Things are looking up. It’s nearly spring, an end to lockdown is in sight and… it’s British Pie Week (1-7 March). There’s something really comforting about a pie, so, to crudely paraphrase Slyvia Plath: “Cut yourself a big slice, open your eyes and let life happen.”
We’ve tested everything from your standard steak and ale classic to ludicrous-sounding – but delicious – vegan “cheezeburger” pies and found that the British pie tradition is very much alive and kicking in all its innovative forms. We also found that you can’t always judge a pie on its looks and discussed whether a pasty is technically a pie (it is not).
In the pies we tested, we were, of course, looking for a decent amount of filling, but also a good filling-to-pastry ratio. We also looked for quality in our pastry – too soggy didn’t cut it, but too crispy and you lost us.
We also tried to include a decent range of vegetarian and vegan options as there are so many choices available now that pies now don’t have to be the preserve of the beefy. We enjoyed the quirky new artisan takes, but we also appreciated the reliability of some old favourites.
So come beneath the crust with us as we check out the very best British pies, many of which are (oh joy) now available as monthly subscription offers.
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Chunk of Devon chicken, leek and bacon pie, box of 8
Chunk of Devon has won multiple awards for its pasties, and the pies are no slouches either. The filling-to-crust ratio is among the best we’ve sampled and the pastry is nicely crisp on the outside and not too claggy on the inside. Try the steak and kidney for some real chunky steak and moist gravy or the kickin’ chicken curry pie for a fresh and spicy take on a warming favourite. Simple, tasty and affordable, there’s very little to complain about.
Pieminister Moo pie, box of 4
One of the very best steak and craft ale pies out there, Pieminister’s Moo is award winning for a reason. With chunks of lean meat, carrot and just enough ale to make it feel like you’re dining at a Tudor table, the Moo is one for those who like their pastry crispy. The good news is there’s now a meat-free Moo on the table so you don’t have to miss out if your family are chomping down on this classic.
The Black Farmer mediterranean lamb pie
This pie is the epitome of the quirky brand that created it. The very best British lamb with a tasty Mediterranean twist in hand-made pastry, this delicious pie is also available as part of Black Farmer meat and deli galore! box, a bundle box of all the meat you’ll ever need. Start small, though, and savour the flavours in this moist and tasty offering.
Noble House Prepared roast wild mushroom, leek and sage pie
Pies aren’t the only thing Noble House Prepared does (it delivers a range of restaurant-quality food direct to the home) but, by gosh, when it does do pies, it does them well. The vegan roast wild mushroom, leek and sage pie comes with roasted mushroom gravy and is as tasty as any meaty pie thanks to the leek and sage stuffing and delicious just-light enough pastry. It’s not the cheapest pie in the selection, but it’s so perfectly proportioned that your stomach certainly doesn’t feel short-changed.
Jarvis Pickle venison, port and redcurrant pie, box of 4
Mention pies to anyone in the know at the moment, and Jarvis Pickle pops up soon enough: the brand’s long list of awards does the talking for it. With flour grown and milled on one farm and glazing from free-range Scottish Border eggs, the small-batch pies are full of proper home-grown goodness. Special shoutout must go to the venison, port and redcurrant pie. Venison can sometimes be too intense and doesn’t always work in pastry but this is the perfect smooth but tasty pie for those wanting a change from the norm.
Pietanic vegan cheezeburger pie, from a selection of 6
There was a time when “the vegan option” was an afterthought or a disappointing add-on to a bulging menu. Not so with Pietanic’s vegan cheezeburger pie. Unappetising title notwithstanding, this pie is a pick-me-up unlike any other. It’s part of an ever-changing monthly menu order from the street-food brand, so you have to sign up for a monthly order but if this and its meaty counterparts are anything to go by, whatever you get you’ll be laughing. Other flavours can include creamy chicken and asparagus pie, kale, chestnut and wild mushroom or bacon cheeseburger pie but expect different choices each month.
Holland’s potato and meat family pie
All the tiny artisan pies in the world just won’t cut it in the face of a table full of family members demanding to be fed. Sometimes you just want a large, good-quality budget pie and Holland’s does the trick nicely. With a decently distributed mix of diced potato, minced beef and just enough seasoning, this crumbly shortcrust staple has been good enough for Holland’s for nearly 170 years and is good enough for us.
Yorkshire Handmade Pies mixed mushroom and Nightmare Porter ale pie, box of 6
The umami is strong in this delicious vegan mixed mushroom and Nightmare Porter ale pie. Meat-free doesn’t have to mean taste-free, and you’ll be musing over the rich flavours of this pie long after it’s over – in the best possible way. Other vegan delights include “this isn’t chicken” as well as mushroom and leek, but there are plenty of classics (minced beef and onion and Yorkshire steak and black pudding for an extra-meaty treat). The company also offers a reward scheme for spreading the love so you can earn points for enabling your friends’ pie habits.
Real Pie Company steak and mature cheddar pie
A silver award winner in the British Pie Awards 2020, this little beauty is the perfect combination of flavours. After all, even the glorious steak pie can be improved with a great big dollop of cheese. Encased in shortcrust pastry with a light puff pastry lid, the grass-fed beef is just enough and the flavour combination works as well for the fussy eaters in your life as well as the discerning pie-snob.
Dickinson & Morris pork pie
The list wouldn’t be complete without a special mention of the classic pork pie and Dickinson and Morris are the masters. As with all traditional pork pies from Melton Mowbray, these pies are made using the hand-raised method with hot water crust pastry and 100 per cent British pork shoulder. Sometimes a classic pork pie is what you need and Dickinson and Morris pies are reliable, honest and filling.
The verdict: Pies
Though not necessarily the fanciest looking or the most hipster brand, Chunk of Devon pies are straight-up decent and consistently the best when you take everything into account. A wide range of meat, veggie and vegan options means you can feed the whole family affordably and satisfactorily. It has even selected four of its British Pie Awards winners (steak and ale, chicken, leek and bacon, sheep and butternut squash and goats cheese) for a special British Pie Week selection box.
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