Chapel Market pie and mash shop Manze’s set to close for good
- Credit: Archant
Most people presume jellied eels are slimy. Or wobbly. Or wobbly and slimy. But surprisingly, it turns out jellied eels are quite chewy and extremely bony. In some pie and mash shops the tradition remains of sprinkling sawdust on the floor to stop customers slipping on the discarded bones.
But Chapel Market cockneys will not be slipping on spines for much longer.
It’s time to get your last helpings of jellied eels. M. Manze- a pie and mash shop that predates the First World War – is closing in March after a protracted and painful ending
The shop was meant to close last year, but has hung in until now.
“A lot of businesses are going,” grimaces Tracy Hooker, gesturing her ladle behind the counter towards Chapel Market.
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“All the Londoners are moving out.”
Pie and mash is about as traditional a London meal as you can buy.
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You get two globules of potato, a meat pie and, if you’re feeling brave, a bowl of jellied eels on the side.
A thin parsley sauce called liquor is poured over the whole thing, cooling the dish to a semi-palatable degree of lukewarm.
Tim Nicholls is the current owner of M. Manze. His pie and mash empire stretches out into the Essex estuary with shops in Walthamstow, Braintree and Hoddesdon.
He says that the combined leasing and business rates on Chapel Market are around £100,000 a year. And so the struggle to stay afloat has proved too much.
“It’s basically to do with the council,” he explains. “It’s not affordable.
“The council has put no money into that market for 20 years. And they’ve crucified everyone with parking.”
Certainly parking is a hot topic on Chapel Market. But M. Manze’s closure can also be read as part of pie and mash’s steady decline in London as a whole.
The Pie and Mash Club- a society that competitively ranks the consumption of eels- reckons that between 1997 and 2017 the number of shops in London fell from 57 to 27.
Clark’s was another pie and mash shop on nearby Exmouth Market that shut down five years ago.
A friendly warmth used to steam out of its door. In its place stands a happening Shawarma Bar. You could not find a more indicative tale.
Certainly there is a sense that the twin influxes of gentrification and immigration are putting paid to pie and mash. Londoners are perhaps now more likely to eat aioli and kimchi than cockney cuisine.
Nicholls, from Tottenham, started as a pie boy in Walthamstow at 18.
Now, 32 years later, he has much to lament about the situation up London.
He says: “Lots of people are moving into the East End who aren’t Eastenders.”
But the original Michele Manze was himself an Italian immigrant who opened his first pie and mash shop in over the river in Bermondsey back in 1902.
Eventually 14 shops across the capital would bear his name as his siblings helped to expand the business.
One of those shops was M. Manze on Chapel Market.
A brief dig in Islington’s local history archives shows the spread of the Manze clan.
An article from 1961 describes how two Manze brothers both worked as separate pie and mash merchants on Chapel Market at the same time.
Eventually they would merge the two businesses into the existing shop, which remained in family hands until 1985, when the last surviving member Lydia Manze passed away.
Nick Evans is the president of the Pie and Mash Club and its leading consumer of eels. He is a hobbyist, an amateur, a self-described “baldy with a nose ring.”
“Pie and mash shops were at their height between 1900 and World War Two,” he says. “Sad as it is to say. I find it difficult to see it surviving as a cheap meal.”
The news that M. Manze is closing is a setback to the club but not an entirely unexpected one.
“I hate to say it but it’s a living museum,” says Evans, before reconsidering, “but that’s part of my fascination anyway.”
What are your memories of Manze’s in Chapel Market? Contact the newsdesk on 020 7433 0104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.