Bald Ambition: Road testing Baldy’s Pies

By |2021-03-05T12:44:04+00:00March 5th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide, Meat and Potato Pie, North West, Wigan|Tags: , , , , |

There I was, nervously sat in a deserted pub car park, unaware of the experience that lay ahead. I had been told to wait, flash my lights twice and a stranger would come over. Oh, hang on, wrong blog!!

Thing is, that’s not far off the truth and, it is a sight that has become commonplace throughout the hospitality industry over the past year. The world has changed immeasurably in the years, since I began gallivanting around the country eating pies. These days, the pies have to come to us. Which is why I find myself sat in the car park of The Crown pub and restaurant on a Thursday evening. Waiting for my tea to be delivered into the boot of my car.

That tea is being provided by the phenomenon that is BALDY’S PIES!! I’m loathe to use that word “pivot” but that is exactly what has happened in order for Baldy’s Pies to be created, as two chefs have turned their hands to producing sensational looking and tasting pies.
Now, pies in Wigan are two a penny as most of you well know, but we tend to specialise in the cheap end of the market. A pie is what you have for dinner (lunch, Southerners) as a snack not necessarily for tea (dinner!!) unless it is perhaps served as part of a larger meal.

Baldy’s emerged a few months ago and have quickly built up a cult following of over 7,000 fans on Facebook, by knocking out the sort of exceptional flavour and taste combinations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Michelin starred restaurant. Do they serve pies in those sort of places? It’s out of my price range, so I guess I’ll never know.

Anyway, as it is British Pie week, they have gone back to basic with meat and potato, steak and Guinness and cheese flavoured pies, albeit they have added a gourmet twist to them, as you can see from the menu.

In previous weeks, they have delighted us with such flavour combinations as Big Jim’s Braised Shin of beef, bone marrow, confit shallots and pistachio. Or marinated and chargrilled chicken thigh Balti with spiced onion bhaji crumb. Coq au vin pie! Pork Lasagne Pie! Roast Dinner Pie!! A Shepherd’s Pie but with ACTUAL PASTRY SURROUNDING IT!! This last one alone could revolutionise the pie world, and not before time.

I can’t wait to go back in a few weeks and try some of these but for now let’s talk about their meat and potato pie. Or should I say Braised Steak, confit duck fat potatoes and thyme pie!!

WARNING: This is going to contain superlatives. I should point out that Baldies haven’t paid me for this review, I gladly paid them and would do so again!

The pies come in perfect packaging (all recyclable) but that gorgeous pastry smell is still managing to permeate through the well crafted box.
I actually feel a little nervous about assembling the ingredients on a plate in order to do it justice with my cack handed photography work.

The pie is of a decent height and diameter though, and it comes with a pot of gravy and two tubs of mash and marrowfat mushy peas.
There’s a bit of gravy in the bottom of the box, so I dab my finger and I am mesmerised. Is that syrup? Or a chocolate stout? It is so sweet tasting. It is actually what seems like a bottle of red wine, but it does the trick!

The crust holds it’s shape well, has a stunning, golden sheen to it, and a sticky soft texture in the mouth. The mash is soft and buttery with crispy onion crumbs on top, and my good lady wife declared it delicious.

 

I know it’s probably wrong to say it but I can take or leave mushy peas but despite still being in their casing, they are incredibly soft and melt in the mouth so easily and pleasantly.

Now to the interior, and this is unlike any meat and potato pie I have had before. For a start, it is definitely meat and potato, and not potato and meat, as many bakers have been told to rebrand!

It is generously packed with tender beef, slightly pink but so succulent and tasty. There is some potato in there but not so much as to take any detriment away from this from the high ratio of quality steak.

Of course, there is moisture on the plate in the form of peas, mash and gravy but even inside, the meat alone is sufficiently juicy to make your mouth water.

Once I’m in there and eating, I find it particularly difficult to stop and the whole plate is cleared in minutes. Not because it was a small portion but because I am ridiculously greedy. That and the fact it was soooooo good!!!

I don’t call myself a food critic but I suppose I should look to find some constructive criticism, in the interests of balance but I am struggling to find anything with the food itself.

I did ask for a Wigan Kebab (see above menu) and got a meat and potato served as a meal. I also think it would help if the boxes were labelled as I got a steak and Guinness pie too and cheese and onion and I had to guess which was which (though the cheese and onion was pretty bloody obvious!!)

Even so, these are mere administrative trivialities. These boys are getting their food spot on first and that is by far the most important matter.

Also, as I’m sure someone will point out, of course these pies are not cheap. But for £10, you a getting a meal, prepared not by a baker or a butcher but by two award winning chefs, whose many culinary secrets I can’t divulge. I think I’m safe to mention that the delicious gravy I mentioned takes two whole days to cook though!

Everything is prepared to perfection and I can only see Baldy’s going from strength to strength.

Give them a try if you live near or in Wigan, British Pie Week might be coming to an end but it’s always pie week in Wigan!! PS Their desserts look something special too.

You can look up Baldy’s on Facebook
Or visit their website
Follow them on Instagram

I ate and reviewed over 300 pies from across the country in my book Life of Pies, you can pick up a copy for just £4.99 plus p&p here: https://www.lifeofpies.co.uk/buy/

Baldy’s Cheese and Onion Pie

 

Anyone for Beetroot?

By |2021-02-02T13:34:50+00:00February 2nd, 2021|Categories: Blog, Good Pie Guide, Wigan|Tags: , , , , , , , |

Maybe not, but what about beetroot IN A pie? Well, I’ve give it a go. Mate of mine, Paul (@NorthernCasual) has been testing out the pie range at the new butchers in Standish (Wigan) J McRobbs.

They have a great range of pies, including the aforementioned “Lobbies pie”. Lobbies is a form of Hot pot without the crust on top, except in this case, it does have a crust. In fact it is fully encased, and inside there is a layer of beetroot atop of potato slices and mince meat in a juicy stock?

Why beetroot? Well, I remember having beetroot regularly as a kid alongside my hotpot, and red cabbage is another popular alternative. I also was keen on the pickled onions option as well, but my favourite part of hotpot was of course, the crust.

Paul has kindly sent me a picture of the Lobbies pie and a lamb and mint pie (looks like a belter too!). I will be nipping along shortly to test these out for myself.

J McRobb are based in Standish, near Wigan; Chorley and inside Derby House food hall. For your details, check their website: http://Www.Mcrobbbutchers.co.uk/

Muffin Man Meat and Potato Pie

By |2021-01-27T11:20:47+00:00January 27th, 2021|Categories: Blog, Life of Pies, Meat and Potato Pie, Uncategorised, Wigan|Tags: , , , |

This was the second pie I reviewed in Life of Pies, and being within a mile or so from my house, it is a pie that I have sampled many times before and since. At the time, I was operating incognito, with not even my good lady wife aware of my plan to eat hundreds of pies, therefore the need for discretion was paramount.

Let me put this out there: Muffin Man make great pies. However, being based in Wigan means that they are situated in one of the most cut throat pie markets that there is. Maybe I was a little bit harsh at the time, but they are certainly a good match for a Galloways or a Bowens on their day.

The Muffin Man Meat and Potato Pie

It’s highly probable that blood has been spilled over the debate as to who makes the best pies in Wigan. Or pie gravy at least. This is why the question needs answering. Not a week goes by without some 500 reply thread on Facebook over whose pies are best in some of the more feverish Wigan Facebook groups. There is real passion and dare I say anger over this at times, like when Italians get talking about football.

There are people who swear by the Muffin Man. Plus it’s in my village so giving it a shit review will see me ostracised by my local community and earn me the nickname “that pie wanker”.

Going to keep it simple and local for now. First, lay the trap:

“Right darling, going getting my hair cut, then I’m getting some petrol. Fancy a pie for dinner?”

It needs to be a local one given we’re going out for the afternoon and I’m still operating incognito but there are some big hitters within the confines of WN6. I don’t want to crown a king in the first few pages but I envisage at least one or two Champions League places for Wigan pie shops when judgement day arrives.

The beauty of this land of ours is that you can be anywhere in the country by lunch time if you get up early enough but, just for today, my local pie shop will have to do.

When I was a kid growing up in the Springfield area of Wigan, there were at least four pie shops within a few hundred yards of my house. I’m left to lament D&J Wilcock, Lyons and the Gidlow Bakery, however the Muffin Man of my childhood, remains intact on Park Road.

It’s a traditional bakers with several branches in Wigan. As the name implies they do lovely, fluffy muffins in packs of six. These are known in Wigan as barmcakes. Known elsewhere as cobs / rolls / baps / teacakes / breadcakes and the source of pithy regional internet arguments everywhere.

There’s also pasties, chunky steak pies and breakfast items, and chicken and mushroom pies, the latter of which I often decline, on the basis that I refuse point blank to eat anything that grows between your toes. This is a phobia I will have to conquer in the coming months.

For today, I manage to procure the last three meat and potato pies on the shelf.

“Put some more pies in, these have run out”

It’s barely eleven in the morning! Only in Wigan!

2.

Purveyor: The Muffin Man
Premises: Wigan
Purchase: Large meat and potato pie £1.35

Place: 8 Brisk and brusque, the Wigan pie woman in action is truly an art form to admire
Pastry: 9 Firm enough that the crust doesn’t crumble in any way, yet softer than the dulcet tones of the Cadbury’s Caramel bunny. Heavenly.
Presentation: 6 Not very warm but this was acknowledged
Package: 8 Densely packed potato bound with mince in a mash. Heavier on the potato than meat but plenty in there
Palate: 8 The mince is pinkish but deliciously tender and it is a proper Lancastrian pie with sloppy potato filling oozing all over
Price: 8 Two options to serve different appetites works for me
Portion: 8 I mean who on earth orders a small pie when there’s a large one on the menu?

OVERALL: 55/70. I’m parked up at the side of the road, whilst talking into my phone like an Apprentice candidate. A paperboy walks past looking at me oddly, as I narrate this review Partridge-style. As I said: Pies are serious business. An early contender.

The finer details:
The original review took place on Saturday 21st January 2012. (where did those nine years go!) I have eaten enough of these subsequently to verify the above account, and yes, they are usually served piping hot. They also do a lovely line in pork pies with accompaniments, such as pork with apple, black pudding or chorizo.

Current pricing (January 2021)
Potato and meat pie £1.85

Website: Muffin Man
Twitter: Muffin Man (@Muffinmanbakery) / Twitter
Facebook: Muffin man | Facebook
Instagram: @muffinman_wigan
Click here to add a pie review of your own: https://goodpieguide.co.uk/add-pie/

Previous review: Sayers meat and potato pie

As you can see, I am slowly in the process of adding the hundreds of pie reviews I captured over the years. If you don’t want to wait a while, you can read all 314 reviews in Life of Pies for the bargain price of just £4.99 & P&P here

 

Galloways Meat and Potato Pie (107)

By |2020-12-11T11:48:40+00:00December 11th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Meat and Potato Pie, Pies, Wigan|Tags: , , , , |

So as I move from the old to the new, I thought it might be useful to rehash, er, provide content to the site by putting my entire works of Life of Pies online. It’s not like I haven’t still got hundreds of copies in my shed to sell (nudge, nudge, on sale for a fiver HERE)

I will probably work through the book logically but for now, I thought I’d throw in one of Wigan’s finest as nobody should have to wait two years for this to be represented in any Good Pie Guide…

Galloways Meat and Potato Pie

There were other pie shops in Wigan before Galloways popped up in the 70’s. They were by no means the first, but their pies capture the flavour and spirit of the Wigan meat and potato pie from days gone by.

As it stands, they now have a sum total of 24 shops in and around Wigan. There’s even a rumour going around that they have branched out as far away as *takes deep breath* ST HELENS.

So nowadays, you can barely visit a shopping precinct in Wigan now without seeing the garish turquoise header, black Galloways lettering and their ubiquitous little baker logo assigned to a shop front. Walk out of Wallgate station and you more or less walk into one. It is the first thing you see (and smell!) What a town!

Galloways have expertly filled some of the void left by the shutdown of several fine traditional Wigan bakers and much more importantly than that, they make amazing pies.

They are generally regarded to be the best in Wigan (although we may well challenge that theory throughout this quest). They are a real force to be reckoned with yet despite their success and growth, they’re still a very localised brand.

As I arrive in Standish, every third person seems to be carrying their uniform green bag of goodies. From glammed up yummy mummies wearing wraparound shades, fresh from their weekly spray tan, to doddery pensioners with tartan shopping trollies and as I turn the corner the queue is spilling out into the High Street.

Waiting time is around three minutes, just enough for me to survey the scene: Galloways is always a very open kitchen, with entrance doors almost as wide as the shop itself and a counter working it’s way all around the shop.

In front, is a wide expanse of pie display including several racks of potato and meat pies (called meat and potato in the meal deal above, I know it’s the regulations, bah humbug!) but anyway what that means is you can get pie, peas and gravy for a couple of quid.

There are cheese and onion, chunky steak, minced steak, party meat, pork pies, chicken and mushroom, butter pies, pasties, turnovers, sausage rolls and on it goes. There’s an impressive range of sandwiches and cakes, usually including a festive or topical theme such as Halloween or Christmas. My notes tell me that when I scribbled this review in August 2012, they were doing a fetching line in Bradley Wiggins gingerbread men, complete with novelty sideburns.

I get served and as I walk out past the dry cleaners, where the shop owner is stood outside, getting some fresh air, away from his sweltering machinery. He spots my beaming little face with a pie in my hand.

 

“You’re going to enjoy that pie aren’t you lad?”
Yes, I am my friend. I certainly am.

107.
Purveyor: Galloways
Premises: Wigan
Purchase: Potato and Meat Pie
Place: 7 SHE ASKS ME TO REPEAT MYSELF!!! Shocking! I expect that if I’m down south but in Wigan?? My Wiggin accent is hardly the broadest but if anything that should help. Mildly offended here
Pastry: 9 Beautifully soft but never soggy, with the trademark peepholes in the top, which dried gravy and filling gently oozes out of. Despite this flexible exterior, they can usually be easily eaten by hand without the contents slopping out.
Presentation: 8.5 An orgasmic smell and a volcanically hot foil tray
Package: 9 Rammed full of mashed potato and mince, which attacks me head on as I bite into it
Palate: 9 An explosion in the mouth of peppery meat and potato mush which never disappoints. You just have to try this pie once in your life.
Price: 7.5 There are perhaps cheaper pies in Wigan but you certainly get what you pay for as this is a quality offering
Portion: 8 Deceptively large in that it’s a semi-plate pie, which is wider at the top than the bottom

OVERALL: 58/70 Bar well and truly raised. Galloways simply produce a winning formula which is loved by the dozen by the ravenous locals. Britain’s best? We’ll see!

The finer details:
The original review took place on Saturday 4th August 2012. I have consumed dozens more Galloways pies since then in order to verify the accuracy of the above.

Current prices (December 2020)

Potato and meat pie £2.20
Potato and meat pie with peas and gravy £2.75
PIE BARM!!! £2.70

Website: https://www.gallowaysbakers.co.uk/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gallowayspies
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GallowaysPies

Click here to add a pie review of your own: https://goodpieguide.co.uk/add-pie/

You can buy a copy of Life of Pies here for just £4.99 plus P&P

Welcome to the Good Pie Guide!

By |2020-04-05T21:13:55+01:00April 5th, 2020|Categories: Blog, Pies, Wigan|Tags: , , , |

Welcome indeed to the Good Pie Guide. We love pies and our mission is to celebrate them in print and digital form!

THE WEBSITE

This site contains thousands of listings and hundreds of reviews and we are adding to it all the time. Please feel free to have a browse around our virtual pie world and see what tickles your fancy.

We want to celebrate our great nation of independent, traditional butchers and bakers alongside the more modern artisan, innovative pie makers and we are asking you to get involved.

We are asking you, as pie aficionados, to send us your pies. Whether you make them, eat them or just like the look of them.

THE BOOK

The Good Pie Guide will be the ultimate handbook for the pie lover in your life with over 100 featured reviews and 1,000+ listings, ensuring that wherever you are in the UK, you will never be far from a good pie.

Last time I put pen to paper on this topic, I embarked on a secret incognito mission whereby I travelled the country in search of the country’s best pies. I made the decision myself, based on my own personal preferences. Even though I have impeccable taste, and a lifetime of eating pies behind me, like most Wigan residents, I am understandably a sample size of one. This time, I am going to listen and compile the ultimate pie chart toppers based on the views of others and how you score them.

So if YOU think you know where the best pies are and indeed, you think you make the best pies, get in touch and you might just make it into this much prized inaugural edition of THE GOOD PIE GUIDE 2022*

We will be putting a small extract from the forthcoming book online here in the coming weeks to whet your appetite so keep checking back and subscribe to our email list below.

*Current expected publication date Summer 2021

THE PIE SHOP

Both the book and the site were conceived over 12 months ago now and we are still populating content. It has hit one, fairly obvious snag. As the author of the book, my biggest challenge right now is to finish my pie research for volume one by travelling to various parts of the country, whilst said country is in indefinite lockdown.

Nevertheless, it will be resolved in due course. However, in the meantime, if we can’t go and find the pies, the pies will come to us. To this end, we will be setting up a PIE SHOP where you can buy pies online from GPG approved suppliers to satisfy your pastry cravings. Again, if you a pie maker of some repute, please get it touch and we’d love to feature you….

There is lots more to come as we continue to build our content and community but for the time being, please follow us on social media using the links below:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/goodpieguideUK

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/goodpieguide

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Life-of-Pies-562687713756385/

Instagram: https://instagram.com/goodpieguide

And please, please, come and share your favourite pies with us….

This is all metaphorically speaking of course. There is NO CHANCE of us actually sharing a pie with anyone here at GPG, the pies are all ours!

With best Wishes

Martin Tarbuck
Life of Pies and Good Pie Guide Author

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