J Young, Eel & Pie House426 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton SW9 8LF
[Map location]. Published 23rd July 2012
[pic: Lambeth Archives]
Situated on Coldharbour Lane close to Brixton's many theatres and cinemas was J. Young's Eeel and Pie House, a smart looking restaurant offering the working classes an affordable and healthy meal.
In the window can be seen signs advertising 'Live Eels Always In Stock,' with prices for stewed eels starting from 3d (1.5p). The window also has notices promoting its 'mashed potatoes, meat and fruit pies.'
Eel and Pie (or Pie and Mash) houses first appeared in London around 1850, taking over from the traditional street vendors.
The stores would often sell live eels from stalls outside, while the interior would be kept smart with marble floors, pictures and mirrors. The floor would be covered in sawdust to gather up the eel bones that were spat out.
Dishes were sold with 'eel liquor,' which used the water from the preparation of the stewed eels, with added parsley giving the sauce a rather startling bright green hue.
The building notably narrowly escaped being burnt down in the 1981 Brixton riots (see photo above).
This interior photo was taken in the 1980s by Tim Wells - see more here.
The Brixton Eel and Pie house managed to survive right up to the mid 1990s and remained pretty much unchanged in all that time.
Now trading as Gyoza, a Japanese and Chinese restaurant, the building remains more or less intact, although it has lost much of its architectural detail.
The attractive tiling has been painted over and the window reduced in size. A particular sad loss is the striking dual suspended gas lamps, although the impressive upstairs windows remain.
A contributor to urban75 recalled that when a new sign was being put up on the building, the old frontage was exposed with a painted sign underneath saying, 'Theatre Restaurant'.
Share your memories and discuss the old Pie and Mash House on the urban75 discussion thread.
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