Pie and Mash is undeniably a treasure trove of London food history and the East End in particular.
Shops selling the classic dish have sadly disappeared across London over the years, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s an important part of the city’s culture. The remaining shops are doing their best to continue serving the cockney plate, with the locals still dining daily.
In the heart of Chrisp Street Market, in Tower Hamlets, Maureen’s Pie N Mash sticks to the tradition of being freshly cooked every day for nearly 60 years.
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The shop, also known as Maureen’s Cockney Food Bar, is so notorious for its cakes and porridges that people have been known to travel nearly 300 miles to get their fill.
My London spoke to Maureen’s daughter-in-law Karen, to learn more about one of the few remaining eateries that are run by East Enders.
Keep it in the family
Maureen, now 79, was born in Poplar and has been doing business in the area for most of her life. They started their shop when they were young with husband Dave in their twenties and have been cooking cakes in various units around Chrisp Street Market ever since.
Maureen’s son Jason now runs the store with his wife Karen, who says it “really is a generation thing”. Her son now also works there, and other employees are also family members.
The rest of the local staff are also considered part of Maureen’s family – and you can really feel that in the inviting little shop.
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Maureen is well known in the area and has continued to work in her shop once a week for the past few years. Born and raised, East Ender came to the store at 4am to bake the fresh cakes and keep the dining room, almost an extension of her own home, spotlessly clean.
However, she has now stayed home as her family wants her to stay safe from Covid.
Pie and Mash is sacred to the family, it has kept their business going for decades, but it’s also part of their childhood memories, much like many other Londoners.
“When we were little, we did all of this.
“You’d go shopping with your mom on a Saturday morning and then eat cake and porridge, you wouldn’t even dream of going anywhere else,” says Karen.
Why is Maureens special?
But what makes Maureen’s Pie N Mash so special? For her daughter-in-law, it’s a simple answer: “It resonates in the East End.”
The family has been using the same recipe since it opened, and it’s clearly a popular one.
” A lot of care and attention goes into making our pies, and the proof lies in the pudding, “says Karen humbly.
If you sit down to chat on Tuesday at less than 10.30 a.m., the shop is already full of customers who sit down to enjoy full plates of cake, mash and liqueur.
A cake lover at a table next door proudly agreed he’d been joining Maureen since he was eight in the 1970s.
The store also chops its own meat from the “best ingredients”, and Karen says: “It’s only the 10 percent additional effort that we always invest that pays off.”
This effort is highlighted in their service as they pause every few minutes to greet and thank the incoming and outgoing guests.
A national favorite
Not only is Maureen’s regularly flooded by locals and Londoners, but it has made a name for itself across the UK. Karen recalls that people came all the way from Newcastle to try their cakes and porridge.
“If you go to pie and mash recognition sites online, you will only see people suggesting ‘Maureen’s, Maureen’s, Maureen’s’. Of course there are a few others, but we’re very popular,” says Karen.
With the shop wholesaling for about 25 years and a courier service set up about four years ago, they have a “really loyal” customer base with deliveries across the UK. Employees are always grateful when they see the same names on the delivery list every month.
Although the family had some concerns at the start of the pandemic, the “delivery” was “a godsend” for Karen and the staff.
During the lockdowns, the store did without staff on leave and was able to continue to provide East End staples for locals and Brits alike.
“The girls in the background can give birth with their eyes closed,” laughs Karen.
The future of Pie N Mash
Karen says: ” I really hope we can stay family run here, but who knows? It’s just us and someone else here. ”With only Maureens and Ivys left as the only original stores on Chrisp Street Market and one of the few traditional cake and porridge shops in London, the family is determined to keep it run as long as you can.
With the next generations of customers already alive, Karen and the staff don’t know if they will come back for their cakes and porridge. But one thing she knows for sure: “Nobody works as hard as Maureen.”
(Image: Maureens Pie N Mash)
Dedicated Maureen wants to be back in her business soon and sounds unstoppable. Son Jason hopes she can return to the store soon, but her safety is a priority for her.
As a young girl, her dream was to simply “have a successful business”.
According to Karen, “She took off her socks to get it, and to be honest, you’ll never see anyone work harder than Maureen.”
You can find Maureen’s Pie N Mash Shop at 6 Market Square, London E14 6AH.
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