Pie and mash is something of an East End institution. Like jellied eels, this is simple fare that you’d expect to be served to market stallholders for a tasty hot lunch. It’s one of those dishes that has been given a ‘gourmet makeover’ – and clearly the more irony that can be squeezed out of cooking well something that is traditionally as far from foodie-heaven the better for such makeovers.
“No, I’m not saying it’s Fray Bentos, heated in a greasy spoon’s microwave”
The problem I have with Square Pie’s pie and mash isn’t so much that it isn’t good – it’s a perfectly palatable and enjoyable lunch – it’s just that it isn’t really so much better than any other pie I’ve eaten. What’s great about a proper English pie (and yes, I’m a purist who believes there simply has to be pastry all the way round, not simply on top, and woe-betide those who cook some puff pastry separately and then plonk a miserable rectangle onto some stew) is that it’s warming comfort food. Made from straightforward ingredients, that have frequently come from the cheaper end of the spectrum (or the cow!) – hint: kidneys don’t feature solely for their taste – pie offer hearty food without too much mucking about. I’m not advocating that Square Pie should muck about more – there are many other places with frankly over-thought-out fillings – but just that if they’re not going to, it’s hard to detect that gourmet flair.
So this is a (good) standard pie with, yes, above-average mash and a healthy slosh of gravy. I’d happily eat it again, but I reckon I could do so in a variety of venues. No, I’m not saying it’s Fray Bentos, heated in a greasy spoon’s microwave, but I hope I’d never find myself quite that desperate (or unable to eat a Full English!).
Middle of the road.