The Restaurants: The life of Pie
From lamb and mint to mac 'n cheese, we share some of our favourites from around the country
- Nottingham Road, by reservation only, 0833264932
Set in a country cottage in a lush garden and close to Nottingham Road, this intimate eatery is run by chef Cathy Hall and husband Peter.
"In our neck of the woods the customers seem to want country comfort dishes, hence the overwhelming popularity of our pie," says Cathy.
"A good pie needs time - it can'tbe rustled up quickly. If you cook it with care and use good ingredients it doesn't have to be complicated."
Their Piglet's Commitment pie, which comprises four cuts of pork (pork neck, sausages, bacon and gammon) sourced from a local butcher, has a little onion, sage, parsley and chives added, and the mixture is encased in thinly rolled puff pastry that doesn't overshadow the contents. The gravy is on the outside instead of the inside in the form of a red wine jus.
- 5 Bellevue Road, Kloof, 031 717 2780
This popular cafe serves classic cafe food with an Italian influence. It is the brainchild of chef patron Chris Black and partner Guy Cluver. Since it opened two years back, Bellevue Cafe has had a pie on its menu every single day. They have a repertoire of around 40 pies, including a Durban butter chicken curry pie, a lamb shank pie and a steak and ale pie.
We tried their classic steak and Guinness pot pie, filled with good-quality topside and the heady fragrance and flavour of slowly reduced Guinness. The puff-pastry lid was light and crumbly and the glass filled with chips came in handy to mop up the gravy at the bottom of the bowl.
- Glenore Centre, Glenashley, Durban, 031 562 9018
Livingston's is Durban's go-to gastro pub that offers elevated pub grub with a culinary twist. Take their pies for example: beef and Castle Milk Stout; beef bordelaise with bone marrow. Owners Rowan Brouard and Joe de Wet both spend time in the kitchen competing with chef Chris Glock, aka The Pieman of the North.
De Wet says pies are versatile - anything can be recreated as a pie. "The secret of a good pie is the balance of flavours. It needs to be rich, salty, slightly sweet and hearty."
We had the daily Chef's Choice - a butternut, chorizo, beef and bacon pot pie. It had a generous cap of buttery puff pastry and the meat was a tasty and tender mix of rump, fillet and flank. The gravy was rich and heady with flavour. - Shelley Seid
- 185 Bree Street, Cape Town, 021 424 5644
Jason Lilley turned a hole-in-the-wall into perhaps the most popular bakery in Cape Town. What hasn't changed are his pies. "Kickass pies," as he labels them.
Jason's pork belly and apple pie is the business. Literally an award-winning pie, it sells out faster than any other. All pies are made with the same thick, soft pastry that Jason mixes using boiling water, a trick he says creates unbeatable texture.
Rather than a spread of different pies, Jason usually makes one type for lunch each day, the filling announced on Twitter (@jasonbakery). Other popular offerings are the Moroccan lamb, mac 'n cheese and his portobello mushroom with Emmental pies.
The best pies are simple affairs and his manage to up the gourmet stakes without being complicated, even when his creations get quirky (he makes a bangers and mash pie). He isn't afraid to use unusual cuts of meat either, including game and wild boar in his pies, often slow-cooked in beer to create rich, hearty fillings.
HOUW HOEK FARM STALL
- N2, Elgin, 028 284 9015
For over 30 years the Heward family has owned this popular spot alongside the busy N2 highway as it passes through the scenic Elgin Valley. Savvy travellers know that aside from the fresh vegetables, fruit, biltong and other goodness available in the deli, the pies at Houw Hoek are well worth stopping for.
All pies are assembled from scratch daily, the fillings always fresh and perfectly cooked, the pastry baked to perfection. On any given day you might be challenged to choose from 10 or more options. There's usually about three variations of both chicken and steak, a Springbok venison, bobotie, Cornish and a ham and cheese pie. I seldom get to try these last few since the plain chicken pie is so delicious . It's also the most popular, along with the curry steak and pepper steak. Houw Hoek also makes larger pies for you to serve at home, though whether it gets there without being eaten is another challenge altogether.
- R304, Stellenbosch, 0218844141
Another family business, now in its fifth generation, the Joostenberg enterprise is split over two Stellenbosch farms. On one side of the N1 is Joostenberg, home to their vineyards, winery, piggery and a cut- flower business. On the other side is Klein Joostenberg, which houses a bistro, deli, nursery and their very own pork butchery. It's no surprise that at Klein Joostenberg you'll find perhaps the greatest 100% pure pork produced from their own free-range pigs.
Their pies are all sizeable, with a crisp-baked crust that would be the envy of most bakers. The chicken and mushroom and the venison pies are superb, but it's their glorious pork pie that sets them apart. It's rich and filling, one being enough for even the most sizeable appetite. - David Cope
NOT BREAD ALONE
- Malibongwe Drive, Cresta Ext 3, Randburg 0118888764, and cnr Rivonia and Protea roads, Sandton, 0117846355
It was the French bread and pastries that won over South African accountant James Hibbert who after a year of playing club rugby in France returned to SA with a dream: to start a family bakery. Not Bread Alone opened in Randburg six years ago and the second store in Sandton earlier this year.
They make excellent breads and pastries but it is their pies that draw me back again and again. The two most popular in the range that includes chicken, pepper, steak and kidney, breakfast and Cornish, are bobotie, my favourite, enjoyed with a generous dollop of Mrs Ball's chutney, and the Malay curry steak pies. "Our customers describe our pies as heartburn-free," said Jane Hibbert proudly. Hibbert oversees the pie operation.
The pastry is light and comes with a promise that it is made without any preservatives or chemicals - and a secret ingredient that gives it the edge.
The best part is the fillings, particularly generous. "People complain that we have way too much meat in our pies," said Jane.
- 8 Petervale Centre, cnr Frans Hals and Cambridge streets, Petervale, 011 803 1723
For pork pie aficianados, Sandton Butchery is a real find. Okay, so there are SA favourites like biltong, steak and boerewors - lots of it, but tucked away in a special fridge in the front is a range of traditional British delicacies including pork pies - small ones in packs of two (R22.50) and large family-sized ones (R40). According to Sandton Butchery's John Edwards, they have been selling the speciality pork pies for the last decade and in the last five years they have been made by a pork-pie specialist using a traditional recipe learnt in the UK, using the butchery's quality pork.
The pork pies also come in loaves stuffed with hard-boiled eggs (R60) .
Popular too are the Scotch eggs - hard-boiled eggs wrapped in pork mince, coated in breadcrumbs and fried - and something I'd never tasted before, individual double-crusted minced mutton pies which, according to Edwards, are very popular.