Early start to get to Billingsgate by 4 am, to meet the top man himself Mick Jenrick. This man has been looking after eels all his life. He has been supplying London’s 100 pie and mash shops with eels for 40 years. He started when he was 17 whilst his dad sold them at the dog track.
He has a couple of lakes in East London where her stores all his eels. Most come from Ireland form Loch Neagh. They can fish as many as 15-20 tons per night, and in the winter months from Holland. Mick’s holding trays at Billingsgate hold about 2 tons of eels.
Eel is treated as a delicacy in Japan & China, and the Chinese restaurant trade is still a large part of his business. ‘They don’t like the small’uns, they want the big bastards’ says Mick warmly. He is larger than life and a very generous man, I left with trays of eels, jellied and fresh and cooked them at home, sadly the only one who would eat them.
Mick’s eels are sold to Goddard’s pie and mash shop in Greenwich, where Geoff & brother Kane gave me a real lesson in meat pie-making. Hard graft, I spent the morning with the lads, but well worth the effort. They sell some 200 hundred per day all doused with liquor, warm boiled eels and chilli vinegar.
I had never eaten eel this way but was pleasantly surprised, all washed down with a large mug of tea. If you are ever in Greenwich and want to lunch a word of warning, get there early, as the queues are right around the corner!! Especially on a Sunday.
My lasting memories of this film are eating jellied eels at 5.30 am and Mick saying to camera ‘You don’t know what you’re missing Fern’ holding a squirming live eel and feeling completely stuffed and hardly able to walk from a great pie and mash lunch …great!
Mick Jenrick Eels Shop 18 Stands C1 & C6, Billingsgate Fish Market, Isle of Dogs, London
t: +44 (0) 207 987 1118
Goddard’s Pie & Mash Shop. Cutty Sark, Greenwich London
t: +44 (0) 208 2939313 w: www.pieshop.co.uk