Take me home please
Traditional vs Nathan's,
Upton Park
Season 2013-2014

On the 29th November, the Club undertook its now annual 'Back-to-Back' trip, this year into the Greater Ham area. Starting in the vicinity of Plaistow tube, we headed to 'Traditional' of 538 Barking Road, wherein we were greeted warmly by proprietor Jamie. As you might expect, Hammers memorabilia abounds.

It being an off-peak Friday lunchtime, Jamie and co. were able to cater for the Pie and Mash Club 'Starter Course', i.e. a bowl of eels, with or without the liquor. A special bottle of XXX-rated chili vinegar was made available for the connoisseurs.

The eels were duly mosse-ticated.

It was just the preparation required for these handsomely-proportioned main course platters . . .

Mike G tucked it away with alacrity. That's the club sauce in the foreground.

Ed Mosse dug in like a JCB operator.

Judith Deschamps popped up unexpectedly – just as always. There was something about her approach to the table that put me in mind of the green baize wizards of yesteryear.

Tom Leader's a man who accumulates a sizeable points break whenever he's at the table.

The Family Meal Deal: '6 Pies, 6 Mash, 2 Large Liquors Plus 4 Cans of Drink £15'.

OAP's Special: '1 Pies, 1 Mash Plus a Cup of Rosy £2.50'.

Also of note on the menu board: ' Chips & Liquor for a Nicker'. As far as I know, this is a Barking Road delicacy.

Desserts weigh in at £2.50, but this wasn't quite what we expected. Chris Charalambous couldn't believe his mince pies.

Luke was the talent behind that virtuoso chocolate swash.

Julie provided the flour power, and was preparing a big batch of pies for the Saturday pre-match lunchtime stampede.

Conclusion: if you're looking for a tried and tested treatment of the time-honoured dish, then 'Traditional' will not disappoint. Unless you're one of those stodgers that gets upset over the use of scoops. I particularly enjoyed the robust liquor served up here.

From 538a Barking Road it was simple 15-minute walk to number 51. En route there was diversion too tempting for Pie-Lord Mike Goldwater to resist. Especially as the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was on 23rd November.

For those of you unable to get to Upton Park, The Who Shop conducts a mail order service on the internet. A present-wielding, miscreant-exterminating Dalek-Santa would be a real Christmas game-changer. 'You will obey.'

For the second leg we were joined at the threshold of Nathan's by eminent Prestonian Paul Grice.

Inside we were confronted with pine-cabin-and-formica decor not seen since Castle's of Camden. On hand to cheer us in were this group of jolly diners, enjoying a trip down memory lane. The ladies were regularly ejected from Nathan's for unruly behaviour in their teenage years.

And here is the former and formidable proprietress who gave them their marching orders, Dory Minchin. If I have my facts straight she is the daughter of Mary and John Nathan, who were connected to Antink's Eel business dating from the century before last.

Our immaculate dinner ladies on the day were Brenda [l] and Pam [r]. Brenda has been serving Nathan's pies for a mere 37 years.

Here's what they dished up.

Only Chris C could possibly order up a 3+1 after a full meal elsewhere. That's why he's champ.

Paul Grice is back on the London Pie scene after a year's exile in Outer Bromwich. A look of foreboding was writ on his features, and he was later heard to say 'That pastry expands in your stomach.'

Ken, Richard Nathan and David Nathan.

Dory Minchin, Dee Wright and Christine Nathan.

Here's a sight we don't see often: Chris Charalambous at a complete standstill. In his words, 'I feel ill'. It's a measure of the man that he's able to lay down his tools with only half a pie to go.

But these were no ordinary pies. My through-the-hatch snap clearly shows Dave's 'rubbing-in fingers'. The Nathan's is a short-crust special, and it wouldn't surprise me if it incorporated lard – for that extra punch below the belt.

Interestingly enough, Nathan's once operated an Islington branch using the water-based recipe most of us are familiar with. One can only assume the native Upton Parker has a hyper-metabolism.

A family affair.

In conclusion, most of us thought that 'Traditional' edged it over Nathan's. The reason is clear enough from its name. But there's no doubt that Nathan's is the more popular come match day, especially with the recent demise of the mighty Duncan's opposite the tube.

The Nathan's Pie is a singular experience. The filling is tasty and substantial, with staying power that will see you through a midwinter extra time. And it's that which caused our pie-packing postie to crash and burn after a spectacular first half.

We digested in the Victorian splendour of the Boleyn Arms, cogitating over the respective merits of these pie shops, and how the local matchday economy will respond to the relocation of the Hammers to Stratford in Summer 2016.