January’s not so bad really. It’s National Pie Day today for one, a chance to honour a dish that can be traced as far back as the Ancient Egyptians.
Pies have taken all forms over the years, from low-key practical snacks to lavish concoctions that showcase wealth and status, and the choice of filling remains endless.
And there’s no shortage of sites to get your fix. Whether you’re looking for something classic and conventional, or a twist on the traditional, here are just a few places across the region that are guaranteed to hit the spot.
Great North Pie Co.
Launched by former policeman Neil Broomfield, who set about developing the perfect pie recipe, the Great North Pie Co. has received numerous national accolades including the Supreme Champion of the British Pie Awards. The menu changes seasonally. Until March, meat eaters can order Swaledale rare breed beef mince with roast onion puree pie or the slow roast chicken, baked ham and white wine cream pie; while vegetarians have the spinach and white Cheshire cheese and classic Lancashire cheese and onion options to choose from. You’ll find them at various farmers’ markets, as well as Market House Altrincham six days a week.
The Chop Houses
For comfort food and cosy charm, the city centre’s Chop Houses (The famous Sam’s Chop House, Mr Thomas’s Chop House and The Albert Square Chop House) take some beating. There are two types of pie to tuck into. Veggies can order the homity pie, which is made with Jerusalem artichoke, heritage potato, wild mushroom, onions and leeks in an open pie topped with goats’ cheese; while carnivores can sink their teeth into the steamed steak and kidney pudding served with creamy mashed potato and the special house gravy. Typically priced £13.50 and £16 respectively, enjoy 50 per cent off during January.
The stylish Refinery in Spinningfields has become a favourite brunch spot with the glam crowd but they also serve up hearty fare for those wanting a proper winter warmer. Among the British classics available is the fish pie with a cheddar potato crust, £10.95, and a chicken and oyster mushroom pie in puff pastry, £13.95. An additional two pies have been created by Drake and Morgan head chef Rob Mitchell alongside the Michelin-starred Great British Menu chef Chris Harrod. These are the pumpkin and shiitake mushrooms in hazelnut pastry pie, £13.95 and venison and savoy cabbage pie with polenta pastry, baby beets and celeriac mash, £13.95. They’re all also available at another prime spot, The Anthologist in St Peter’s Square.
Lord of the Pies
It’s quite a name to live up to but the company, run by Oliver Doyle and Lindsay Mekie, has gone from strength to strength since opening their original shop in Stockport eight years ago, and they now have two further sites in Macclesfield and Chorlton. These are the sort of robust pies your body craves on winter days. Look out for fillings such as British beef and blue cheese; British pork and cider; pulled chicken balti and sweet potato, spinach and goats’ cheese, as well as ever-changing specials that can be eaten in or taken away and a selection of local beers and ale to wash it all down with.
The River Restaurant
Traditionalists might beg to differ, but a pie can still a pie even if it doesn’t have the pastry topping. Nor does it need to be served in a pub or café to count. At the River Restaurant in The Lowry Hotel, you’ll find The Lowry fish pie, £19, which is stuffed with seaweed cured salmon, naturally smoked haddock, king prawns, tender stem broccoli and topped with mash and sauce. No-one said comfort food can’t be chic.
Over in the Northern Quarter, you’ll find The Abel Heywood, a small hotel with a welcoming pub that serves up a range of classic dishes including a range of palate-friendly pies. There’s the steak and ale pie, 12.95; the Lancashire cheese and onion pie, £12.50, both served with chips or buttered mash, and the fisherman’s pie made with smoked haddock, mussels, prawns, parmesan crust and buttered greens, £14.95. Or if you’re after a smaller snack, then try the hot pork pie with a side of mushy peas and Abel’s brown sauce for £5.95.