Pie and mash the cockney way
It’s London’s original fast food – and at Arments Pie & Mash, in Elephant & Castle, the humble meal is as popular today as it was when the shop opened more than 100 years ago. We speak to owner Roy Arment about the cockney comfort food
Around the corner from East Street Market in the heart of Elephant & Castle is Arments Pie & Mash. A London institution, the popular shop has been serving hearty pie and mash, and its accompanying liquor, for more than a century.
Arments opened as a pie, mash and eel shop in 1914, and, today, the family business is run by its third generation of owners, Roy and Cheryl Arment, with the help of Cheryl’s sister, Lorraine, and their nephew, Paul. They have stuck to the shop’s well-tested pie recipes and method, which have truly stood the test of time. “I’m a firm believer in ‘if something’s not broken, then don’t try to fix it’,” says Roy. “The only additions we’ve made in recent years is to offer tea and coffee, and we do vegetarian pies now, which are popular.
“We did try to introduce a vegan pie, but we haven’t yet created a flavour we are satisfied with. We’ve been quite disappointed about that, but we wouldn’t serve something we’re not completely happy with.”
One thing that has changed in the business is that the pies and liquor are available to buy online. Following the same 100-year-old-recipes, Arments makes and delivers its traditional pies to shops, restaurants and other businesses, anywhere within mainland UK. However, even the introduction of online sales hasn’t persuaded Roy to share the family’s signature pie recipe, which is, he says, top secret.
Only a handful of staff know the combination of ingredients used in the traditional pies, which are handmade daily in the Arments kitchen. What Roy will say, though, is that Arments uses two types of pastry to make the traditional pies – one for the top and one for the bottom, which ensures the base remains soft while the lid is light and flaky.
Fillings include the best-selling minced steak, steak and kidney, vegetarian, and there is a fruit pie for pudding. Pies are served the traditional way, with a scraping of smooth mash and a ladle of parsley liquor, and customers can add vinegar or chilli vinegar if they wish.
Customers will also find the other classic London staple, eel, on the menu. “Eels are very good for you,” says Roy. “The demand for them isn’t as much as it used to be, but we always have them available. We sell stewed eels, which are served hot, and jellied eels, which are served cold. They’re not for everyone, but we still have a lot of customers who enjoy them.”
Customers can dine in the shop, where there are tables and booths overlooking the open kitchen, or they can take their pie and mash away – and at just 581 calories per serving of pie, mash and liquor, it’s one of the healthier takeaway options available.
Roy and the team were delighted to receive a letter from Buckingham Palace in 2014, to congratulate them on their centenary. This followed the award of a Southwark blue plaque, which Arments received in 2013. Run by Southwark Heritage, Southwark Council and Southwark News, the scheme honours the people and places who have made a significant impact on the area, and is voted for by the community.
Having served the people of Elephant & Castle for more than a century Arments is a much-loved institution and is proud of its long history. So, what’s the secret to such a long period of success?
“Keeping our standards high and offering the best products possible,” says Roy. “We keep the shop looking good and, because our kitchen is wide open, customers can see what we’re doing and watch their meal being made. But, most of all, it has to be to love what you do.”
Arments is at 7 Westmoreland Road, Walworth, London SE17 2AX.
What do you predict will happen to the food and drink scene in Elephant and Castle over the next five years?
I can only hope to see the variety of activity in the area continue. You see different things in Elephant and Castle daily, and I love the multicultural feel. I also really hope that more small, independent businesses such as mine pop up around the area; it’s great to have so many already, but it would be great if this expands.
To find out more about Arments Pie & Mash, visit www.armentspieandmash.com.
For other places to eat in and around Elephant & Castle, visit www.elephantpark.co.uk/enough-eateries-to-feed-an-elephant/
If you are interested in other much-loved institutions that have been serving Elephant & Castle and beyond for more than 100 years, check out: