Take me home please
The Cockney Grub House, Goodmayes
Season 2012-2013

In mid-February the Club sought out for its lunch a dining room with a singular and longstanding reputation, made more mythical by its far eastern location – Goodmayes in the land of Romilford. But with improved metropolitan transport infrastructure, the journey from London was the merest bagatelle thanks to a direct line from Stratford International.

The Cockney Grub House proudly claims to be 'the only proper grub house of its kind'. I've certainly never seen such a bold inscription committed to masonry.

I describe the interior as 'urban rustic' – a combination of heavily varnished timber and exposed London brick, garnished with all the nostalgic knicknacks necessary to propel one into 'the Cockney zone'.

The captain of this cultural cocktail is Sidney Hamilton esq, seen here offering up the first course in his best Fortnum and Mason bowls.

Bones were picked from teeth to the tune of Mike Sarne's 'Come Outside' – part of a seamless soundtrack of late 50's and early 60's British Rock 'n' Roll standards played over a vintage lo-fi soundsystem. I knew there had to be a musical connection; when quizzed Sid revealed his former career as roadie for beatpopsters The Honeycombs.
'Have I the Pie?'

Pie-minister Michael Goldwater measures out a dose of chilli vinegar during open-crust surgery.

The menu board tariff verges on the charitable, reflecting Sid's ethos of decent home-made food at affordable prices.

Chris and Eddie get shovelling.

Mike and myself were situated in the West Ham corner, next to a fine framed display of Hammers memorabilia which included a 7" vinyl platter of "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles".

On the day, the bubbles were restricted to Mike's overworked intestinal tract, which appears to have a 3-pie limit. The young filmmaker reached 'the carbohydrate wall' halfway through his dessert in a moment he described as 'my personal pudding-loo'.

Sid brought out the best china for my third dish. Licking the plate clean would have been in the poorest taste. In order to spare Her Majesty's blue blushes, I worked away the veil of gravy in a series of deft and deferential spoon strokes.

[Left] Another of those distinctive pencil sketch awards from the famous 'Pie 'n' Mash Club of Great Britain' – this one dating from 1995. Apparently J. Smith Junior of that august organ was on the premises just before Christmas. I feel that our paths must imminently converge.

There's one man whose path I wouldn't want to cross – 'Ugg' of Seven Kings, who has immortalized himself into a glass fronted chalkboard with a staggering 8 pies, 7 mash, 8 liquor . . . and 1 large milk. If anyone out there knows what happened to Ugg after that, please drop us a line.

Ding dong courtesy of London Fire Brigade, and only used in the event of burning pies.

Spotted Dick loomed large on the dessert platter – in this case a substantial slab of stodge in a velvety yellow covering.

Mark Jones and Claire Medder are regular customers at The Grub House. It transpires that Mark is a dyed-in-the-wool pie fanatic who likes to indulge his passion two or three times a week. Long-suffering partner Claire candidly related how their dream cruise in the Caribbean was marred by lack of the celestial sustenance and Mark's tragic confinement to cabin quarters with 'pie fever'.

Edward Mosse nonchalantly sweeps clean.

The guv'nor gets his grub.

Individual gold boxes were generously bestowed upon each of us. I momentarily thought we were about to retire to the smoking room for brandy and cigars.

[Above] The Pearlies cabinet.

[Right] Each table comprises the base of a Singer sewing machine topped with a slab of marble.

'To All Cockneys Leaving' sums up poignantly the Grub House experience. Established by Sid Hamilton in Goodmayes in the mid 1980s, and serving an extended menu including boiled beef and carrots, bangers and mash, and pease pudding and faggots, the Grubhouse employed a staff of four to help at peak hours. In the space of 25 years, the sparrows have all but flown, leaving this snug port of call as a historical footnote in a shopping thoroughfare now geared towards a predominantly Islamic population.

In keeping with our budget-conscious meal, we retired to the Lord Napier on Green Lane, whither two pints could still be had for under a fiver.