Quick bite Keep your eyes on the pies this autumn
The news that Pieminister has decided to stay in Bristol after considering a move to Wales must have come as a huge relief for the city's army of pie munchers.
Since launching in 2003, Jon Simon and Tristan Hogg's award-winning company has become one of the region's most successful food businesses so their decision to extend their Westbury-on-Trym HQ is music to the ears (and stomachs) for all of us who enjoy the occasional Kate and Sidney or Chicken of Aragon.
Pieminister has just launched four new pies for the autumn and winter and it would have been rude not to road test them – purely for research purposes, of course.
I tried two at home and two at Pieminister's café on Stokes Croft and they were all very much up to the high standard we have come to expect from Bristol's pie masters.
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At home, I tried the Peahock (outdoor-reared ham hock with garden peas and mustard) and the Deerstalker (venison and outdoor-reared dry cured bacon with red wine and lentils).
The pastry on both crisped up beautifully in the oven and the fillings were generous with plenty of the main ingredients and enough sauce in both that gravy wasn't really necessary.
The Deerstalker was richer, deeper in flavour and perfect for a chilly and grey October lunchtime. The Peahock wasn't without its charms, though, especially the mild mustard kick complementing the sweet peas and ham hock.
Down at the Stokes Croft shop, I road-tested the Free Ranger (free-range chicken and outdoor-reared ham hock with leek and West Country cheddar) and the amusingly named Fungi Chicken (free-range chicken, chestnut and field mushrooms in a creamy white sauce).
Served on camping-style enamel plates, the pies cost £4.20 on their own but you can add mash for £1.50, gravy for 30p and minty mushy peas for £1.50. For those who want to go the whole hog, the Pieminister Mothership meal deal is £7.95 and includes all the above plus cheese, crispy shallots and, quite possibly, a wheelbarrow to carry you out afterwards.
Both chicken pies impressed. The Fungi Chicken was the ultimate take on an old-school chicken and mushroom pie, albeit more refined and richer. The Free Ranger won by a whisker because of its pieces of ham hock, but also the soft leeks and additional cheese in the thick sauce.
I could have stayed for a pudding (all £3) but a dish of sticky toffee pud wouldn't have helped my productivity during the afternoon. After such a filling lunch, the pie's clearly the limit.