Take me home please
Duelling Kelly's, Bethnal Green Road
Season 2015-2016

February 26th was marked by a Club Double Header up the east end. The crew pitched up for the Duel of the Kellys at 414 Bethnal Green Road at a little after ten past one.

Therein we were greeted by the beaming boat race of one Jason Sharp, friend of the Club since late '08.

The display behind the counter has a welcome feminine touch. Hover your cursor over that pic for a close up of the menu board – sorry it's a bit out of focus.

After the 'display and pay' we parked our pies on the marbley tops and got down to work.

For Mike Goldwater the feast is as much visual as it is comestible.

G. Kelly's juicy filling revealed.

'Dug' Benford and 'Pick' Lucas get a handle on the excavation equipment. Some of this cutlery's been in service since G-Rex.

The vinegar-de-table was an unctious black liquid resembling balsamic but with notes of pepper and a robust tang. Having passed the taste test, it was splashed on all over.

Lucas' enjoyment bordered on the nirvanal.

Judith and Jean looked entirely at ease in this compact and characterful dining room.

Nevertheless Jean prefers to grapple the grub with her own formidably sharp weapons.

I got the impression this is a regular lunch date.

There's a marvellous 'history wall' up the back, showing local scenes right back to the early days of photography.

The other ambient feature is the boxing hall of fame on the left side wall as you go in, featuring Cooper, Minter, Magri, Sibson and Stracey. Goldwater will have to punch a few more pie-crusts before he can wear a Lonsdale.

Here are the ladies who provided that welcoming feminine touch; Debbie and [far right] Jackie. Hang on a minute, they were both girl's papers back in the old days . . .

Both are 105 years old but attribute their youthful looks to a regular diet of 'Bow-tox'.

The aftermath.

At a distance of approximately 350 yards in the direction of London stands the other Kelly's. Its premises are as cosy and compact as its rival, but distinguished by a blue and white colour scheme. S&R Kelly celebrated 100 years in the business last year.

There might be about 20p between them in the basic prices, but the principal point of difference is that eels are on the menu here.

One and one on a formica backdrop. The liquor is packed with parsley.

Mike G. makes a right meal of it. For heavens sake man, turn it over!

As observed on previous occasions, the S&R vehicle releases a outburst of beefy broth when breached.

Doug eases some club habanero into his basin.

A bowl of stewed eels undergoes Mosse-destruction.

These old lags get their second innings underway, Statto using the 'lozenging' technique to part flesh from bone.

Local customers: Jessie [l] and Mark [r].

The second prominent difference between the duelling Kellys is the presence of S.R.'s single option dessert course. It's monumental.

The ex-champ was heard to say, "'I'd be struggling if it wasn't so delicious," along with "It's the most enjoyable thing I've eaten today."

It certainly caused a pause for thought, and a chance for myself to collate the complex statistical data.

Our dinner ladies were Jill and Vicky.

Behind the scenes, and at the controls of some awesomely powerful machinery, was our chief pieman Neil, who represents the 4th generation of the Kelly family to have run this shop. His mother Anne retired some years ago but still makes up their fabulous bread pud from home.

For a bit more background click here to read an article on Kelly's 100th anniversary.

Jean takes away 7 pies and 3 large liquors for the neighbours. Let's hope they've got enough spuds in the larder.

Conclusion: there isn't much to choose between the Kellys of Bethnal Green Road, but the purist would probably lean toward S&R with eels on the menu. And the awesome afters is worth leaving space for. But if you're up that way you could always do what we did – a pie or two in each shop. It's fascinating to observe the minute details of difference in these family recipes which have probably changed little in a century.

We reflected on the afternoon's events round the corner at the Carpenter's Arms, under the watchful gaze of two local boys raised on pie and mash.