Review: Cockneys of Croydon
December 8, 2015
Pie and mash is my hangover food of choice. It’s cheap, with no sharp edges, and it’s usually dished up in a compact, bright white tiled space, so it’s just like staying safely put in your own bathroom. But with food. How comforting is that? Okay, so you often have to share a table with strangers, but in a pie and mash shop at midday on a Saturday, they’re normally more hungover than you and will avoid your eyes as well.
So I’m lucky to have Cockneys of Croydon, on Frith Street, round the corner from me. A family business, always rammed with locals, the staff are obliging and charming, and with reason – they’ve been confidently churning out pies, eels, mash and liquor for nearly 30 years. They even serve sarsparilla: it was once renowned as a cure for venereal disease, so I always have a bottle, just to be on the safe side. I live in Croydon, after all.
Entering Cockneys, the hungover may be encouraged by the Jack Daniels bottles on the tables. But no, we haven’t entered some kind of Hunter S. Thompson appreciation society: they contain vinegar. The only liquor you’ll find here is the parsley-flecked kind. Although they ladle it on with the abandon you were demonstrating last night.
The minced beef in the pie is darker, more finely minced and browned and so tastier than in some establishments I’ve visited. And both the shortcrust pastry on the top and the suet on the bottom are always perfectly cooked – that’s got to be harder than it looks. They’ll give you gravy if the green liquor scares you. Sometimes I have eels: they’re fatty and soothing but it irritates the hell out of me to pick out that eel-spine in the middle – still, I am hungover, remember.
In Arments, a bigger, rowdier pie emporium off the Walworth Rd, the cherry pie comes looking exactly like its minced beef predecessor but topped with squirty cream – there’s always a momentary fear there, as you fork through the pastry, that they’ve given you a minced beef one by mistake. At Cockneys, rather charmingly, staff offer kids their pick from a tub of sweets while us adults calculate which pub they’re going to next.
There’s no problem lingering though. A stream of customers ebb and flow around us – families, Palace fans, couples, all happy to find honest grub, served at honest prices in a traditional setting. The wooden benching is deceptively comfortable, and if only they filled those Jack Daniels bottles correctly, we could make a day of it here.
Cockneys of Croydon, 51 Frith Rd, Croydon CR0 1TB