Take me home please
The Clacton Double
Season 2016-2017

The Essex resort of Clacton hosted an official delegation of the Pie and Mash Club on April 29th, after an absence of nearly 8 years. Track work necessitated the dreaded rail replacement service for the London pleasure seekers, but the 2.5 hour journey merely served to sharpen the collective appetite for a delicious double-header-on-sea. After a ramble round the seafront, our first port of call was 'Pie and Mash' at Rosemary Road; in business for 32 years and scene of our last lunch here in May 2009.

And lo, wearing a parsley pullover and salmon shorts was one of the club's founding fathers, Jamie Tanner, dynamically known as 'Jet' to some, and as 'Jeff' only to me.

Our modest crew included Max Forbes – sis of yours truly, and always up for a big day out by the sea. In tow was the ever-abstemious Joe Royston Forbes – a young man maintaining a barnet of Babylonian overhang on a diet of dry crackers, chips and squash.

Here's a fellow who knows how to nosh for optimal hair curl – Mike 'Hard Drive' Goldwater, Club Archivist and Social Media Pie Pundit.

Eating eels is known to put a kink into the straightest nose wool.

Ray Goldstone avoided the rail replacement bus by motoring to Witham, where he joined us in train. He's seen here ascending through the gears.

Nick Everton's bold 'Double Double' t-shirt made it clear that he was in Clacton on business.

There's me taking in a pair of 'competition pies'. Though not quite as small as the Maldon-on-Sea variety, these compact and flavoursome foldovers are well-suited to point-packing.

Niff 'n' Jeff.

We were saddened to hear of the recent passing of cast-iron tennis ace Roy Tanner, a man who made many mirthful contributions to previous Club expeditions up the Essex coast. Our condolences go to Roy's wife Phillippa, and JT.

[Below] Scenes from the Eel and Pie House – wonderfully unmodified inside and out since our last visit. Then, as now, our leading hostess was Jenny, who came in on her birthday [and normal day off] to greet and serve. As it was a decimal celebration [and I can't say which], we treated her to a rousing Happy Birthday, for she's a jolly good fellow.

In the polka dot pinafore Pauline, in the stripes Shannon.

Pieman Steve allowed us a peek into his potato-pounding technique – it's a power tool with a 'mash bit'.

If chili vin is not available, you're probably not in a pie and mash shop.

A beautifully unchanged utilitarian dining room.

How I put Clacton on the map.

How JT avoids parking fees.

Less than five minutes' saunter away on Pallister Road stands a rival premises, JD's, operating here since 2006.
JT's verdict on JD's: pastry better here, filling tastier there.

Nick Everton easily surpassed the double double; the addition of eels marks him out as a having the complete game necessary for champion-elect status.

At the other end of the spectrum, moderate Max Forbes allows herself a guilt-free smile at the low-carb pastry prospect on her platter.

Completely off the spectrum, I caught England hopeful Royston Forbes skulking outside with a bag of fat chips. He's going to have to r-eely ap-pie himself if he wants to bend it like Beckenham.

Yes, those are scoops of mash, but the dimples are a deft serving touch.

Just desserts: my JRP eased me past Ray's ice cream [counted as a half-dessert] for a 26-pointer on the day – just two thirds of Everton's haul of 39. However my 'Man of the Mash' was Mike Goldwater with a career best of 31. Mike's eyes had a glint of stainless steel about them as he edged ever closer to the silver medal. Later in the afternoon they just looked 'glazed'.

Let us not forget the tireless folk backstage who make it all happen. Here are pieman John and youthful dish-wrangler Bert.

John regularly rises at 5am to get the day's pies underway, and it was a privilege to watch him at his craft. If we were in Central London this activity would be classed as 'artisanal'.

In a neat bit of symmetry, it transpired that he used to own Brook of Dagenham [which we visited in November] before bringing his pastry skills sea-side.

 

John's wife Lisa is front-of-house.

Jeff with a takeout for his Mum.

Outside JD's compact enterprise.

Conclusion: both shops do a small pie ideal for competition eating. In fact, JD's recently hosted a pie demolition derby which saw a dazzling dozen-pie dispatch from one hungry member of the mysterious 'DD Club'. I find myself in agreement with JT – 'Eel and Pie House' offers up a tastier filling, while JD's has got the better quality pastry. There's plenty to admire of both operations, including significant value-for-money.

Thence past the Gaiety Arcade to the prom for a tup at the Mooning Starfish. With pier, crazy golf and golden sands, Clacton is a top day out.

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