Take me home please
The Romford Double
Season 2014-2015

Roundly ignoring portent, a delegation from the Pie and Mash Club entered the citadel of Romford on Friday 13th March. The Essex township has for some time been home to two pie and mash shops, and thanks to its compact nature, lends itself to a Pie and Mash Club 'double header'.

We found ourselves at South Street Romford Shopping Arcade, aka the Quadrant, and scene of misdemeanour for Ian Dury's 'Razzle in My Pocket'. Robins occupies a spacious double-fronted shop towards the marketplace end. Business was brisk, and I got the feeling a bowl of eels in juice was an irregular item in this canteen.

Our modest numbers were swelled by the impressive Mr Mike Harris, seen here. Mike contacted the club when his local, Lawson's of Wickford, pulled down the shutters for the last time. [For those who've recently lost their pie and mash shop, we offer a range of condolences, support and positive dialogue]. It transpired from the correspondence that Mike is an ex-LT man who took early retirement and now does a nice little line of bus maps. Here he is holding up his latest 'Londonwide'. Find out more at: http://www.busmap.co.uk/current.html

It would look great on a tea towel or table cloth, don't you think?

Evans, Mosse and Deschamps mugging at the marble-top. Each of those platters bears a single pie, mash and liquor.

You have to ask for the 'extra hot'. And the club usually packs extra heat, as you know.

Lo and behold Rikk Lukas, the master of surprise appearances. He was on a 'lunch-hour' from Baker Street. That might be possible when they finish the Crossrail.

The Robins Tariff aims to cover every eventuality; but just how much is a bowl of hot eels without the liquor?

Inside Robins kitchen.

Outside Robins/inside the arcade.

A gentle stroll of 3 minutes transported the Club across Romford's lively market place to the High Street. I imagine, before the ring road, mall and parking mega-lot, it would have been quite a thoroughfare, but these days it looks a bit neglected. Especially since Woolies closed.

And that's a shame because McDowell's has a great deal to offer. Like the special.

Purists may balk at the scoop of mash. I don't mind – as long as it is mash. The pie is also a slightly exotic-looking vehicle with bevelled crimp and raised flat roof.

Judith liked the look of it so much she had a little dig into Edward's plate.

The colonnades at McDowell's suggest the Med, but a framed photo of Bobby Moore provides a handy cultural reference for the disorientated.

Edward Mosse matched me spoon for spoon as we entered the dessert leg.

The willow pattern revealed: a Chinese temple there it stands, built upon the river sands.

This young man is no stranger to a pie tray. His name is Danny and, with his brother Rich and mum Linda, he's keeping the family traditions alive. It all started 50 years ago in a pie shop in Dagenham with Reg and Vera McDowell – his grandparents. The McDowell's have been on Romford High Street for 30 years now.

This chap told me he was brought up on S&R Kelly's pie and mash in Bethnal Green Road. McDowell's compares favourably.

If you get caught short there's a little room on the premises.

We spotted this gem on the wall opposite the colonnades. It's a bona fide piece of 'infobilia' from the other pie and mash club – in their trademark liquor green ink. Those telephone numbers have long since expired, so for the time being, Monty Martin remains the sole link between the two clubs.

The Golden Lion at the crossroads of North Street and the High Street was our chosen watering hole. This atmospheric old boozer dates from the 1600s and we soaked up the ambience – plus a fine range of beers – to the thunderous climax of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 'Ave it!

Bassett and Mosse. They go together like, uh, liquorice and wasp.

The market place.