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.