How I discovered pie & mash:
On a walk down Bethnal Green Road, the contemporary cultural mashup of London oozes: kebab/burger/chicken/chips shops aplenty, a smattering of proper pubs, a bustling vaguely "ethnic" pavement market, a lone McDonald's shining like a dubious beacon of infiltrating corporate poshness, and....
this. What is this. What is this bizarrely spartan little shop, decked out in all the white-and-green-tiled splendour of an early-20th-century bathroom, doing amidst this garish burbling of cultural flux? How...how does that work?
Pie and mash. It doesn't make SENSE. With a menu consisting of 1. Pie and 2. Mash, G. Kelly is surely a bastion of hipster foodie renaissance. Or a celebrated must-see tourist mecca. When everything around is noisy, shiny, dirty, drunken, constantly hybridising and surely 90% regenerate by the decade, how else does a stoic little specialty shop retain its viability AND complete invariability? Something can't just BE for 80 years without morphing into a self-legend or a self-caricature or a self-bastardisation of original principles.
Um. It would seem that way. I walk into G. Kelly. The woman behind the counter exudes the charmingly humourless Cockney accent/attitude of the movies, the handful of folks gingerly squished into narrow wooden bleacher-like booths toil timelessly away at their sustenance. There's no celebrity wall, no board of newspaper clippings, no accumulated kitsch. No hype, no attempt to make me feel welcome, no TOURIST, no FOODIE.
Two pastries are plucked steaming from rectangular oversized-cupcake moulds, unceremoniously tossed (barehanded, I note with perverse joy) onto a plain white dinner plate; a big inelegant scoop of mashed potato is unceremoniously swathed against said plate's edge; a ladle of queasily green sauce is ever-so-slightly ceremoniously splashed atop everything.
It is refreshingly honest and filling sustenance. The puddle of green "liquor", essentially a parsley gravy, is a peculiarly apt milieu for the simple savoury pies and no-frills potato mash. I eat in silence as old-timey East End accents murmur. I'm in a 1930s reenactment without the acting. I suddenly epiphanise: this place is COOL. Absolutely dead COOL. Stoic commitment to ultimate simplicity, total self-assurance. Whether profiting madly or on the brink of bankruptcy, G Kelly will look exactly the same: same menu, same attitude, same commitment to being what exactly it was and is and will be. Fish and chips and kebab and fried chicken be damned: This is PIE AND MASH till death or debt do us part.
My "thanks" on the way out is reciprocated by a curt nod/half-smile combo. Heartily filled (I can sense the looming development of a "comfort food" relationship with this stuff), I am birthed out into the swarming unease of Bethnal Green. It all seems a little silly and futile for a moment; why do they all rush about, changing their wares....
About £4 for 2 pies and mash at G. Kelly, by the way. Suppose it's a bit too affordable for the foodie hipster revolution.
I really don't want to say anything bad about G Kelly because Theresa Georgina is a lovely woman. She took the time to explain to us the history of the restaurant (her son bought it from the former owner George Kelly, after whom she was named).
That said, it's pies and mash. If you're not familiar with the concept - it's a beef pie with mashed potatoes, covered with parsley liquor. All of it is pretty tasteless (in fact, Theresa warned us it would have little taste and to add vinegar to it).
You can order any combination of pies and/or mash (1 pie/1 mash, 2 pies/1 mash, 2 pies/2 mash, etc.). It's all pretty inexpensive, and the space is barebones but with character (given how old it is, this makes sense).
Definitely worth going to if you want the experience, but I wouldn't say the food is a must-do. I guess I'm also just not a fan of the pies and mash food genre.
There's a sign on the wall in this place:
Attention: You may not consume any food other than pie and mash in this shop".
And it's true. They don't serve anything else. Pie. Mash. Double pie and mash. Pie and double mash.
Totally decent, not fabulous, but what you're after if you're down here.
mm mm good.
It was fun to come here. Def out of the way from most things on the beaten path as most tourists don't head this far out on the East End. We went because it felt like a rite of passage. A very "East End" thing to do. Was it great? The pie could've been horse meat for all I know and the mash was fine. You can ask for brown gravy if you don't like liquor. They were out of tea (GASP) that day so the ladies let me run next door to Gregg's and bring my own cuppa in.... Would I come back? If I were staying on the East End and really wanted Mash and pie crust...I didn't care for the innards.
Mash and Pie shop infamous in Bethnal Green has been around and family run for 90 years.
This little east end tiled shop is part of cockney history -and long harbours associations with the infamous Kray brothers and various boxers coming out of the east end.
This place does feel from a different time and when you walk in you do feel conspicuous. A real local place small pies are baked and served for a mere £1.70 with mash and pie at £2.50.
I asked the proprieter if I could take her photo and she in true cockney attitude, sneered at me and declared that she had had her picture taken so many times -I was boring her !!
Definitely worth checking out if just to see a bit of the old east end alive and snarling
You don't get more East end than pie and mash and G Kelly is as authentic as they come. Located in the heart of Roman Road market G Kelly's is always busy especially at the weekend
There's a real mix of old and young locals enjoying their pies from probably the best pie nad mash shop in London. The pies are always perfect with pastry just flaking off and the meat filling is always very tasty. The business has been around for 90 years so they have had lots of practice perfecting the pies.
I know it's cockney tradition to have the pies with liqour but I don't like the taste. If you still have room after the pie and mash, try one of the fruit pies. Delicious!
Amazing. Authentic working class cafe. Pie and mash with parsley shop. I had two pies with mash for under a fiver, and was well full. This place is for the locals, but are very welcoming to outsiders, even if they are awful Yanks that look like to toff lager louts. This place is East End and cockney.
A traditional pie & mash shop in the east end. I had been there 8yrs earlier when I first moved to the area. I know now why I hadnt been back in that time.
Not only was the food mediocre, but any form of friendly service was non-existent. The women behind the counter was chatting away to another lady in there. I waited & waited, till finally got served, whole time whilst she was still chatting to the other woman. Maybe they are friendly to their regulars, but to new customers, they are rather rude.
The pie was greasy, with bland, plain, mince inside & soggy pastry. Not the gravy rich, meaty pie I was hoping for. I know its cheap food, was it was really awful. The mash was ok but the parsley liquor is an acquired taste also. It tasted like flour & water with an oddly off smell- made green with parsley. I couldn't even taste any parsley though.
The 1st time I went, I tried the jellied eel. Again, an acquired taste. I didnt know it came cold & the eel has bones in the centre- I nearly gagged! Maybe if it was heated it might be ok.
The branch in Bow advertised that they sell other flavours of pies & fruit pies. I didnt see any such menu or other options at the Bethnal Green branch, but maybe you need to ask for those.
I won't be rushing back, because for little more, you can get a tasty meat pie nearby, that actually tastes of meat & not just oil.
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