Goddard’s at Greenwich (Greenwich, UK)

Early in our UK trip this year, we got on the train and headed out to far Eastern outskirts of London, to a very odd destination: the Crossness Pumping Station. Now decommissioned, for almost 100 years, the Crossness was a gigantic, steam-powered… sewage pump. It’s more interesting than it sounds, since it’s primarily an example (and possibly one of the best examples) of Victorian-era engineering in all of it’s overly-adorned awesomeness (and you can see a full set of pictures here).

After a rather long morning of touring gigantic flywheels, steam cylinders, giant brick galleries, and entire more elaborately painted cast iron than anyone thought possible, we were more than ready for some lunch. Taking the train back towards London, it was easiest for us to stop in Greenwich, and since we spent the morning experiencing old-school English engineering, this was a good opportunity to have a good, old-school English lunch of pie and mash, stopping off at Goddard’s at Greenwich.

This turns out to be a particularly appropriate choice for lunch. Back in the Victorian era, the rapid industrialization and growth of London meant a marked increase in the population meant that London started to become more reliant on street vendors, and later, restaurants to provide sustenance for the burgeoning population. Originally in Victorian times this meant making the most of what was easily available: eels caught in the Thames and incorporated into a pie, served up with a light “liquor” (a light gravy with parsley) and mashed potatoes as a cheap starch. Between the Victorian era and the early 20th century, the concept shifted a bit: the pies became more substantial, beef and sometimes even chicken added to the menu, and even the additional of brown gravy, but, in the end, the Pie and Mash concept become an enduring part of London working class dining for over 100 years. There’s even an entire society dedicated to the preservation and appreciation of the concept.

However, starting particularly in the 1990s, like London’s traditional “chippies” and “greasy spoons”, the once-common pie-and-mash shop is on the decline, with many of the outlets closing on a regular basis, now extending to the point where true pie and mash shops are getting scarce (there’s still a fair bit of pie and mash to be had, usually at pubs instead of dedicate pie and mash shops, but even that is in decline). Heck, the West End now only has two places I’m aware of (Mother Mash in Soho, and Battersea Pie Station that, oddly, isn’t in Battersea, but in Covent Garden). There’s still one well-regarded chain (Manze’s, which is down to just three locations, and a few other places, Goddard’s being one of them. Opened in 1890 (down the way in Deptford, moving to Greenwich in the 20th century), Goddard’s is one of the last of a dying breed (and at that, purists scoff that it’s now a “Pie and Mash plus” shop, selling items other than pie, mash, and eels). But it’s still a great place to drop and and have a good old-school pie and mash combo.

Goddard’s isn’t fancy: it’s basically an ordering counter and two dining room areas (upstairs and down, the place does have a fair bit of capacity since sometimes they get large groups of tourists). And while it is a “pie and mash plus” shop, most of the menu is permutations of various pie fillings and amounts of mash on the side (for example, the first four menu items are beef pie and mash, double pie and mash, pie and double mash, and, you guessed it, double pie and double mash!). They’ve got a good variety of fillings as well, including lamb, chilli beef, steak and ale, and even soy and vegetable pies.

I went for a beef pie (I’m not against eel, although my seafood allergies tend to get triggered by it) with mash, opting for peas, mash, and traditional parsley gravy (liquor). The pie at Goddard’s is definitely a good one: a full double crust with a good tooth to it, around a very moist interior of minced beef in a light gravy with some spices, and it’s a pleasant enough meat pie. The mash held its own, and actually worked pretty well with the light parsley gravy, although I think I would have preferred the brown. Add in some classic mushy peas, some baked beans, and call it a great little meal.

Carol, meanwhile, opted for a variation on the theme, upgrading to the sirloin pie (with some nice chunks of sirloin and veggies) and going for brown gravy instead, but otherwise, a good, filling, and flavorful meal.

So, Goddard’s was a nice little treat. It wasn’t fancy food, not by a long shot, but like going to a good pasty stand, it’s a good trip into the culinary past of London, experiencing a classic meal that, aside from prices, has been around more than 100 years. I’m glad a few good pie and mash shops are still in existence, and Goddard’s is holding up the tradition quite well indeed.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply