There’s something about a good, hot pie that just makes everything feel better, even on the coldest of winter evenings.
Last weekend, I popped down to Pieminister on St. Mary Street, Cardiff to sample the restaurant’s new Christmas range. This popular pie restaurant opened last year and although I hadn’t got round to visiting it yet, I’d heard nothing but good things about it.
Pieminister was originally founded in Bristol in 2003 by friends Jon and Tristan, who decided to open a pie shop after spending time travelling Australia together, tasting delicious pies along the way. The pair have always placed a high value on animal welfare and Pieminister currently holds three Good Farm Animal Welfare awards from Compassion in World Farming.
When we arrived at Pieminister last Saturday evening, the restaurant was full – it was lucky we’d booked a table in advance! The decor was somewhat eclectic, with a touch of shabby chic. Some walls were painted matte black, whereas others were red-bricked or covered in worn wooden planks. Bold, black shelves were adorned with bell jars containing lights and retro memorabilia like a tub of Smash instant mashed potato, a tin of mushy peas and a vintage ornament of Fred, the Homepride flour man. Meanwhile, the walls of the downstairs seating area were covered in ship potholes.
We were escorted to a table for two in the centre of the restaurant and offered drinks. Pieminister boasts a rather lavish cocktail menu and serves a variety of quality beers, ales, wines and spirits, but we didn’t feel like drinking so I opted for a classic Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade, while my guest ordered an Orchard Pig Ginger and Chilli juice (£2.50 each).
To start, we shared some home-roasted mixed nuts (£3.00) and free range pork scratchings with apple sauce (£3.50), served together on a wooden plank.
Consisting of brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts and cashews, the mixed nuts were covered in a tasty, smoky seasoning. The portion was just the right size for two people to share.
Meanwhile, the pork scratchings were crisp and crunchy and although they could have done with a touch more seasoning, they tasted great paired with the apple sauce. To my delight, the apple sauce more closely resembled a spicy apple chutney; I thought this complimented the Christmas theme of the menu rather well, but I don’t think it was intentionally done as the pork scratchings weren’t a new addition to Pieminister’s menu.
The new Christmas pie range includes four seasonal specials, each priced at £5.20: parsnip, cheddar and chestnut pie, venison, bacon, red wine and lentil pie, steak and Stilton pie with port, chestnut and bacon and, new for this year, a free range British turkey, bacon and parsnip pie topped with bread sauce and cranberries (from the open-top pie range). Each pie is served with a choice of cranberry and port gravy, or cranberry sauce.
If you don’t fancy pie, you can opt for a slow-cooked festive hot-pot stuffed with turkey, bacon, parsnip and cranberry and topped with crispy potato – although, Pieminister probably isn’t the best place to go if you don’t want pie – for obvious reasons!
I was drawn to the Mistle Moo pie, filled with British beef steak, Long Clawson Stilton, chestnut, bacon and port (£5.20), served with cranberry and port gravy. To go with my pie I ordered a side of macaroni cheese (£3.50), affectionately served in an enamel pie dish.
The pie was generously filled with a subtle port and Stilton flavouring and deliciously soft, flaky pastry. However, I was a little disappointed at the size of the pieces of steak; I had expected to find tender, meaty chunks but they were more like small morsels.
The macaroni cheese was traditional and comforting, with a thick cheesy coating and a creamy centre. It tasted as though it contained a few different varieties of cheese.
My guest wasn’t really drawn to any of the festive pies, opting instead for the Beer and Deer pie, filled with wild British venison, smoked bacon, kidney bean, scotch bonnet chilli and BrewDog Dead Pony club ale (£5.20), served with onion and red wine gravy. For his side dish he ordered sweet potato fries, which had a crispy coating and a light, fluffy centre, with plenty of seasoning.
I tasted some of this pie and it was pretty spicy due to the scotch bonnet pepper; being a lover of spicy food, this didn’t bother me in the slightest, but if you tend to stick to milder foods then the chances are that this pie will make your mouth feel like it’s on fire!
After polishing off our starters and our main courses we were feeling fit to burst, so we decided to give dessert a miss. However, I must admit I was very tempted by the sound of the warm brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce (£4) – oh well, I guess this gives me the perfect excuse to visit Pieminister again!
We both had a lovely evening at Pieminister and wouldn’t hesitate to return for a second helping. The food was very enjoyable and the service was relatively quick and friendly, especially for a busy Saturday evening. However, although the pies are reasonably priced, the food bill certainly adds up when you factor in the price of starters, sides, desserts and drinks. So if you are going to treat yourself to all three courses, make sure you take advantage of the Christmas Menu offer for just £20 per person.
If you don’t have time to get to Pieminister this side of Christmas, pop down to Waitrose where you can find the entire festive pie range, as well as a core range of five classic pies, on offer for two for £6 up until 29th December 2015.
35 St. Mary Street
(029) 2000 4155
I was invited to Pieminister as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.