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Harrington's: Serving Pie & Mash in Tooting since 1908!

Harrington's: Serving Pie & Mash in Tooting since 1908!

2018-08-13 
| by Editor | Posted in News, Food & Drink, Business & Finance, Advertorial
Harrington’s owner Beverley pictured with son Ryan and chief pie-maker Dave.

Harrington’s Pie & Mash shop on Selkirk Road has been run by the same family with the same menu and same recipe since Bertie John Harrington and his wife Clara opened the shop nearly 110 years ago.

In fact, the only thing that has changed in all those years in the oldest business in Tooting is the interior – and that refurbishment only took place between March and May this year. 

“We’ve only ever made one pie – lamb mince”, says owner Beverley, granddaughter of the original owners. She’s worked in the shop since the age of 13 and now runs the business. Her son, Ryan, also lends a hand – the fourth generation of the family to be involved. 

“We serve it with mash, jellied eels, stewed eels and licker (a type of parsley sauce). The pies are made by our chief chef and pie-maker Dave, who’s 64 years old and has been making pies here at Harrington’s since the age of 12. He’s still on his first job!”

“Even after all these years, we still get really busy, especially on a Saturday and have seen so many generations of families come and go over the years – it makes you both smile and sad at the same time.” 

 

A batch of lamb mince pies fresh out of the oven.

A brief history of pie & mash

Pie and mash is a traditional working-class food, originating in London, and pie, mash and eel shops have been in London since the 19th century. During the Victorian era, industrial air pollution tended to be worse in the east and south east of London because of the prevailing westerly wind, with the result that the East End was settled more by the working classes, while the western part of the city was home to higher social classes. The working class were poor, and favoured foodstuffs that were cheap, in plentiful supply and easy to prepare.

The savoury pie had long been a traditional food, and its small handsized form also made it a transportable meal, protected from dirt by its cold pastry crust, and filled with cheap minced meat, usually mutton. Adding mashed potatoes, together with a sauce (called licker) made with stock from the stewed eel water and parsley, made it a plate-based sit-down meal. However, the licker is not made like this any more – it’s very much a separate recipe!

Jellied eels are often associated with pie and mash, as European eels cooked in gelatine also became a common worker's meal since they were one of the few forms of fish that could survive in the heavily polluted Thames and London's other rivers at that time. Supply was plentiful through the late 1800s, particularly from the Dutch fishing boats landing catches at Billingsgate Fish Market.

 

Harrington’s jellied eels – chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock that’s allowed to cool and set, forming a jelly.

 

Stewed eels served with mash – a very popular choice at Harrington’s.

 

It’s been the same menu at Harrington’s since 1908.


As to the refurbishment at Harrington’s – “we had to finally do it as the shop front was falling down,” says Beverley. “Some regulars are happy with the new look, others less so, but we’ve kept many of the original features – the stained glass windows from the front door now hang on the wall, the old wooden benches that customers used to sit on are now used for shelving, and the famous old sign is being cleaned up and will also soon return on the wall in the shop.”

 

The stained glass windows from the original front door as well as posters from the Sweeney Todd production adorn the walls inside the refurbished Harrington’s.

 

The new-look Harrington’s exterior.

 

The original shop front and sign at Harrington’s.

As well as serving loyal customers from both Tooting and other parts of London who regularly visit to get their pie and mash fix, Harrington’s has, in recent years, also attracted visitors from all over the world due to the notoriety it received from hosting a unique production of Sweeney Todd back in 2014, produced by Tooting Arts Club.

The show, which ran for two months to an audience of 32 each night, was such a critically acclaimed success that the show’s legendary composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, flew in from the U.S. for the final night! The production then went on to be a huge hit on Broadway, New York – and it all started in Harrington’s Tooting, which has posters up in the shop to remember the occasion by.

 

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at work in Harrington’s Tooting.

 

Stephen Sondheim visited Harrington’s on the final night of the Sweeney Todd production hosted there in late 2014.

Although Tooting has changed in recent years, Beverley still very much feels as though Harrington’s has a great future in the area, but is keen to get new faces through the door. “As well as continuing to look after our regulars, we’d like to encourage those who have never sampled one of London’s great traditions to come and visit us here at Harrington’s – especially the younger generation – so that this great Tooting institution can survive for the next 100 years!”

Harrington’s Pie & Mash Shop is located at 3 Selkirk Road, Tooting.

Opening hours: Tuesday 11am-6pm, Wednesday 11am-4pm, Thursday-Saturday 11am-7pm, Closed on Sunday & Monday. You can follow Harrington’s on TwitterInstagram & Facebook.

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