EDITOR’S NOTE: Ben Friedl is an occasional correspondent for The Short Fuse who went to London recently. We asked him to grab lunch at Piebury Corner and give us a full report of how it was.
This American had the opportunity to cross the vast blue expanse of the Atlantic, breathe the same air as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and step foot into Piebury Corner - a North London deli whose claim to fame resides in its delectable Arsenal themed pies.
Piebury Corner is only a short walk away from the Holloway Road tube stop, which in turn is a quick tube ride from central London on the Piccadilly line. Sitting in the shadow of the mighty Emirates Stadium, Piebury Corner has a maximum capacity of approximately 5 people, including the chef.
Two Americans walk into a pie shop… a phrase which seems like the stereotypical start to a culturally insensitive joke. On the contrary, me and my buddy Nick were bursting with excitement. As lifelong Arsenal fans, sitting there in North London on that particular Saturday was an incomparable feeling - a spiritual experience the likes of which I am very lucky to be able to experience.
We walked in and found seats at the only open table in the shop, one immediately adjacent to the front door. While the cool London breeze would occasionally blow onto us, the adrenalin of the occasion alone sustained both our warmth and excitement.
While seated, I realized that the shop is quite literally a corner, as Brits cram into each crevice of the deli. With a pie in one hand and a pint in the other, grumblings about Granit Xhaka’s inaccurate passing, “The Invincibles,” and despised “muppet” neighbors Tottenham Hotspur bounce off the walls in the most subtle British way possible.
From pictures of Arsenal legends such as Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Vieira, to a movie poster of The Who’s “Quadrophenia,” the indoor aesthetic is eclectic and poignantly British.
As we began to look over the laminated menus which sat in the middle of our table, we were now faced with the toughest choice of all: which pie to pick?
From the traditional “Tony Adams” with steak and ale, to the avant garde “Thierry Henry” with venison and red wine, the choice was almost as difficult as the decision to start either Lacazette or Aubameyang up top.
After deliberating amongst ourselves, Nick and I made our team selection. Nick would go with the “Dennis Bergkamp,” a delicacy which contains chicken, ham, and leek, while I would choose the “Sol Campbell,” a spicier pie with jerk chicken and west indies porter gravy.
Mid-order, I paused, looking up at the famous words of Arsenal Legend Dennis Bergkamp which were engraved on a plaque before me:
“When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.”
These words immediately inspired me, as well as my spending habits. In an impulsive, gametime decision, I added a side of baked beans AND a pint of Thistly Cross British Cider to my order.
Within what seemed like moments, like a swift Arsenal counter-attack, the shop played from the back, bringing us our two fresh, steaming pies. Upon first glance, the pie appeared small, but the taste was mighty in stature. A golden brown crust, artfully crafted like an Özil through ball. The perfect chicken to gravy ratio. A pie from the footballing gods.
As I cut my first piece and took my first bite of the “Sol Campbell”, the crust was the first flavor to wash over me. It was solid at the back, just like Sol Campbell himself, while the jerk chicken feels like you’re watching Troopz on Arsenal Fan TV, very Jamaican with spicy takes but also incredibly entertaining.
I immediately paired the pie with a bite of baked beans, rich like Stan Kroenke’s pockets, except the beans actually delivered. Wash it all down with a sip of crisp British cider, and that’s what you call the Gooner version of paradise.
In an assist worthy of Bergkamp himself, Nick offered me a piece of his pie, which was also delectable. The “Dennis Bergkamp” tasted just as it sounds, as if you had just scored a top corner banger that wouldn’t have been possible without Bergkamp’s, and Piebury’s, impeccable delivery and service.
As we devoured every last bite of our meal, the sense of gratification upon completion was unlike any feeling I have ever experienced. To digest the most famous pre- and post- match meal in Arsenal lore was truly an experience I will never forget, and is one that any American Arsenal fan in London should not miss out on.
209-211 Holloway Rd