Crisp, crusty pastry formed around a rich, hearty middle, saddled perhaps with a generous scoop of creamy mash potato, traipsed in liquor or soggy from pea-wet. The Great British pie is an iconic food that is as comfortable in the mouths of merry football fans as on the plates of showy diners at The Ivy.
Yep, check your calendars – British Pie Week has come around once again and we’ve gathered a comprehensive list of the nation’s best shops, cafes, bars, bakeries and pubs that sell Britain’s ubiquitous luxury and it is sure to leave you pie-eyed.
1. Battersea Pie Station, Covent Garden, London
Tucked away in the heart of Covent Garden, the small but cosy Battersea Pie Station offer up a range of hot and cold pies for those seeking a break from market shopping. Traditional British pies are on the menu with chicken and mushroom and steak and meantime stout particular highlights. You can also try the pies in smaller ‘baby pie’ form and the selection of sides include the usual suspect mash as well as the slightly experimental roast potatoes.
2. F.Cooke’s pie and mash shop, Broadway Market, London
A traditional East End pie shop that serves its pies with mash drenched in parsley liquor and stewed or jellied eels. Standing in Broadway Market, the shop has become an institution in the 116 years it has been open and still serves a dwindling Cockney clientele as well as those wanting a taste of the traditional East End dinner.
Despite being open for more than a century, the family-run businesses is open to modernising and offers pop-ups during the week or on a Sunday.
3. Pie & Vinyl, Southsea, Portsmouth
Pie & Vinyl is a quirky little restaurant-cum-record-shop selling a selection of in-house pies, some from a local butchers and other national brands. The menu is musically inspired including the particularly tasty-sounding Mean Mr Mustard Pie which contains roasted root vegetables, chickpeas and wholegrain mustard and the Bombay Bicycle Pie which encases curried tomato, lentils and bombay potatoes.
They all come served with mash, peas and gravy and although alcohol isn’t served, they sell a range of cordials, fizzy or not, served in retro kitsch teapots. And if that wasn’t enough, you can browse round the vinyl record shop and associated merchandise and t-shirts. It also has the Phil Jupitus seal of approval after he wore a Pie & Vinyl t-shirt on BBC quiz show QI.
4. Clark’s Pies, Cardiff
A Clarkie and chips is a perfect end to a night out in one of the Welsh capital’s many salubrious nightspots. Since 1913, the Clark’s pie has been loved by the Cardiff faithful and although there is sadly only one Clark’s Pie shop left in the city, they also sell their tasty wares in most reasonable eateries.
The pies come with a trademark “CLARPIE” stamped on the bottom of the pastry and is traditionally beef and potato, although other flavours are apparently on offer – but they are all a bit of a token effort according to Cardiff natives.
5. Lochinver Larder pie shop, Scotland
Lochinver Larder doesn’t have the biggest footfall of pie shops in Britain, but it seems to be what keeps bringing the punters back to this cafe in the fishing village of Lochinver. With an expansive range of pies on offer – from smoked haddock to chestnut mushroom and red wine – the tough part will be choosing which pastry encased delight to go for.
Sweet pies are also on offer – including an enticing strawberry and rhubarb structure that will leave you salivating. And if a trip to rural Scotland is off the cards, the Lochinver Larder even sends its award-winning pies by post.
6. Pie Minister, Various
Pie Minister are the trendy bearded jocks of the pie-eating world – in other words very cool, or “lardi-dah” according to a news editor who will go unnamed. A good range of fillings using responsibly sourced ingredients are on offer in the dozen or so official cafes and restaurants that span across the UK including Bristol, Stoke-on-Trent, Cardiff and Manchester, as well tens more unofficial pubs.
The Heidi Pie, containing Somerset goats’ cheese, sweet potato, spinach & red onion, is a favourite amongst vegetarians – particularly at rainy festivals where it comes stuffed inside a brown box alongside a generous serving of cheesy mash. Superb.
7. Mhor Bread Bakery and Tearoom, Callander, Scotland
Another batch of award-winning pies in Scotland. This time a small bakery and tearoom in Callander, which is the perfect stop-off for those passing through on their way to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park.
The small tearoom sells an impressive array of home made pies including the intriguing steak and black pudding offering as well as the truly Scottish steak and haggis pie.
8. Gents Pies, Wigan
Cold, warm, solo or with chips, mushy peas or packed into a paper bag for the walk home, plenty of pies are eaten in Wigan. They don’t come much tastier than from the apparent birthplace of the pie and Wiganers love them so much the town hosts an annual World Pie Eating championship that ended in controversy in 2014 when the event was cancelled after “the wrong size pies” had been baked. Chaos.
Anyway, back to business. Gents Pies is – according to a Lancashire lad’s video – “the greatest pie shop”. They’re mostly meat jobs with plenty of filling as the video shows. The traditional meat and potato or steak and kidney rule the roost but nowhere, not even Wigan, is safe from hipster pies and veggie options are very much available.
9. Pie Republic, Forest Gate, London
The recently opened Pie Republic is looking to bring the classic East End delicacy up-to-date with flavours that represent the mix of cultures in the area. A stand-out offering is “Cox’s Bazar” – a puff pastry topped pie with chicken and baked beans in a bhoot jolokia sauce. Definitely a pie with a twist – and that’s not even mentioning the Pizza Pie also on offer. The price isn’t bad either – each pie comes with two sides for under £8.
10. Silversmiths, Sheffield
A cosy Sheffield restaurant that receives rave reviews for its pies. The upmarket Silversmiths launched a weekly Pie and Steak night due to the success of their pastry-encased wares which include a ratatouille pie that is definitely worth trying. The elegant and ambient setting highlights the ubiquity of pies – comfortable anywhere.
Alongside the ratatouille pie – which contains beetroot, aubergine, mushrooms and courgette in a tomato sauce – are fish, beef and pork offerings. Roast pork appears the most appealing and is accompanied with leeks, sweetcorn, cider and a sage cream sauce topped by a short crust lid.
Pie week runs between March 7-13 and includes the eagerly awaited results of the national pie awards.