Following my extensive review of Taylor’s Peppery Pie, I also tried a couple of their other top sellers.
The steak and ale will follow soon but I also sampled the large meat and potato pie, which is well padded with a creamy mash filling and sweet flavour. Again, there is lots of pepper present, to add a bit of seasoning, to the melt in the mouth mince and mash filling, although there are also some beautifully fresh chunks of potato in there.
The crust again holds together very well with a crunchy crust and a firm yet soft shortcrust base and sides. It is a little less heavy on the seasoning but still a very filling and tasty snack. Anyway, enough chat this time, simply enjoy the pictures!
You can pick up Taylor’s pies from their shop at Leigh: Hill St, Leigh WN7 4DT, or for many stockists across the North west.
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.
It is British Pie Week, and it feels a little subdued, with a nation still in lockdown. There are still lots of pie suppliers out there offering a delivery service though, and often a discount should have fancy getting your gums around some golden pastry.
For now, let me take you back to chapter three of Life of Pies, with a rare excursion to the most northern bit of Stoke-On-Trent, and it doesn’t take long for this correspondent to get confused once he departs from his North West homelands…..
Wright’s Meat and Potato Pie
Got to keep up the batting average: now, where can I reasonably get to within my lunch hour without anyone noticing I’ve disappeared? I often do 12 hours days so if I take longer than an hour it’s not a huge deal but then there’s the side effects. Having a pastry heavy pie for lunch often lays a bit heavy on the stomach; I may as well have six pints I’ll be that lethargic. Like the IT developers who go to our canteen and polish off a full curry and apple custard and crumble for dessert. If I did that I’d be have my head on my desk all afternoon.
I’ve no idea how we managed before the internet. Yellow Pages I suppose. A couple of mates of mine used to go on pub crawls in towns and villages armed only with Yellow Pages, not knowing whether they’d get a warm welcome or stabbed upon entering each establishment. A great idea indeed, possibly even more fun than gallivanting around the country eating pies, but I won’t be going down that route. Some pubs are great, some pubs are lousy but pubs like pies deserve love. I do need to try and push it a bit given the missus hasn’t yet OK’d it for me to bugger off to Scotland for the weekend.
I decide on a bakery who are based in Crewe and serve the Potteries. I identify a place called Biddulph and it’s just the other side of Congleton, which I know is just a few miles away from work: 25 minutes each way, ten minutes to scoff a pie. Piece of piss. Plus I can probably cut a few minutes off that with a spot of demon driving down country lanes. It’s on Biddulph High Street, I’ve never heard of the place so it can only be a little village and will be a doddle to find once I get there.
Needlessly to say my naivety quickly finds me reversing down country lanes. I’ve got two sat Navs on my phone but they are both shit. Sheer panic sets in once or twice as I get hopelessly lost in places of Cheshire which I didn’t know existed. When I do find myself on the right track, I get stuck behind all manner of tractors, salt gritters and gun toting Farmer Palmers in Land Rovers, not to mention four Police motorbikes flying past, just as I am studiously waving the map about on my phone, in front of my seriously agitated little face.
Forty minutes and I’m still nowhere near and I consider that this might have to be an abortive mission but at that point the roads veers upwards to a viewpoint giving me a scintillating view of the whole of Staffordshire. I still haven’t a clue where I am but it’s a real Planet of the Apes moment.
Biddulph is massive and upon parking up in Sainsburys, I discover the High Street is at least half a mile long. Now to ascertain which way to walk: I’m looking for the big orange sign of Wrights but nothing jumps out at me. I then see a lad walking down the street with a couple of brown wrappers with writing on them: he’s been getting the pies in, GOOD LAD!! I trail his recent path. It’s only as I get closer that the truth is revealed by virtue of a large POVEYS OATCAKES sign above the window. I’m in Stoke country and I’ve just been had!
Some other time perhaps. I head back the other way past a Wetherspoons, with a few likely lads hanging about outside and it crosses my mind to ask them. I don’t and it’s just as well as I can’t tell a word they’re saying, as one shouts his head off to the other in that daft Potteries brogue.
I still can’t smell pies but keep walking, just as I look close to getting to the other end of the High Street, I find it. Except it’s not: it’s another pie shop, called bizarrely New Cooks. This is an interesting development and I’m torn. What now, do I go to both? Have I got time to do both? Pie shops like gift horses should not be looked in the mouth, their products should be placed in the mouth.
Maybe I just go to New Cooks, as it’s less of a chain than Wrights with their fifteen shops across Stoke and more likely to produce a better, more independent pie? Is it fair to represent two bakers from such a confined area only for me to potentially miss out a large city completely later down the line like Bristol or Portsmouth if I can’t find anywhere to procure a decent pie from? These early moral dilemmas will shape my mission and my instinct tells me to stick to Plan A, in order to fully absorb myself in the Wrights Pie experience and make a note of the other one in my pie master spreadsheet as one for the future. Time is on my side.
I eventually find Wrights another hundred or so yards down the street, right at the far end. Pie procured, tempted though I am by the offer of Staffordshire lobbies (hot pot) with peas and gravy and on my way. The pie is raging hot, if Art Garfunkel walked in here he’d probably sing “Wrights Pies, burning like fire”
Sorry. By this point I need a wee and pop in the bogs by Sainsburys, a very sleek cylindrical affair. As if I didn’t have enough of a phobia already with public conveniences, there’s grunting coming from one of the cubicles and a bloke with a flat cap comes and has a wee next to me, immediately initiating conversation about the weather. I need to get out of here!!
OVERALL: 52/70 An above average size pie, with a crust which had a lovely feel to it, but wasted no time introducing me to Mr Heartburn. A delightful, powerful aroma came off it which veritably stunk my car out. A fine mix of fresh, almost green potato and generous meat content, which retained its heat superbly. Slight amount of airspace at the top giving it an aircraft hangar type effect but overall a valiant effort.
The finer details:
The original review took place on Monday 23rd January 2012. It transpires that the shop is still there but has been sold to Woods Catering. I took the liberty of ringing the shop and they do still sell meat and potato pies and use a combinaton of Wrights Pies and their own.
I have also sampled Wrights Pies at the DW Stadium, as they were official pie supplier for a while and the chicken Balti pie is indeed a cracker, albeit it was priced at considerably more than £1.30 in a football ground!
Current pricing (March 2021)
Potato and meat pie £1.70 (Woods Catering in Biddulph)
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
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!
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
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
Today we go right back to the start. To be honest, we had been reviewing pies informally for years in the fanzines I was involved with but Monday 16th January 2012 was the first day that I consciously went out to buy a pie and review it.
It took place in one of the poshest areas of Knutsford, close to where I was working at the time and I am lucky I didn’t get arrested. I visited a Hampson’s Bakers in the town, subsequently re-branded as Sayers. They also include the Pound bakery in their stable, more on them later.
Enjoy, as your then thirty-something pie reviewer made his first foray into (semi) professional pie eating, totally unaware of the monster he was about to unleash….
Hampson’s (Sayer’s) Meat and Potato Pie
I’m sat in my car in a leafy lane near Knutsford town centre. I have carefully assembled a digital camera and have got a white chopping board laid out on the passenger seat, with the box underneath to prop it up level to the seat’s curvature. There’s a load of white van men working on a big house across the road and a postman has just walked past, whistling. Because all postmen whistle.
I lay the pie out on the chopping board and I produce a large shiny carving knife out of my Asda bag, lift the pie out of it’s foil tray and proceed to sever it in half with one almighty, glee-filled blow. Just as a pair of ageing pedestrians walk past with their dog.
“Police are trying to trace a man seen acting suspiciously in a silver car in the area around the time of the crime”
Those are the words ringing through my head right now. I’m not right in the head am I, let’s face it? This is ODD behaviour; or at the very least OCD behaviour. It makes perfect sense to me though: this is the first stage in a quest I have believed in for quite some time now. It is the duty of a Wigan man to sample as many pies as is humanly possible from around the world.
I want to find the best there is. It may be in my home town of Wigan, or further afield. I need a plan, a map, an understanding wife and some healthy working organs. Can I travel the UK, albeit ever so slightly skewed towards the North to find and review the best pies and try and find the ultimate pie? It’s time to find out…..
My first review is in Knutsford near work. It’s posh. The local MP is George Osborne. This might well be where he comes when he wants to rough it and stick a meat pie down his grid. I doubt it though.
It’s nearly 1pm when I wander in to break up the chit chat as two ladies turn and stand to attention. “I’ll have a meat and potato pie please”
You’ll be hearing me say that an awful lot. It’s my staple diet for 700 days, although I’m prepared to mix it up a bit in the interests of research. I mean they do a CHIP SHOP CURRY PASTY in here for God’s sake, who wouldn’t want one of those?
There are a range of pasties from chicken tikka and cheese and onion but it’s the pie I’m after, which comes in a Sayers wrapper. Confused? Hampsons are part of the Sayers group and they also own the Pound Bakery (more on them later). They have sensibly opted to retain their prestige brand name for the residents of the Tatton constituency mind you.
1. Purveyor: Hampsons Bakers Premises: Bolton Purchase: Meat and Potato pie £1.05
Place: 7 I get a smile which is a start! Attentive and seemed genuinely pleased to see me. They offered me a fork which blotted their copy book a bit mind you. Pastry: 7 The pie possesses perfect portability and holds together throughout. The crust edge is a tad thick, which often sets the heartburn alarm bells ringing, but the whole pie is eaten by hand and there is zero, I repeat zero spillage Presentation: 7 It’s scorching hot like a hand grenade, yet once the foil tray has been dispensed with, it’s almost the perfect room temperature to chomp into Package: 8 A deep mix of meat and potato chunks, full to the brim with hardly any airspace Palate: 7 This lot churn out the pies by the van load so it’s a quality, solid performer if a little generic Price: 8 Slightly above average sized pie for a slight below average price Portion: 7 A standard size OVERALL: If I had the best pie in the whole wide world first, it would be a very short book. The Hampsons pie is a good, solid performer but not spectacular. It sets a benchmark that some will exceed but many will fall short of and gets a respectable 51 out of 70 marks. Now, I need to get a plan together…..
The finer details: The original review took place on Monday 16th January 2012. Hampsons (now all Sayers branded) continue to have a range of shops across the North West stocking a wide variety of pies, pasties and probably some more healthy stuff, we’re not going to plug here.
Little known fact: Some time after publishing the Life of Pies, I was approached by a marketing consultant to do some work with them and become the face of Sayers / The Pound Bakery. I politely declined as it may compromise my impartiality. Looks like they went with Ken Barlow instead.
Current pricing (Jan 2021): You can expect to pay around £2 for a fresh, hot meat and potato or steak pie from Sayers these days, though prices may vary slightly.
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