Tuesday 8 January 2013

Clarks Pie Review

I've come here to Clerkenwell, London, to sample a pie from Clarks Pie and Mash Shop.

It looks to be quite a traditional pie joint, with a brown and green painted shop front that promotes the sale of eels and pie & mash. A man hovers outside. He is on the phone, and appears to poke his head in and out of the door several times.

Once inside, I see a hand-written price list on the wall. It seems to be quite non-specific - giving the price for 'one small pie and mash', 'one large pie and mash', 'two large pies and mash', and 'eels'. There doesn't seem to be a list of pie fillings that I can see anywhere. When I am served, I ask for a 'large pie' in the hope that I'll be given a list of fillings I can choose from. I am not. I am instead just served,  at an acceptable cost of £2.20, one non-specific 'large pie' in a take-away container. Well that's fine, I think, perhaps they only do one type of filling. And then as I left the shop, it struck me - perhaps this pie joint is so traditional that it is actually an eel pie?

I cut open the pie just to check. Luckily it doesn't look like any eel I've ever eaten (eel is actually quite nice, but I just wasn't in the mood for that sort of thing today) - it looks like it is probably minced beef. Potentially.

As you can see from the picture, the pie looks a little strange to me. The pastry, rather than being flaky, feels to me a bit rubbery and looks quite anaemic and flabby. The base of the pie is suffering from what Mary Berry would call "soggy bottom", and although the top crust of the pie is firm, it is not crispy and has no crunch. I also feel the pie looks quite small for a 'large' pie - but perhaps the 'large' actually referred to the mash (which I didn't order) rather than the pie itself? The condition the pie was presented to me wasn't great - in an oversized polystyrene box. What some of the pie vendors these days are doing are selling their pies in clever cardboard boxes - a much nicer presentation I think.

I am still none the wiser about the content of this pie - but this can often lead to a pleasant surprise! But unfortunately I wasn't pleasantly surprised in this case. The filling - I'm not sure, some kind of miscellaneous minced meat, likely candidate beef - looked and smelled a bit like cat-food to me. I know that sounds a little harsh, but I really couldn't get this thought out of my head. I'm quite glad I didn't order two pies, which I was considering, because even after one pie I felt a little queasy. I had to stop by at a local newsagent to buy a strongly-flavoured fruity soft drink to remove the cat-foody taste from my mouth. For a shop that specialises in 'pie & mash', I would have expected much much more. This was just my opinion though, I have heard good things about this shop.


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