Our Man in Greenwich
Purveyors of traditional pie and mash, Goddard’s, have been standing since 1890. That’s an impressive stand for impressively fleeting times as nowadays, with pop ups and eateries booming and busting. It’s a family run place with homemade, hand made stock. The thing to bare in mind before stepping foot in this place is that it’s part of history and tradition, their website, stating on its pages of the business: “When you eat in a traditional London pie and mash shop you are helping to keep alive a London tradition that goes back over 200 years.“
I head out nice and early on a summery Sunday morning, and beginning to feel the whiff of that tradition. This is the real east end, history at every heel. (the place is a stones throw away from Nautica – “the worlds oldest shop”) We’re in old school territory, and to mark the occasion I’m wearing my best suit and trilby. All that’s needed is a rolled up copy of the Sunday Times under my arm to complete the look of a half-cut Grahame Greene character. (“Or could that be the Spectator and a half-cut John le Carre character?”)
The place is on the corner from the beautifully photogenic Devonport house, sits opposite the university of Greenwich and a stone’s throw away from the Maritime museum. It’s an old part of town, and you’ll feel either like a tourist or a local providing on what mood you find yourself in.
And if you pardon the romanticism, there’s a touch of Blake’s London in my mind; “How the Chimney-sweepers cry, Every black’ning Church appalls. . . ”, the church bells from down the street indeed are ringing and as if on cue to prove my point, a woman with a bobbysoxer haircut and flowing, flowery summer dress bikes pass me.
“Let’s see how many Sweeney Todd references we can make in one sitting!”
Entering the place as the drums on John Lennon’s Imagine kicks in on the radio, Smooth Extra plays from the kitchen and we have slow love ballads; Sting, and Phil Collins, and Cindy Lauper’s Time after Time
to remind you of every time you’ve blown a definite shag playing softly in the background.
This place has a wonderful traditional feel. Not ashamed of it’s historicity, Goddard’s hangs its legacy on the walls with pride; newspaper clippings and framed pictures of the shopfront throughout the last hundred years. The decor is old-school old-school, off-green tiles and painted boards like I’d imagine a Victorian boozer would be. Wooden furniture, a series of benches and tables with vinegars and salts and peppers and sugar dispensers lined up opposite the counter. Vintage posters warning against spitting in public to reduce the spread of consumption and advertisements selling magic oils adorn the walls. Everything is freshly painted and very, very clean. A series of chandelier lights hang over us, twinkling in the early morning June sun.
“. . . Pie and mash comes. . .steaming hot[ . . .] fill you up and warm your bones. . . “
Don’t come here hoping for a little nibble, Goddard’s Menu, which hangs on chalkboard above the counter is a carby affair, which is no bad thing. There’s plenty of variations of pies; minced beefs, chickens and mushrooms, lambs and rosemary, gravies and liquor sauces. Lamentably, there wasn’t time for cheese and onion, I wanted to advocate a meat free option for my readers.
To begin with I have a single pie and mash, (£4.40) which comes served steaming hot, like something to have on a miserable, cold and wet day to fill you up and warm your bones. The pie’s crust is crumbly and thin, filled to the brim with minced beef, chunky amongst the gravy and innards. This plate gets well and truly cleared. And there’s plenty of beers and ales to help wash your pies and mashes go down.
My first jellied eels.
“I’ve never had jellied eels before, what are they like?”
“If you like fish food, you’ll like it.” the lady on the counter surmises. Well, that does sounds encouraging. Completely willing to try something new, I order a bowl after my pie and mash.
Like performing cunnilingus on Cthulhu.
I am not in the habit of running down other people’s efforts, especially proud family run businesses, and my overwhelming desire to be positive makes me want to write more critically but this needs to be conceded: jellied. eels. are. an. acquired. taste. I return my bowl to the counter after five bites, the staff agree on the acquired-ness, so I don’t feel like I’ve insulted the chef too personally.
The flesh is like a thicker cod once you bite through the jelly, the taste is salty with flakes and crunches in places. The vinegar gave the fish a good, punchy taste to the fat of the jelly. My curiosity well and truly satisfied, I drain my coca cola to wash out the brine and gelatinous mouth-feel. Having said all that, I can see this as a wonderful accompaniment to an ale. The bitterness of the eel against the smooth and silky ale or hearty stout.
“And I’ll have another pie and pint of Stella please, Brook.”
It’s obvious this place has locals, the very lively and chatty staff behind the counter confirm the customers who walk in orders before they ask for it. A steady stream of people make conversation with the staff while their orders are dished up. I stay for afters, and order the bread and butter pudding. (£3.80)
“. . .This place is lovely, real warming food made with heart. . . “
It arrives steamy and swimming in lovely sweet custard, with fruity currants amongst the dough. A lovely crust with a dusting of sugar on top. The portion size was large. Portions for pretty much for everything I ordered were generous for the price as well.
This place is lovely, real warming food made with heart. Great portion sizes and a steal of a price. Three dishes and two cokes for little under £15. It’s a great for small groups. It’s easy to picture students from around the corner, churchgoers fresh out of Sunday service or tourists from the Maritime museum taking it up as an weekly treat. Happily it seems, Goddards will remain here, making the best case for traditional pie and mash. And you’ll leave feeling like you’ve touched upon a time honoured Laaaaaaaandaaaan ritual.
Till next time.
Do you think I should give jellied eels another try? How many Sweeney Todd references did you count? Have you been to Goddard’s at Greenwhich before? Agree? Disagree?