Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Tempest Arms, Elslack

I actually went here for my 30th Birthday and never intended having a pie but it was on the menu and I just couldn't bring myself to order anything else. It was a real dilemma as the menu was amazing with an extensive list of winter comfort food.
So I went for the Steak, Kidney and Shallots Pudding which comes with a bowl of hand cut chips.
I was expecting another pale looking steamed pudding but this had been baked... just how I prefer it, with a slight crunch to the pastry.
It was stocked full of steak & kidney and flavoured with the shallots, a really nice combination with a definitive homemade quality about it.
The food and the environment was good but I did have to wait 55mins for the dish to arrive as my service was affected by a conference on in another room.
Still a very good Steak & Kidney Pie Experience and gets a 7.5

Monday, 22 November 2010

Feast of a Pie

I'd heard The Sun Inn at Red Dial near Wigton in Cumbria was a great place to stop for a hearty meal so I popped in when I was passing yesterday.
Its perched on the brow of a hill with views over The Solway Firth towards Scotland.
When I ordered The Homemade Steak & Kidney Pie I asked what it was served with and the barmaid replied with a laugh.. 'everything'.
She wasn't kidding either.
It was served on a plate with peas and mushrooms.
Then another two trays arrived: one with a pile of real chips and the other with new potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
The pie itself was very similar to the Fray Bentos experience in taste and pastry but on a larger scale and for under £8 it can't be ignored as it really is great value for money.
Its a little out of the way for most of us Yorkshire folk, even at that price but if you are passing near Wigton (between Cockermouth and Carlisle), you will struggle to find anywhere that offers a dish of that size and price. It gets an overall 6.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

So if you like a bit of posh nosh...

This is the most expensive Steak & Kidney experience so far, coming in at over £13.00 at The Spread Eagle at Sawley.
It is more like a restaurant in a pub so maybe that's why they think its worth the extra cash?
The dish was Homemade Steamed Steak & Kidney Pudding served on a long plate with a gravy boat, mash and mixed veg.
I have aired my views about steamed pudding before and one reason is that I'm not keen on the rather pale look of the pudding. However, I was in for a surprise as it tasted very nice indeed and wasn't soggy at all.
The pastry to filling ratio was spot on and the quality of the mash and veg was top notch, accompanied by plenty of tasty gravy.
In my opinion, it is was another good SPE (Steak Pie Experience) and the service was excellent as was the quality of food but because of the high price tag, I became distracted about value for money and so it gets an 8.
Its a nice place and well worth a visit if you're in the mood for some posh pie.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Best... Only smaller!

Yes, that's right, the Craven Heifer now do a small version of their 'pie to beat'.
I only went in for a quick snack and saw this on the weekday lunchtime menu, I thought it was worth a try.
Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. Its just as good as the large one in terms of pastry to filling ratio etc and still the same excellent service with nice fresh veg and real chips.
Its up there with the best of them and for a quick lunch, its great. Well actually, its more of a 'normal size' meal and more than adequate for most folk. Fully deserves a 7.5 on the pie chart.

Online Steak & Mushroom Recipe

This recipe was found online and is very easy to make.
I basically printed it off and handed it to Mrs Pie man.
We used frozen pastry for convenience.
It looked amazing when it came out of the oven.
It was tasty too, with the red peppers and tomato puree giving it a nice twist of flavour.
It would no doubt be improved by making your own pastry and the recipe gets an overall score of 7.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

World Northern Soul Dance Championships at Blackpool Tower

So I'm there right, minding my own business on the famous sprung dance floor when out of nowhere, this chap with massive flairs and a mullet waltz's past me eating a pie. I could smell it was steak so I improvised with some fancy footwork, navigating through even more flairs and mullets and gliding my way closer to the food counter.
I was right, a Steak & Pepper pie at £2.25.
I must have been dancing for about 7 mins so had worked up quite an appetite and was well in the mood for a quick snack and a brew.
I was pleasantly surprised with the taste of this little northern gem, lots of peppered steak and gravy all served up in a pastry parcel on a standard paper plate, complete with plastic fork and paper napkin.
As far as take-away pies go, its a perfect snack to keep you going on a Northern Soul Weekender, with a good filling to pastry ratio and a freshness to the pastry.
Blackpool Tower, a great place with surprises round every corner, I would certainly try one of these again and give it a 6

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Not just any Fray Bentos...

As you can imagine, I get lots of recommendations for eating at fine places throughout the country (mainly in East Lancs at the moment). Just recently people have been sending me pies to sample at home in front of the TV, so it seems logical to document my PIE TV Experiences on the Norths best pie blog. And if we believe that there is only one place to get good pies (North of England) then we are talking about the best pie blog in the whole pie eating world, as we know it.

So anyway, the first Pie TV experience is from the great British institution that is Marks & Spencer.
Its sold as 'Prime British Beef in a rich 'Batemans Ale' sauce topped with a Thyme & Rosemary Puff Pastry'.
I got the missus to stagger the delivery just so I could capture the process.
The overhanging discs of pastry draped over deep dishes ready to bake didn't look that appetising.
They rose quite well and reminded me of late nights and Fray Bentos suppers.
As instructed, we flipped off the pastry tops and poured out the filling: lots of red sauce, a few chunks of meat and some bacon lardons.
Once on the plate, things started to look like a decent pair of pies.
The sauce was very tasty with the bacon adding a positive kick to the tomato sauce.
The pastry kept some of its chewy elasticity (just like the old days) and wasn't dry at all.
It really has got lots and lots of flavour this posh Fray Bentos and it went well with a simple tin of peas for a quick TV pie supper.
There was plenty of room for more steak in the dish but the flavour and quality of the meat contribute to an overall experience of 5, which is very good for a ready meal pie in a tin. Well done M&S, just need to add some mushrooms (large enough to be picked out by non mushroom lovers of course) and this will be a great pie.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Homemade Heritage

A surprise stop in Barrowford, near Nelson led me to sample the homemade pie on offer in the local cafe at The Heritage Centre.
There is no doubt whatsoever that its all homemade, as I witnessed them cutting into huge pies and delivering it onto my plate with lots of fresh veg.
It is good old fashioned, honest and down to earth winter grub. I went for the 'Minced Pie' at £6.25 which was tasty and accompanied by boiled and roast potatoes, carrots, broad beans and peas.
The pie itself had a rather thick pastry and was alittle out of balance with the ratio as it also contained potatoes and carrots in the pie itself.
The staff are pleasant and it was busy with gentle folk who (I reckon) would no doubt go elsewhere if standards were to drop.
An average pastry/pie ratio offset by a very affordable price makes this experience a 6

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Fence Gate

And now to a pub with a big reputation in Pendle, East Lancs.
The Fence Gate is owned by a local butcher and Sausage Guru so I was expecting big things and I wasn't dissapointed. For a start, the price is the most expensive pie todate at £11.25 for the 'Bowland Beef & Mushroom' with either (massive) chips (arguably roast potatoes) or creamy mash and savoy cabbage, topped with a thyme and onion pastry.
The pie is a decent portion with such a pile of chips and goes well with the cabbage.
The special recipe pastry topping is tasty and attractive enough to warrant further investigation.
The filling to pastry ratio was very good with some nice chunks of steak and the odd mushroom and a nice consistent gravy.
The huge chips were excellent and a real accompaniment to the pie.
The staff are pleasant and the pub is clean, tidy and has a relaxing atmosphere too.
Overall, its up there with some of the very good experiences but is kept out of the top two by the price.
If the pie was as hefty as the chips, it would arguably be worth it but its still a very good quality pie and scores 7.7

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Gun & Doggit Again!

First impressions are everything and I was greeted by an aroma of distant dirty dishcloths and obnoxious staff, not just one but several members appeared hasty, unable to look me in the eye and few managed a smile throughout the pie experience: perhaps they had just received some bad news?
Its a dark venue with an air of Santa's Grotto about it but I was prepared to look beyond my first impressions and try the 'Pie of the day': Steak, Ale & Potato'.
I opted for the chips in anticipation of boiled potatoes being in the pie itself, a strange pie to be served with either chips or boiled potatoes really but I was intrigued enough to try it.
I wasn't at all surprised to see a puff pastry lid on the dish for only £5.75 but to see the dish only half full was indeed disappointing.
The potato and steak filling also included onions and was tasty enough but lacked any real competition to fall on the good side of any pie to filling ratio.
If you want a pie on a budget then this is the place for you... or you could buy yourself a Fray Bentos, let your mum fry up some chips and enjoy a decent pie experience with the family and watch TV at the same time, and probably enjoy it more.
I think they could improve their Steak, Ale & Potato pie experience at The Dog & Gun by making it much more substantial to the extent that diners don't need chips, only peas. So the pie becomes a complete dish itself... Pie & Peas!
Overall, the price of this small portion of pie is the only good point but then you only get half of a real pie portion.
The experience does not compare in any way, to the pie at The Calf's Head at Worston and for that it scores a 4.5 on the pie chart.

Friday, 3 September 2010

To sum up...

The Craven Heifer at Kelbrook is still the pie to beat and leaves all others in its wake, a tremendous experience!

I have a few recommendations sent in by fellow pie lovers, which I now plan to visit and enjoy in the coming months.
I don't want to list them as the venues may be on the lookout for a rather large pie lover and it may blow my cover.
So it looks like I've got a busy schedule ahead and can't wait to get stuck in.
Please keep sending in your recommendations and by all means do leave comments about your own visits, I'm interested to know how my taste buds (and dining experience) compare to yours.

I also plan to make my own pie in a bid to understand why some things work and others don't. So if you've got special recipes etc. pass them on and I'll have a bash.
Watch this space.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Alma... again!

I don't like loose ends... so, here we are again at The Alma, Laneshawbridge but this time I'm after the Steak & Kidney Pudding with their special herb recipe suet pastry, which is priced at a whopping £10.95!!!
As you can see it looks OK, if a little undercooked but I guess that is to be expected as its been steamed?
Its on the menu with exactly the same accompaniments as the plate pie so not much to talk about there.

The pudding itself is not dissimilar to a chip shop pud but its twice the size with some decent chunks of meat and kidney too.
On a personal level, I would have cooked the pudding a little while longer, as I don't like it when its soggy and difficult to distinguish whether its raw suet or not.
So, we come to a final score for this home made Suet Pudding at £10.95.
Its OK as far as steak pudding chips and gravy goes and that's it. I don't think the surroundings, good service and an average partner to chips and peas warrants such a high price. It gets an overall score of 6.4 on the pie chart.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Alma, Laneshawbridge nr Colne.

Been here before and had the Steak & Kidney Pudding but a revision of that experience will have to wait for another day. As I'm partial to a short crust top, I decided on the Beef & Onion Plate Pie with Chunky Chips, Mushy Peas and Pickled Red Cabbage for £9.95, apparently made from minced fillet steak.
The whole dish had a homemade quality about it and everything was full of flavour, reminiscent of juvenile chippy experiences.
The pie itself was very good both in quality and ratio of pastry to filling but I prefer it with more onions and is purely a personal preference based on my mums Beef & Onion pie from years ago... probably why I have to carry 15 stone around these days.

There is plenty of meat but very little onion to be found. The peas hadn't lost any of their flavour and went well with the pickled red cabbage and the gravy was definitely chip shop style... without the lumps.
The Alma has recently been completely refurbished into a posh gastro pub and the service is as expected for such an establishment, pleasant, clean and very efficient with brilliant views of Boulsworth Moor from the conservatory.
Overall a good experience with tasty food in a clean and tidy environment with pleasant staff.
Arguably not a full Steak Pie experience and no real surprises but still a good slice of pie in relaxing surroundings and well worth a 6.7 on the pie chart.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Snooty Fox needs a little grooming

Had a scout around Kirkby Lonsdale for a pub with a decent pie on the menu and found The Snooty Fox.
Once I got used to the flies hovering in the olde worlde tavern, I ordered the Steak & Kidney Pie with Chips and Mushy Peas (I did enquire about potato options and 'it comes with real chips & peas' was the reply).
They were right about the chips though, they are 'real' and delicious too, which is a real shame because the pie was onto something but wasn't as fresh as the chips.
There was a good filling to pastry ratio but the quality of the pastry and the filling didn't match the chips.
The pastry was rather salty and tough to cut through around the edges and there was way too much gravy (another of my consumer choices taken away from me).
The kidneys were dry and a touch bitter and whilst the pie did appear homemade it was perhaps spoiled by over enthusiastic reheating, losing a lot of its freshness and flavour.
The staff were pleasant and busy cleaning tables even though no-one had been using some of them but my table was sticky, hence the attraction of the bluebottles.
The combination of pie, chips, peas and gravy is a winner for me and is indeed reminiscent of home cooked winter grub or walking home from a night out eating alfresco.
However, a good Steak Pie Experience is about quality as well as design and so it goes... The Snooty Fox scores a 5.5
but taking into account that people do have off days, I think on a good day it could easily be a 6

Thursday, 19 August 2010

2 Beef or Not 2 Beef... That is the question!

Alas poor pie man, I knew not what I was letting myself in for... honest!
Upon wandering through Stratford-Upon-Avon, I noticed The Garrick Inn, the oldest pub in town and considering that there are some pretty old pubs in this town, I assumed it would be an interesting steak pie experience with their 'British Beef & Ruddles Ale Pie' on the menu.

It was busy and a little cramped, with the back of my chair touching the back of another one. Still, I had candlelight and extra gravy to cheer me up.
It is served with either chips or mash and is one half portion of a plate pie, a decent size.
The pastry was short crust and very thick, in fact too thick and very dry around the edges and didn't look, feel or taste home-made.
On comparing the thickness of the pastry with the depth of the pie filling, the ratio seemed out of balance which leads to the question of what is the ideal ratio of pastry to filling?
My preference would always be heavy on the filling side and this pie (being a plate pie) was too thin on the filling with only a few chunks of beef and too much gravy inside... not very exciting at all.
The mash was tastier than the pie and I left the crust, too thick, hard and dry for me.
It was the overall imbalance of the filling to pastry ratio and also the quality of both the filling and the pastry which gives this £8.45 steak pie experience a 4.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Calfs Head at Worston, near Clitheroe

Wasn't out looking for pie today (honest) but it was on the extensive menu at the Calfs Head at Worston, near Clitheroe. If you want no-nonsense, quick service and nice outdoor gardens for the kids to play in then this is the place for you.
As for the Steak Pie Experience... thats not bad either.

It comes with a choice of potatoes, carrots, peas and the pie (steak & mushroom) served in a very hot dish with a puff pastry lid.

Perhaps this is a good time to tell you about certain personal preferences when it comes to pie pastry.
One of my pet hates on pies is puff pastry, so my visit didn't get off to a good start. Don't get me wrong, I can eat it but I do find it more of a nusiance than an enhancement on pies. To me, it seems more of a paper decoration than a functional container made to hold the treasure inside a good pie.
I can't remember where or when my dissapointment of puff pastry began... perhaps it is the deception of it trying to appear like a pie itself, only to discover that its full of nothing but fresh air. The only puff pastry that works for me is the one found on Fray Bentos pies. Yes, even they are good for something and when all other steak pies cannot be found and youre skint and need a fix, they are highly recommended.
But I digress...back to the matter in hand... Steak & Mushroom pie at the Calfs Head.
Apart from the puff pastry its not actually a bad pie for under £9.
Good size chunks of decent steak and plenty of gravy but only the odd mushroom.
Like I said earlier, the surroundings are good with seating in a large conservatory to watch the kids while you have a pie or two, it can be a little crowded at weekends though.

For a no nonsense pie experience in a nice country pub, then its great. As for the pie, its very good but only gets 7 for the total 'Steak Pie' experience.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Mr Fred's Bar & Lounge, Mellor, Lancs.

After spotting an advert for a 'Peppered Steak & Mushroom Pie' at Fred's Bar at Stanley House Hotel in Mellor (BB2 7NP), near Blackburn, I couldn't resist the challenge.
The location is stunning, mixing old and new styles of decor with some good views of the gardens.

Service was excellent and as you can see, the dish looked inviting with a decent portion of pie in its own dish.

Served with real chunky chips and green beans, it is a very tasty pie and one that anyone could manage comfortably with room for dessert.

If you like peppered steak then youre in for a treat, the flavour is outstanding, lovely chunks of meat, mushrooms and plenty of gravy under a nice thin crust.
This is a very nice pie indeed and is worthy of being up there with the best in terms of flavour, presentation, service and the luxurious surroundings.
Perhaps there is room for a little more Steak and Mushroom in the individual pie dish, which is the only reason I'm not giving it a better mark of 8.5
Another brilliant pie experience!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Pie to Beat!

I found this pie during one of my daily commutes to and from work over in Lancashire (you see.. I'm a travelling pie eater). I've actually eaten there six times over the last few months in a bid to trip up the chef and other staff but each time its been an exceptional Steak Pie Experience.

Sometimes you can have a great dining experience one day and then on your revisit there is something missing which can lead to a disappointing Steak Pie Experience: poor presentation, sloppy service etc.

However, at The Craven Heifer in Kelbrook, I've been served up the best Steak Pie Experience I've ever had in over 30 years of searching. I would say that it is going to be very difficult to beat... but I live in hope.

It looks like a Desperate Dan Pie, (so only go for this one if you're really hungry), with plenty of fresh cooked vegetables: I had a choice of three different potato dishes.

Diving into the perfectly baked giant pastry reveals huge chunks of steak with a superb balance of kidney with plenty of tasty gravy.
The service is also very high with pleasant and helpful staff and nice clean, relaxing surroundings and with a price under a tenner its great value for a memorable pie.

For me its a definite 10/10 experience but do remember that I'm talking about a 'Steak Pie Experience' nothing else on the menu matters in this context.

So until my next Steak Pie Experience: Burp!