British Pie Week is upon us once again (3-9 March 2014), giving us a timely excuse to pick out some of the best examples to be had in our fine capital today, from the downright decadent (why wouldn’t you use champagne in the filling?) to humble-pie-and-mash-shop mince-beef. While some foodies are pedantic about pies, whether it was encased in pastry or topped with mash, if we cleared our plates, then it made the cut.
Piebury Corner - Holloway Road, N7
Following the London trend of street-stall to bricks and mortar, Piebury Corner was billed as the UK’s “first ever Pie Deli” when it opened last year. The story (husband and wife team Nicky and Paul Campbell selling pies, pastries and scotch eggs from their front garden to passing Arsenal fans) is a good one, and their Holloway Road outpost is even better. Old favourites such as Steak and Ale, sit alongside newcomers like the brilliant Ray Parlour with pork stuffing and apple. All served with roast tatties or mash and topped with an unbelievable red wine gravy, its no wonder they are bombarded by loyal fans on match days. The interior's just been given a makeover to allow even more people to sit down and eat.
Manze's - Tower Bridge Road, SE1
The original Manze’s pie and mash shop was founded here on Tower Bridge Road in 1903 and is still doing a roaring trade today. All pies are made from scratch on site, starting with the beef which is minced using only prime cuts. As for the liquor, apparently it includes a ‘special secret ingredient’ which they’re not about to divulge now. We love the Manze website, which bigs up the fact that Jim Davidson is a regular and boldly states that, ‘It is also said that David Beckham eats here when he is in England.’ Well you can’t blame a joint for trying.
The Guinea Grill - Mayfair
There's been a pub on this spot since the 15th century and happily the Guinea still looks fabulously unreconstructed. While it's also unabashedly pro-tourist there's a serious story to the food. All the meat comes from top London butcher Frank Godfreys in Highbury who have a dry ageing room just to supply this pub. Go for either of the pies - the steak and mushroom or the steak and kidney. At £14.85 each they're actually pretty good value for this part of town.
Bob Bob Ricard - Soho
Despite the hoards of Soho restaurants to come after it, the deliciously-over-the-top Bob Bob Ricard will never be out of vogue because its far too fabulous to gave a damn about anything so transitory as fashion. Only they would take something as down-to-earth as a pie and elevate it to decadent heights by cooking the filling in champagne, topping it with a pretty patterned crust, then serving it with truffle gravy. Go for broke on pie week, book one of their booths and don’t forget to press the button for champagne (when in Rome).
The Windmill - Mayfair
Ask a selection of pastry- loving Londoners where to get a decent pie and chances are The Windmill will come up more than once. With a pie club, a pie-dedicated You Tube channel and two ‘pie rooms’, there’s little doubt that they take their pastry filling very seriously. We think a visit to this Mayfair grande boozer should be for life, not just for Pie Week.
What to order: The classic steak has won the National Pie Award three times. Enough said.
Ape & Bird - Shaftesbury Ave
Russell Norman's gastropub promised when it opened to be "full of dishes you want to order" so naturally enough there's now a pie of the day on the menu at all times.
Recent pies have included Lamb & anchovy stargazy (pictured); beef & ale; chicken, leek & bacon and fish pie
Cinnamon Soho - Kingly Street, W1
Cinnamon Soho is the West End outpost of Vivek Singh’s trio of restaurants that include the Cinnamon Kitchen and infamous Cinnamon Club. Famed for his Anglo-Indian creations, Singh has taken this one step further with his Rogan josh Shepherd's Pie.
It shouldn’t work but, with tender chunks of spicy stewed lamb, topped with a sweet potato crust - it resoundingly does.
If you want to know where else to enjoy the best of British food, view our full list of London restaurant reviews.