What started as a pop-up inside a functioning (and surviving!) pie-and-mash shop in Walthamstow has become one of London’s cult drinking experiences – and it’s just gone permanent. Every Friday and Saturday night, L Manze on the High Street – a peddler of the quintessential London grub since 1929 – adds a red filter to its lights and becomes The Jellied Eel, a bar serving cocktails and croquetas.
You’d be forgiven for not realising how gorgeous this room is when stuffing your chops, but in its night-time guise, the art deco tiles and creaking booths make an impact. Drinking here feels sordid, like you’re an extra in an episode of ‘EastEnders’ where some really bad shit goes down. But it also warms your cockles: the concept comes from Paul Jellis (the bar’s name has levels), a local with a background in theatre and event production, not in the bar world at all. His eagerness to get the hospitality bit right is palpable, even sitting with us to chat and take a load off during a lull in a full-on Friday night service.
We were so taken with this one-off watering hole, we tried most of the cocktails (shaken behind the trad counter, all £8.50), including a popular Pisco Inferno – a Sour pepped with piquant Ancho Reyes liqueur – and the Blood Wedding, an aged tequila drink smoothed out with several shades of citrus. You can sample each of the seven kinds of croqueta (which come in pairs) on a platter for £12, but a classic jamón ibérico option was the best, as was the service from a Spanish chef dressed a bit like Keith Flint. You won’t find pie and mash on the menu, but cocktails and croquetas are as timeless a combo. And when they’re making one of London’s dying breed of pie shops relevant to a whole new crowd, well, they taste all the better.
BY: LAURA RICHARDS POSTED: THURSDAY NOVEMBER 28 2019
L. Manze has been serving up the classic Cockney dishes of pie, mash and jellied eels in Walthamstow since 1929.
And now, 90 years later, they’re unleashing part two of their perfectly calculated master plan: serving up cocktails & croquetas after hours on weekends.
How’s that for a mash-up.
The bar was the idea of locals Charlie Westover and (the suitably named) Paul Jellis, who joined forces with former Lacy Nook chef Elena Smileva. And after a string of successful pop up stints over the past year, the Jellied Eel is now going to be a permanent resident in the shop.
Every Friday & Saturday night, they dim the lights & pull out the shakers, setting up the space for cocktail-hunting punters – and what a space it is. The Grade II listed shop has remained unchanged since it opened almost a century ago, and is still filled with its original Art Deco white tiled walls, vintage lighting and wooden, all-booth seating. They’ve even reopened the old goods yard out the back to create a little cocktail garden.
The cocktails they’re putting out from behind the long marble counter/bar include a Sailor’s Old Fashioned made with black spiced rum & pepper syrup; a Mumbling Negroni that’s smartly updated with rhubarb bitters; and the Spring in Tokyo, which smoothly blends sake with red wine by using vermouth as a bridging flavour. There’s even a ‘sharing Martini’ big enough for two, with a huge stick of olives.
The croquetas side of the whole equation at the Jellied Eel is filled by trios of crispy golden treats, whose flavours include some meltingly good Jamon Iberico, a little blue cheese, some classic spinach, and more. Since going permanent, they’ve added a couple of other dishes into the mix, too: Merguez sausages with hot pepper sauce; fried squid with homemade aioli and roasted mushrooms with pesto.
In fact, like all the best eels, this place is electric.