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Pieminister NQ Reviewed

David Blake says Yes, Pieminister

Written by . Published on July 11th 2013.

Pieminister NQ Reviewed

AMONGST the onslaught of meat patties, stuff wrapped in wraps and ‘street food’, it’s somewhat comforting to be heading to an eatery with the sole intention of scoffing a pie.

Pies are homely, modest, unassuming, as British as Helen Mirren stood in a red telephone box sipping on Pimms. Or maybe the food equivalent of watching Countryfile at your Gran's with a cup of Yorkshire tea – everything is safe.

Having analysed all that Pieminister’s menu had to offer, there were but two questions demanding answers. 1. How many awarding bodies does the pie really need? And 2. Do Pieminister just make awards up?

Pieminister, a Bristol-based company spawned from a basement in 2002 by a cheffy bloke and a pubby bloke, have been flogging their pies from market stalls to festivals to pubs throughout the UK for years.

With permanent pie-shops in Bristol, London, Oxford and Trentham (somewhere near Stoke), Pieminister have recently opened a café-shop in NQ’s Smithfield buildings (across the road from Afflecks).

Pieminister on Church StreetPieminister on Church Street

They've managed to secure a choice little spot next to the corner of Church and Tib Street. Inside it's all very clean, tidy, inoffensive and ever so slightly industrial. There's exposed brickwork, a neon sign displaying the companies slogan, 'Live and Eat Pie' (a famous song by Paul McCartney) and light fixtures hanging over the tables that are destined to plague anyone over 5ft 10”.

They’ve employed that foxy marketing strategy that has become synonymous with trendy indie brands - think Innocent smoothies or Ben & Jerrys. Firstly, make one product very well, and secondly, promote indie hippie environmentally-conscious brand values – yeah sod you and your mass-produced peperami Unilever.

The only problem here is that Coca Cola own nearly all of Innocent smoothies and Ben and Jerry’s isn’t owned by Ben, or Jerry, but by Unilever and their bloody peperamis.

Wasn't that a Bond film?Wasn't that a Bond film?

Pieminister are yet to take this corporational plunge and sell out to the man, but with products now spread across supermarket shelves, one thinks that it can only be a matter of time before McDonalds buy them, sling them into a processor, dump them on a conveyor belt and ruin our pies.

But forget all that for now because first things first, they do make a ruddy good pie you know, and my waitress insists that they are still hand-made ‘in a manner of speaking’ (I’m not sure in what manner she used the term manner but my manners dictated that I didn’t ask).

They’re so good in fact that they’ve been showered with all manner of Pie’y accolades: Great Taste Awards, British Pie Awards and Baking Industry Awards.

Looking at the menu there was only really one option for me, the almighty Mothership (£7.95) which included pie, mash, mushy peas, crispy shallots and grated cheese.

My decision of course was in no way swayed by the five other blokes sat in the restaurant all eating the Mothership and envisioning that if I didn’t order this whopping mound of food (and a beer), they may all pin me down, call me a nonce and tweak my nipples – The Mothership it was.

The Mothership: Pie, mash, peas, shallots and cheese. YumThe Mothership: Pie, mash, peas, shallots and cheese. Yum

But which pie (all £4.20)?

Should it be the Heidi pie (champion at the British Pie Awards) with goats cheese and sweet potato, or the chicken of Aragon pie (also champion at the British Pie Awards… hold on a sec?) with chicken, bacon and tarragon. I settled for the moo pie (Gold Medal, Britain’s Best Steak Pie) with steak, ale and cracked black pepper.

Having analysed all that Pieminister’s menu had to offer, there were but two questions demanding answers. 1. How many awarding bodies does the pie really need? And 2. Do Pieminister just make awards up? A full Dispatches style investigative report to follow.

Awards to throw pies atAwards to throw pies at

Pieminister also offer up a small, but entirely practical selection of drinks. With one particularly strong IPA, weighing in at 6.8% (£4.40), a Bristol stout (£4) and a lager from the Camden Brewery (£3.60), a few 'real' ciders (£3.80) and a selection of three wines: one red, one white, and bugger me, one rosé (all £3.50 for an 187ml glass… 187ml? Bit odd, but 12ml better than 175ml so who cares).

The only let down was there was nothing on tap.

Camden Hell Lager: Heavenly to drinkCamden Hell Lager: Heavenly to drink

Having ordered a sweet, clean and none too-hoppy Camden Hells Lager the waitress brought it back in around seventeen seconds, a near-record for Northern Quarter. Was she not aware of the area's apathy toward quick service? Did she not realise that too much customer awareness is considered  mainstream around these parts? I suppose she’s new, she’ll clock on soon enough.

But the speed at which my beer arrived wasn’t the first surprise, noticing on the menu that the mushy peas were minted, I un-optimistically asked whether there were any none minty peas, "No, but I can make you some if you’d like." Amazing.

Not only was my beer on the table in record time but my waitress was going to pop into the back and especially mush me some made-to-order mushy peas. Great stuff.

Pieminister interiorPieminister interior

When the Mothership touched down on the table (in under five minutes), I could see that I had a battle on my hands. Inevitably, when ordering a pie and mash, the first thing you’ll look at is portion size, after all this isn’t molecular gastronomy. We’re looking for good wholesome flavours backed up by a hefty helping. Pieminister didn’t disappoint.

The size of the pie was only equalled by the mound of mash nestled snugly by. The mash potato was just creamy enough, not so buttery as to induce heart failure but not so bland that it tasted like Smash packet mash. 

The peas could have been more gelatinous but were made-to-order so I couldn’t grumble, while the crispy shallots and grated cheddar cheese lovingly splayed across the top of the whole affair added a welcome extra dimension to the dish, their sharpness playing off against the solid flavours of the pie, mash and peas.

None minted mushy peas pleaseNone minted mushy peas please

To the main event, the (moo) pie. Now as far as I can see there are four main elements that constitute a successful pie. Firstly, the pastry, it needs to be a sturdy wall of pie-case without being too dry or crumbly. Check. Secondly, the base, it needs to hold out amongst the onslaught of gravy and keep shape, hold it all together. Check. Thirdly, the gravy needs to be rich, flavoursome and thick without resorting to gloop. Check.

Fourthly and most crucially comes the filling. The filling needs to be substantial enough so as not to resemble a sorry and soggy Pukka-style puddle at the bottom of the pastry vessel. Check. It also helps if the meat in the filling (steak in this case) is chunky, that is if you’ve ordered a meat pie. And let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you want meat in your pie (veggies aside). The steak could certainly have been chunkier; sometimes straying a little towards the mincey, but was delicious all the same.

Pieminister interior

Pieminister interior

Post-pie and all the trimmings, feeling a little like Augustus Gloop, I slumped back and took stock of my new favourite little pie gaff in Manchester, well, the only pie-shop I’ve ever been to in Manchester.

I do hear that there's a young pretender and contender somewhere off Lever Street called Pie and Ale, and that they're serving ale in pint form. Good start. But also that their portions of mash are not monolithic. The editor says he's reviewing that one shortly.

The only problem now is that the criteria by which I judge all pie shops, nay, every food establishment from now on is: Will they, or will they not mush me my own special mushy peas... 

Follow David Blake on twitter.


Pieminister, Smithfield Building, 53 Church Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1PD.

Open Mon - Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12pm-4pm.

Rating: 15/20

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4.5/5
Ambience: 3/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

IanJuly 8th 2013.

187 being 1/4 of a bottle

AnonymousJuly 8th 2013.

There's only 748ml in a bottle of wine Ian??? Where's my bloody 2ml Ian? Where is it!? Ay!? Tell me...

AnonymousJuly 8th 2013.

Sounds like somewhere to make yourself at home. They are even better than those hollands and pooles pies you get in chippies as well.

StephJuly 8th 2013.

How dare they! Soft southern pies coming to the north west (the home of pies) to try and show us how it's done. Bring on the local pies I say.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 9th 2013.

Well we already have the award winning "Lord of the pies" in Stockport, maybe there should be a pie-off.

PhilJuly 9th 2013.

I love their pies, having bought them from supermarkets and in the odd pub that sells them too, however I took a friend there yesterday and we ended up having to leave without ordering . My friend wanted a chicken pie and both chicken pies on offer have pig in them. Being Jewish, he declined and asked for one of their cheese pies that they advertise on their website. They don't stock cheese pies, they said. They would have to buy them in as a special order. I'll be going back but not with him or a vegetarian (only one veggie option - mushroom and asparagus). They have a fab selection of meat pies though - venison, steak, ham, chorizo, etc, etc. So an embarrassing and disappointing first attempt, but I'll be back.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
IanJuly 9th 2013.

what about the goats cheese and sweet potato pie?

AnonymousJuly 9th 2013.

I'm a ventolin-dependent asthmatic and I'm allergic to pastry, peanuts and pesto. I'll be absolutely outraged if they don't have anything which meets my reasonable dietary requirements.

AnonymousJuly 9th 2013.


3 Responses: Reply To This...
Richard HJJuly 9th 2013.


CobbydalerJuly 9th 2013.

2 pie = 6.28318530718

AnonymousJuly 14th 2013.


AnonymousJuly 9th 2013.

"When the Mothership touched down on the table (in under five minutes), I could see that I had a battle on my hands." Unless that fork is some sort of outsized trident, you need bigger hands. Large chips, Pie, and Gravy from Liverpool Road would give you a heart attack (Figuratively. And most probably literally, thinking about it).

AnonymousJuly 9th 2013.

"When the Mothership touched down on the table (in under five minutes), I could see that I had a battle on my hands." Unless that fork is some sort of outsized trident, you need bigger hands. Large chips, Pie, and Gravy from Liverpool Road would give you a heart attack (Figuratively. And most probably literally, thinking about it).

StephenesqueJuly 9th 2013.

"…it’s somewhat comforting to be heading to an eatery with the soul intention of scoffing a pie." Your soul intention? Really?

1 Response: Reply To This...
David BlakeJuly 10th 2013.

Changed. Thanks

Matthew NicholsJuly 12th 2013.

They need to be careful about who they outsource to. They serve these at Whiskey Jar on Tariff Street. They serve them badly - microwaved, not heated through, with bland sides, and with the Pieminster boast. Not massively inspiring.

Oliver PJuly 14th 2013.

Probably rather go for a full meal for half the price at lord of the pies!!!

Nick SpraggJuly 16th 2013.

Went last night having been to school with Pieminister founder Tristan and obviously being from Bristol. Glad to have a bit of the homeland in my adopted city. I'm not biased at all, and I've already been raving about Pie & Ale, but the mothership I had was awesome, a great pre-cinema meal. Super quick service, friendly staff and Bristol Beer on hand. Bob on.

CptCheerfulJuly 16th 2013.

Surprised they've gone so light on the drinks range, given their location, but still a decent addition to the area. Pi in Chorlton have been doing Pieminster proud for years.

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