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The Twickenham Ait in Richmond was an islet that was previously known as the Twickenham Ait. In the 1740s, pleasure boaters would jokingly cruise from central London down the River Thames to this islet. Mooring at an inn that had become notorious throughout the city for offering only eel pies.

The large tavern’s name was Eel Pie House, and punting groups would float along the shore before gathering for enjoyable picnics by the river. Before stewing them for dough and the pie oven, the inn’s chefs would peel, debone, and trim batches of Thames eels into three-inch slices.

Years later, the island would be renamed Eel Pie Island. Marking the end of the eel-filled pastry’s transition from nutritive oddity to affordable, commonplace cuisine. Even after hundreds of years have passed, tourists continue to seek out London’s original fast food.


The modest eel’s role in defining his family’s legacy at the start of the 20th century was something Rick Poole was thinking about when I first met him at a lunchtime in the spring that was dimly lit. To absorb the juice from the discarded eel bones, “we used to have sawdust on the floor of our shops,” he said. “It was really extremely awful. Really awful. And we continued to use the sawdust until the late 1970s.

Poole is the director of M. Manze, the establishment’s great-grandson and the last surviving eel and pie eatery in London, if not the globe. Manzes will alter your life!, reads a sign outside the cafe, which has been serving clients since 1902. (One Robert Cooke opened London’s first eel house in 1892; he later sold it to his son-in-law, Michele Manze.)

Only three of the original 14 M. Manze eel and pie businesses still exist today in London, with the oldest being the classically fronted structure at 87 Tower Bridge Road with a dark green awning and Union Jack flags. Additionally, regulars claim that it is the city’s first fast food restaurant.

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