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.
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