Flaky truth: a crust above the rest
The Perfect Beef Pie from Bert's Pies available at various Merivale locations. Photo: Merivale
Meet the not-so-humble pie. This is the Australian staple, the comforting guilty pleasure. This is the food we crave as we cheer our teams to victory. But which pies are Sydney's best?
The Perfect Beef Pie, $7.90 - Bert's Pies
Porch Food and Wine's Moroccan pie. Photo: Steven Siewert
When Merivale sets out to make the perfect pie to serve across its many restaurants and eateries in July this year, it put 11 of its chefs on the task. A panel of Merivale insiders, with 70 diners, then voted on the best. Alex Woolley, head chef of the three-hatted est. restaurant took the gong with his rendition of the Aussie classic. The result is astoundingly good. The pastry is buttery and short, flaky and crumbly at once. Inside are large, tender pieces of beef, hints of carrot and rich gravy. It's crying out for a dollop of ketchup but, that done, will this now be the pie against which all others are judged?
Available at various Merivale locations. merivale.com.au.
Lamb shank and vegetable pie, $7.80 - Black Star Pastry
Chris Thé´ knows his way around a bit of shortcrust and puff. This shoebox-size Newtown bakery has queues out the door on weekends as the team hands over parcels of strawberry, watermelon and rose cream cake, cannelle, and loaves of sourdough. The really wise go in for a pie. Much has been said about the Young Henry's beer and brisket pie here, and it's worth the hype. But this lamb shank version has the same flaky, chewy, buttery exterior, and inside is the rich pull-apart meat that offers up rich, stewy flavours. This may be one of the best pies in Sydney.
277 Australia Street, Newtown; 9557 8656; blackstarpastry.com.au
Beef and mushy pea pie $6.50 - Harry Cafe de Wheels
Brave be the food writer who leaves ''the Tiger'' off a best-Sydney-pies list. It's a legendary meals on wheels, a neon-lit cart that has remained stationary since the 1930s, sating (we assume) members of the nearby navy and (we're sure) late-night revellers from King Cross with its obscene piled-up pies and hot dogs. But does it deserve to be here, on this list? It's not the best pie in town, the filling is gravy-heavy and the chunks of beef sparse. But the topping of creamy mash and fresh mushy peas is gorgeous. The pastry is flaky and short in all the right places. It offers a dose of nostalgia and peppery, gravy-laden carbs. It's a reminder that sometimes the most satisfying things are not always technically the best.
Corner Cowper Wharf Road and Brougham Road, Woolloomooloo; harryscafedewheels.com.au.
Roast chicken and mushroom pie, $6.50 - Infinity Sourdough Bakery
These guys are champions of flaky, golden pastry, and sourdough bread, come to that. But their proper home-style chunky chicken pie, with halved button mushrooms that retain a bit of texture, is the pie for those who like something more than pastry-wrapped gravy. The golden parcel is perfectly done, no undercooked edge bits here.
Shop 3, 15A Market Lane Manly; 9977 4340, infinitysourdough.com.au.
Pumpkin, fetta and silverbeet pie, $5.80 - The Pie Tin
A glass cabinet groans with white chocolate rocky road pies, the biggest apple pie in the world, cherry ripe pie, Snickers pie; it's a belly-clasping reminder that pies are a ''sometimes'', not an ''everyday'' food. The savoury pies are relatively restrained, and include an old-school steak and kidney and 15 or so others. The vegetarian pumpkin, fetta and silverbeet is every bit as satiating as its meat counterparts. It's a deep pie, creamy and very rich, with lots of silverbeet to add a healthy note.
1a Brown Street (off King Street, near Bruce Lane), Newtown; 9519 7880; thepietin.com.au.
Gourmet minced beef and tomato pie, $5.80 - St. Honore Bakery
Before tender slow-cooked chuck steak and long slow braises worked their way into pies, much of Sydney was satisfied with a beef mince version. They're still around, especially in the frozen food section of the supermarket, but all are not created equal. Much like a bolognaise tucked into pastry, this tomato-based, peppery pie is a quality rendition of a classic. We like that the filling hasn't been thickened to a gluggy heap, and the tomato adds a sweet, tart tilt.
2/40 Miller Street, North Sydney; 9929 4388; sthonorebakery.com.au.
Pork Pie, $8 - Patchett's Pies
Pie maker Sue Patchett apprenticed herself out to a Yorkshire pie maker in England and returned to Australia in 1982 to bring the secret recipe home. A hot-water crust pastry is immaculately even over the entire pie, and inside a slightly salty seasoned pork is encased in a thinnest layer of traditional jelly. These are also available at David Jones and good delicatessens.
Sarah Street, Mascot; 9667 3799; patchettspies.com.au.
Chicken, sweet potato and pea with lime pickle, $5 - Bourke Street Bakery
Bourke Street Bakery has turned into a kind of best-of contender for almost everything it makes. Best chicken pie? We think so. The chicken is packed with flavour, texture and far from dry. Sweet potato adds a smooth and sweet element, and the peas are still whole and green. But the masterstroke here is the lime pickle. The pickle is aromatic yet far from overpowering. We'll be back for another.
474 Gardeners Road, Alexandria; 8339 1001; bourkestreetbakery.com.au.
Thai vegetable pie, $6.50 - Silvia & Fran's The Upper Crust
Patiently the surfers, tradies, and Palm Beach commuters queue to get their hands around one of about 25 ''famous'' savoury pies. One option here borders on pie violation: chicken, brie and avocado. But what it takes away doing cooked avocado it makes up elsewhere. The Thai vegetable pie is encased in fresh flaky pastry, a mix of potato, cauliflower, red capsicum and other veg in a mild green curry sauce. It's a mixture of cultures and cuisines but it somehow works.
1003 Pittwater Road, Collaroy; 9971 5558.
Moroccan pie, $12 - Porch Food and Wine
Actually, you may not get the braised Moroccan beef and olive pie when you get there. It may turn out to be a chicken, white bean and tarragon pie or something involving roast vegetables. There's only one pie on at a time and there's no guessing what it will be. Rest assured though, it will be encased in the flakiest pastry. Could pie eating get any more Australian than it does here, beside the ocean, a salty breeze blowing through the big windows?
17/10 Ramsgate Avenue, North Bondi; 9300 0111; porchandparlour.com.au.
What's your go-to pie and where's the best place in Sydney to get it? Share your tips in the comments below.