Anna Docherty samples potato perfection on Forest Road.
On the doorstep is a perfectly round, speckled potato, wet with autumn rain. This unnoticed spillage is a reminder that Monster Mash make all their mash from scratch; there is no powdered potato allowed anywhere near this kitchen. I gently tap on the door and am ushered in. I have been granted an early morning lock-in and feel a little like a celebrity, as if I have demanded the place be cleared for my visit. The door is locked behind me and I take this as an opportunity to pick the boss’ brains about everything mash-related.
Inside there is a retrodiner feel. I sit across a kitsch black plastic table from the manager, Becky Heilands, as she imparts some mashed potato gospel. ‘First you need to add lots of butter, like loads!’ she enthuses, ‘then add some milk and a little salt’. But the most important ingredient? A generous grinding of black pepper, ‘otherwise it looks like albino mash’.
In the kitchen this perfectly seasoned buttery delight is cooked in a ridiculously big forty-kilo pan, like something belonging to a giant in a fairytale. Seeing this sends my brain off on a tangent and I start thinking about fantasy mash. What would you add to your dream mash mix?
‘Well, we have one customer who brings with him a tube of Thai green curry paste’, she tells me, and another apparently requests cabbage and bacon be added to his. The good news is that Monster Mash have no qualms about catering to any special requests. Aside from bespoke mash, they do a great range of vegetarian options and can do gluten free if you let them know in advance. They’ve also been known to order in antelope, ostrich and zebra sausages. In fact they’re willing to do most things, bar picking the carrots out your steak pie.
You can see why their menu of homely British classics has proved such a huge hit: sausages, fish and chips, baked beans, mushy peas and, of course, oodles of mashed potato, as well as daily specials such as caramelised red onion mash or beef and Guinness bangers - the perfect stodgy banquet. Upon leaving I ask the manager what she’ll be having for lunch, expecting the answer to include something fluffy and potatobased; ‘Oh, I’ll get a falafel from down the road’ is the answer. Ah well, all the more mash for us then.