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Enjoy great food and Chas and Dave tribute act Gertcha at the F. Cooke Pie and Mash Spectacular at South Mill Arts in Bishop's Stortford on Thursday May 26



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Revel in the tastes and sounds of the East End when F. Cooke hosts a good old knees-up at South Mill Arts next week.

The Bishop's Stortford pie and mash shop, which opened in South Street in December, is combining its great food and the sounds of Chas & Dave at the South Road venue on Thursday May 26.

The Pie and Mash Spectacular features tribute band Gertcha – musicians Matt Adshead and Pete Faint – performing the duo's much-loved hits and sing-along classics on what promises to be a night to remember.

Fred Cooke's shop is modelled on his forebears' original business, founded 160 years ago. Picture: Melissa Page
Fred Cooke's shop is modelled on his forebears' original business, founded 160 years ago. Picture: Melissa Page

And with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations coming up on the weekend of June 2-5, now is the perfect time to sample classic pie and mash.

Fred Cooke is the fifth generation of his renowned family to serve up pie and mash. The Stortford eatery he now runs with wife Zoë is modelled on his forebears' original business, founded 160 years ago in 1862 by his great-great-great-grandfather Robert Frederick Cooke.

The longest-serving purveyors of pie and mash in London ran their legendary shop in Dalston between 1910 and 1997, with other restaurants in Stratford, Broadway Market and Hoxton.

Gertcha will be performing a set outside F. Cooke in South Street on Friday (May 20) at 3.30pm ahead of the South Mill Arts show
Gertcha will be performing a set outside F. Cooke in South Street on Friday (May 20) at 3.30pm ahead of the South Mill Arts show

And the Chas & Dave night at South Mill Arts will bring back happy memories for Fred, 53, who first met the duo – Chas Hodges and Dave Peacock – when they regularly frequented his family's Dalston shop in the 1970s. The cover of their 1977 album Rockney even features them standing outside it.

Having built up a fanbase with pop-up nights at the Rose and Crown pub in Bentfield Road, Stansted, Fred was delighted to find a prime spot in Stortford town centre for his shop and saw it officially opened by the then mayor Cllr Keith Warnell on December 2.

Fred still uses the classic recipe passed down through the generations, serving liquor – a parsley sauce – with their meat pies and mash. F. Cooke also offers gravy with its minced meat pies – vegetarian and vegan pies are also available – and the eels are now served as a stewed or jellied accompaniment.

Originally eel pies, they were changed to use minced beef as a cheaper alternative to eels when they became scarce due to the worsening pollution in the River Thames.

F. Cooke's recipe has been passed down through the generations. Picture: Melissa Page
F. Cooke's recipe has been passed down through the generations. Picture: Melissa Page

Fred's 79-year-old mum Brenda, who ran the family's Dalston eatery with husband Fred for more than 40 years, does a few shifts a week behind the counter while uncle John Manze also helps out occasionally.

And son Freddy, an 18-year-old Bishop's Stortford College student, and his sister Sunny, 21, who is on a textile degree course at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, also do shifts when they are not busy studying.

As well as being open for eat-in and takeaway – opening hours are currently extended to 10.30am-8pm – people can get their pie and mash delivered to their door using the Associated Gets and GoGetters apps.

The F. Cooke pie and mash shop is at 6 South Street, Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Melissa Page
The F. Cooke pie and mash shop is at 6 South Street, Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Melissa Page

The shop has already developed a band of loyal customers, and pie and mash fans have travelled from as far as Norwich and King's Lynn to have a meal and take home big orders to stock up their freezers.

Regular visitor and poet Terry Medley has even penned a poem in honour of the shop – entitled Cooke's Great Pie and Mash – which is going to be framed on the wall.

"We've been very well received by the town," said Fred. "A lot of East Enders who have moved out this way had to travel back to East London to get their hit of pie and mash. Now they can just go round the corner.

"And we've made it even easier now by using local firms Associated Gets and GoGetters to do our deliveries.

"Stortford's a lovely town with nice people, our sort of people, and there's a nice community feel in the town.

"Pie and mash is proving popular here and it's something different. We're the only place within 15-20 miles of here serving pie and mash."

As well as preparing for the Pie & Mash Spectacular at South Mill Arts, Fred and his team – which also includes six to eight part- and full-time members of staff who all live locally – is getting ready for a busy bank holiday next month when the celebrations marking Queen Elizabeth II's 70 years on the throne will be in full swing.

F. Cooke is open for eat-in, takeaway and home delivery. Picture: Melissa Page
F. Cooke is open for eat-in, takeaway and home delivery. Picture: Melissa Page

"I've already got several orders for that weekend – I'm still taking them – from social clubs and pubs that want something typically British for the Platinum Jubilee," said Fred.

"And you can't get anything that says London more than pie and mash."

Tickets for the Pie & Mash Spectacular at South Mill Arts next Thursday (May 26) at 7.45pm can be bought at southmillarts.co.uk. They cost £20 for single pie and £23 for double pie (vegetarian and vegan options available).

F. Cooke, at 6 South Street, Bishop's Stortford, is open for eat-in, takeaway and home delivery Tuesdays to Saturdays, with opening hours currently extended to 10.30am-8pm.



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