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This is the Oldest Fast-Food Joint in London’s East End

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London East End Restaurant
Paddy, the baker in F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash shop making pies. (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

 

Take your tastebuds on a trip into the past in the East End of London. That’s where you’ll find Hoxton Street’s tiny F. Cooke pie shop—the oldest fast-food restaurant (and by that, we mean a quickly prepared hot plate of food) in the neighborhood. Established by one Robert Cooke in 1862 and now run by his great-grandson Joe, F. Cooke is partial to just a trio of dishes: meat pies, mashed potatoes, and boiled eel.

The “pie and mash,” as it’s known, is made from scratch like a normal smallish fruit pie, with a homemade dough shell (see above), but with either Scottish or English beef hindquarter flank and a gravy sauce inside. (The mashed potatoes should be self-explanatory.)

London East End Restaurant
Joe Cooke bucketing in eels ready to be killed and gutted at the rear of Cookes’ eel, pie, and mash shop in Hoxton, London (In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

“But eel?” you say. Chef Cooke butchers the eels live in his kitchen before boiling, gelatinizing, and popping them in the refrigerator overnight. (Fun fact: live eels can still be fished out of London’s Thames River, but the population is dying off in alarming numbers.) Prepared cold in a parsley sauce known as “liquor,” the “jellied eel” has been an East End favorite since the 18th century—but has been on the way out in London for a number of reasons including gentrification.

London East End Restaurant
(Gideon Mendel/Corbis via Getty Images)

For more on the oldest fast-food joint in London’s East End, watch the video below.