main attraction. The matzo-meal appearance of the pastry and the luminescent liquor seemed familiar but I couldn't place them . . .

Ray Goldstone cements another course in a solidly constructed debut season.

Steady Eddie goes through the top of the crust with theatrical bravura.

 

[Right and below] Four shots from Kitty's 'mood board', as Everton powers his way 10 points clear at the top of the Pie and Mash League.

The company reflects.

N.B. 'Wednesday Special Senior Citizens £3 only Pie 'n' Mash'.

The pause between main and dessert presented an opportunity to go behind the scenes, where I caught up with the energetic and affable Chi the Pie, head chef of this relatively new enterprise, established in 2011. Although the pies are baked on the premises, they are hand-prepared each day by Bob Cooke at Broadway Market.

[Below] Chi and Shane get a batch of Romford Reds [probably Red Duke of Yorks] ready for mashtification.

Here are three generations of an old Islington family, cosily ranged around the table and enjoying a post-lunch reminisce on the days when two Manze's operated on Chapel Street . . .
Bob Cooke's pastry vehicle gets a soft and sweet padded interior with a high-gloss custard overcoat.
It was hot enough to put the brakes on these two boy racers.

Kitty Lam gave a very sporting account of herself with a 'one of everything' and commendable cultural curiosity.

By the end of the season these two gannets will have amashed over 400 points between them.

As arch-archivist, Mike Goldwater has almost total mental recall of the Club's 22-year history. Which is handy as I've probably forgotten more hot dinners than he's had, er, hot dinners.

 

Our two ladies of the ladle were Chloe and Amy. I don't believe they had ever encountered our brand of Pie and Mash Tourism.

At about 2pm Liam came on for the afternoon shift. His first duty – buffing the front windows up to a high dazzle.

Here in Harold Hill, the influence of the mighty Fred Cooke of Dalston is to be found in some of the frontage and interior items of this modest new shop – a business built upon a grand family tradition.

As a newcomer to the Hilldene precinct, it struck me as a kind of microtopian East End community, continuing a semblance of the close-knit way of life now all but gone from the original Cockney feeding grounds of inner London.

It was a glorious, blossom-filled day to be at large – even the builders were stopping for ice creams – as we headed back to the station for a quencher at the suitably-named King Harold.

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