London's River Thames used to be teeming with eels. That's no longer the case, but this slippery fish still makes it onto lunch and dinner plates at F. Cooke Traditional Pie and Mash in London's East End.
The eels this 154-year-old institution now cooks up hark from elsewhere, including Ireland, and as far away as New Zealand. Yet however you like your eels - warm and jellied, or stewed with mash - there is something on the stripped back menu at this pie-and-mash shop to suit you.
Eels formed the basis of Cockney cuisine because they were cheap and bountiful. Now, thanks to changing tastes and the evolution of fast food, jellied eels and other dishes sold at F Cooke Traditional Pie and Mash are among the only traditional East End foods still in existence.
We ordered, then took our spot on the wooden bench seating and waited. Delivered to our table soon after were bowls of chopped eels swimming in a thick parsley sauce (sometimes referred to as liquor). The eels themselves were chopped and served with skins-on, in the company of a cloud of white, creamy mash.
Plenty of people rave about the eels. But for me, at least, they're definitely destined to remain an acquired taste. (Too bony and too fishy-tasting if you ask me.) Still, I'm glad we visited F Cooke Traditional Pie and Mash. It's hard to image a more authentic setting in which to savour a slice of the city's culinary history.