Michael Harry

Pure Pie in Port Melbourne. Click for more photos

Eyes on the pies

Pure Pie in Port Melbourne. Photo: Eddie Jim

  • The Woodfrog Bakery's beef and red wine pies.
  • Hams & Bacon's lamb pie.
  • Michael James with his pies at Tivoli Road Bakery in South Yarra.
  • Free-range chicken and rosemary pies from Pure Pie in Port Melbourne.
  • Tabet's cheese and spinach pie.
  • Fatto a Mano's organic beef gluten-free pie.
  • Vegetarian lentil curry pies at the Sourdough Kitchen in Seddon.
  • Shepherd's pie from Cafe Alcaston.
  • Bacon and egg pie from Dench Bakers.
  • Pepper steak pie from Richmond Pie Shop.

Who ate all the pies? We did. Australia's national dish is getting the country-fair treatment, with organic ingredients and old-school technique replacing tepid service-station lucky-dips full of tallow and tendons. Melbourne's best bakers are showcasing their skills with the pie, and there's no need to fear what lies beneath the crust. In no particular order, here's where to find the hottest boutique pies in town, from chicken to pork to vego to gluten free.

1. Beef and red wine, $7.50

The pastry in this eye-wateringly good pie is soft but strong with a hint of sweetness and a crisp, glazed finish. It's the ultimate carrier for the slow-cooked, fall-apart-tender beef filling, which is held together with super-thick, dark gravy that is almost gelatinous (in a good way) and enlivened with a red-wine zing. It's not huge, but this is an exercise in quality over quantity.

The Woodfrog Bakery, 108 Barkly Street, St Kilda, 9077 5440

2. Lamb, $8

Pope Joan's swish provedore has recently introduced pies direct from Kyneton's award-winning Piper Street Food Company, daily from 11am. This is a slam-dunk of a recipe: majestically moist shortcrust pastry with a fabulous Moroccan-style lamb filling, the tender meat popping with spice and sweetness. Served with a spoonful of tomato relish on the lid, it will linger long in the memory.

Hams & Bacon, 77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, 9387 3313

3. Pork and cannellini bean, $6

Expectations were high when MoVida launched its bakery last year. Head baker Michael James (pictured above) liked it so much, he bought it, changing its name to Tivoli Road last month. But all the classics remain, including this pork pie. Vibrant chipotle sauce mingles with cannellini beans, salty morsels of chorizo-style pork and chunks of tomato, forming a baked-bean-esque bonanza. The pastry is excellent, too - coppery, yielding and dotted with fragrant fennel seeds.

Tivoli Road Bakery, 3 Tivoli Road, South Yarra, 9041 4345

4. Free-range chicken and rosemary, single, $8.90; family, $22

Crack open the thick, artfully pleated, butter-laden pastry to reveal thick pieces of chicken in a delicate white-wine gravy with a kick of tarragon, heaps of cracked pepper and firm slivers of mushroom and celery. Complete with sleek packaging, friendly service and abundant sauces, it's a long way from Four'N Twenty.

Pure Pie, 381 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 0400 101 399

5. Cheese and spinach, $3

Cheap as chips and heat-blasted to order in a gas pizza oven, this is a textbook take on the Lebanese savoury pie. Curls of crisp dough wrap around the tangy inner filling like a calzone, the spinach lightly sauteed and snapping with lemon zing. A handful of salty, grated haloumi cheese melts through the keyhole top. You'll be back for seconds.

Tabet's, 607 Sydney Road, Brunswick, 9387 3461

6. Organic beef gluten free, $7

Being the hipster bakery of choice, it's no surprise this pint-sized Fitzroy outlet does a mean gluten-free pie. The tapioca, rice and potato flour pastry makes a slightly unstable base - seismic cracks can disturb the fragile structure - but it's all about the filling. Chunks of beef are surrounded by complex gravy; salty, sweet, laced with cinnamon and dotted with peas and carrot, it's like a hearty stew.

Fatto a Mano, 228 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, 9417 5998

7. Vegetarian lentil curry, takeaway, $7; eat in with coleslaw and relish, $13

The vegetarian-friendly bakery on Seddon's getting-groovier-by-the-day Victoria Street is buzzing with prams, students and louche locals. Even confirmed carnivores will dig its classic curry pie with soft and supple pastry. The filling is warm and satisfying with shades of the student union - heaps of firm, juicy lentils in a mild, comforting curry sauce flecked with pieces of soft pumpkin. Salty and delish.

Sourdough Kitchen, 172 Victoria Street, Seddon, 9687 5662

8. Shepherd's pie, takeaway, $9.50; eat in with salad, $13.95

Blink and you'll miss the unassuming entrance to this low-lit all-day cafe, which dishes up a range of house-baked pies. The steaming shepherd's pie is a mighty meal, the nostalgic beef-mince filling packed with peas, corn, celery and carrot in a thin pastry bowl topped with cheesy, crunchy potato mash. Warning: it's a touch sloppy for a takeaway bag.

Cafe Alcaston, 2 Collins Street, city, 9650 9387

9. Bacon and egg, $6.20

These beauties are baked in the morning and sell out quickly, and you'll have to ask for one to be heated if you want to eat it straight away. The outrageously buttery pastry is gnarled and rustic, with properly seasoned egg mixture covering folds of thick-cut bacon that emerge from the deep like crunchy shipwrecks. By the end you'll have fluttery flakes of pastry down your front and a smile on your face.

Dench Bakers, 109 Scotchmer Street, Fitzroy North, 9403 5333

10. Pepper steak, $5

This is a classic footy pie - no fancy tricks, just tasty goodness at the right price. There's a list of ''gourmet'' varieties, from Thai vegetable to lamb and rosemary, to make any tradie drool. The pepper steak is a good place to start - firm, savoury pastry encases chunks of beef and familiar dark gravy with a mild pepper kick. Watch out for the scalding wave of lava-like filling that will inevitably gush onto your chin mid-bite. Bliss.

Richmond Pie Shop, 200 Swan Street, Richmond, 9421 2711

 

What's your favourite pie in Melbourne? Jump on the comments and share your recommendation.