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It seems like a distant memory now, but British Pie Week was quite possibly the best and worst week of my life! From Monday 3rd March – Sunday 9th March, I took up the challenge of eating nothing but pies for the whole week. Yes, this seems like a brilliantly fun thing to do, but after the 4th day, I started to fade and feel the effects of eating nothing but rich, high in fats and high in salt/sugar food.
I started the challenge weighing in at a respectable 11 stone 7 lbs. A week later, I weighed in at 12 stone! I never realised how easy it was to gain weight! But unfortunately, it was pure fat and no muscle. The difference in my shape was so obvious to me and to be honest, I started to feel ill. My housemates came in one Friday night to see me curled up on the sofa, unable to move and feeling pretty crappy. They told me to stop the madness! But I was committed to eating 21 pies and to find the best one in London.
I searched far and wide. I travelled outside of Zone 1 in London and even ventured south of the river (if you’re not from London, this is a HUGE deal). I sampled every kind of pie from your traditional pie and mash shop to your store bought to even a homemade pie! On Monday afternoon, I met with Rob and Sam, 2 of the Pierateers (their pun, not mine) to find out what exactly is classed as a pie. Now they said that a pie has to have a pastry case, where you can clearly see a defined base, side and lid. To some respect I agree with this, but in a few cases, I made an exception. I did always make sure that the pies I ate had a pastry base and sides, there were a few which had a non-pastry lid. It was a rule I was willing to break in the quest for the best pie in London. 21 pies, 7lbs and 7 days later, I had completed my mission and can now reveal my verdict.
Monday 3rd March
Breakfast: Sainsbury’s Cherry Pie – Yes, a dessert for breakfast. How awesome is that! Little did I know, by the time I had ate the whole thing, I had consumed my DRA of sugar, saturated fat and calories and only had 1 of my 5 a day portions of fruit and veg! The pie itself was pretty nice. Sweet buttery pastry and a really tart filling, which worked really well together.
Lunch: M.Manze’s Pie & Mash with Liquor – London’s oldest surviving pie and mash shop, but unlike a fine wine, it definitely hasn’t improved with age. The pie was burnt, pastry was rubbery as was the meat filling. The mash was just crushed potatoes with salt. No butter or milk from what I could tell. The liquor, well that tasted like dishwasher water and had a gloopy, slimy consistency. But for £3.50 for the whole lot, what do you expect.
Dinner: Tom’s Pie Lamb, Chickpea and Chorizo – This is a fantastic pie. I bought mine for £4 from De Beauvoir Deli in De Beauvoir Town N1. The pastry was wonderfully buttery and had a nice flaky texture. The filling was delicious, but not a whole lot of it. These guys are going from strength to strength and are now available at Wembley Stadium. So if you’re ever there, keep an eye for them and give them a go.
Tuesday 4th March
Breakfast: Sainsbury’s Apple Pie – Again pretty decent. Only thing I found though with this pie is that the apples were pretty soggy and lacked any bite. Again, the filling was quite tart. This is due to the fact they use Bramley apples rather that Cox or Granny Smith.
Lunch: The Queens Head Spinach, Goat’s Cheese and Squash – This fantastic independently owned pub on Denman Street near Piccadilly Circus was a great find. Great range of ales and a pretty decent menu. I think they still have a bit to learn though, but are getting there food wise. The pie was pretty small, the vegetables not that great (boiled carrots and courgette), mash was good, but the gravy didn’t lend anything to the dish. For £10 I would want something a bit better. The pie itself was nice though. Good pastry and plenty of flavoursome filling, just a tad too small.
Dinner: Piebury Corner Thierry Henry (Venison & Red Wine) – This is one of the finest pies around. Being on Holloway Road and a stone’s throw from Arsenal Stadium, to pay homage to all the greats that have donned a gunner’s shirt (is that reference right), all the pies are named after the players. How do I know this? I had to ask as I haven’t got a clue when it comes to the footyball-basket-net. The pie was pretty small, but the filling was rich and bursting with flavour and the pastry was pretty spot on too.
Wednesday 5th March
Breakfast: Tesco’s Blackberry & Blueberry Pie – Unlike the Sainsbury’s pies, I found the pastry to be a little tougher and impossible to get out of the tin case without the lid falling off and the base breaking. The filling was great though. Sweet and sour.
Lunch: Mother Mash Chicken, Leek & Ham with Cheesy Mustard Mash and Farmers Gravy (Red Wine, Onion, Smoked Bacon and Mushroom) – OH MY PIE! This was the best pie I had eaten all week. The filling was plentiful and scrumptious. Chicken was moist and not over seasoned. The pastry was perfect. Buttery with enough consistency to hold itself, yet flake away. The mash was superb and the gravy was just so moreish that if I were to have just ordered that on its own, I would have been satisfied. You can find these guys on Ganton Street, just off Carnaby Street in the West End. GO SEE THEM!!!
Dinner: Tesco Finest Lamb & Aubergine Filo Pastry Pie – Grim. How this can be classed as Tesco Finest is beyond me. The filling was bland and mushy and the pastry had this powdery flour texture to it, that it was inedible.
Thursday 6th March
Breakfast: Pieminister Matador Pie – Beef, Chorizo, Butterbean, Olive and Sherry heaven. An all butter pastry case with a crispy suet pastry top is filled to the brim with this delicious filling. The saltiness of the olives and spice of the chorizo work brilliantly together and the after taste of sherry sneaks through at the end. One of the best pies. Pieminister are based in Bristol, but has stalls over London, so check out their website to find one near you.
Lunch: Sillfield Farm Hunter’s Pie – Chicken, Wild Boar, Cranberry Sauce with a Sage and Onion Stuffing top. This is the roast dinner of pies. Cold, it’s ok, but heat it up and you’re eating something completely different. These pies are huge, so you will need a friend to help you out with it.
Dinner: Mrs Kings Melton Mowbary Pork Pie – This is very heavy and stodgy. Great flavour, but if you’re not a fan pf pork pies, this won’t win you over. It’s quite intense in flavour and will give you the sweats.
Friday 7th March
Breakfast: McDonald’s Apple Pie – I have not eaten anything from McDonald’s in years…and now I remember why. How do people eat this c**p?!?! Seriously. I’m not even going to waste more words and time on this. All I will say is, STOP EATING MCDONALD’S!!!!
Lunch: Square Pie Bourbon Beef – The first couple of mouthfuls were nice, but then it began to get a bit sickly. More of a BBQ Beef than a bourbon. Pastry was lovely though. Short crust sides and a puff pastry lid.
Dinner: Pukka Pie Steak – The pastry on this pie wasn’t all that and the filling was completely over powered by pepper. There was nothing to enjoy about this pie. I did buy this in Iceland’s though, rather than from a chippy. Maybe they’re different there, but I doubt it.
Saturday 8th March
Breakfast: Daniel John Lynch’s Breakfast Pie – Ok, so now to blow my own trumpet. A very buttery pastry case that has been crammed with leek and herd pork sausages, smoked cured bacon, onions and baked beans. Extremely unhealthy, but my god this was amazing! If it wasn’t for the fact that the pastry takes so much time to make (I made my own pastry from scratch. Feel free to give me a round of applause), and cook, I would bake more often. But alas, it does so I won’t.
Lunch: Prince’s Minced Beef & Onion – Quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. It tasted like dog food. Not that I’ve ever eaten dog food, but I’m pretty it taste like that.
Dinner: Harrods Turners Steak & Stilton – Stunning pie. Big chunks of prime beef, rich gravy and a gorgeous strong blue cheese. Pastry was buttery and light. Surprisingly not that heavy. But at over £12, it’s got to be for a special occasion.
Sunday 9th March
Breakfast: Mr Kipling’s Apple Pie – Apparently he makes exceedingly good cakes. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about his pies. The pastry was just a crumbly mess which dried the mouth out and the filling was sickly and gooey.
Lunch: Fortnum & Mason Chicken & Spinach – The pastry is very dense. This is more of a pork pie style rather than a short crust pastry. The filling was nice, but nothing that special. A little disappointing to be honest.
Dinner: Fortnum & Mason Duck, Venison & Cherry – Now this is a serious pie. The meat is full on in flavour and really crammed in to the buttery pastry crust. The pie is then topped off with sherry soaked cherries. Again, these are piled on really high. You’ll need a couple of sittings to enjoy this pie as it is really heavy.