Dining Out Pies

Pie 125: The Greggs Pie

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Happy New Year from MFP Towers. I hope you all had a smashing time bringing in the bells whether you were out partying or having a quiet one. I hope that 2018 brings you all the joy you can handle and the success that you desire. I spent the bells on the top of a hill watching Reykjavik come alive with fireworks for a genuinely jaw dropping hour or so but now I’m back and it’s time to kick 2018 off with a bang by reviewing the one pie that has ruled the high street for as long as I can remember. It’s time to rate The Greggs’ Scotch Pie.

So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Greggs. They have over 1750 locations throughout the UK but mine was purchased on Victoria Road, Glasgow.

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The Social: Website, Instagram, Twitter.

What’s it all about?: The largest bakery chain in the UK, Greggs is synonymous with providing you an array of pastries, sandwiches and sweet treats to go. However for every glorious Festive Bake there has been a not so glorious Chicken Katsu version has followed. But the big question is, as the UK’s favourite purveyor of pastry, how does their Scotch Pie fare?

What was on my plate: No plates at Greggs, instead it comes in a paper bag, with this particular bag still sporting the festive colours of red and white. Something which I had never considered until now was how odd it was that they never give you a napkin to capture the cascade of crumbs, grease and sugar that many of the bakers snacks cover you in. It’s actually kinda baffling.

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Price: £1.15. Inflation, rising costs and a little bit of greed may have meant that the cost of a Scotch Pie at Greggs surpassed the £1 mark a long time ago but it is still a relative bargain for a hot (more on that shortly) meal.

Let’s get some eats: Now before we go into the meat of this pie matter I think it’s important to address something that is very much specific to Greggs: the temperature of your pastries. I have purchased the majority of my Greggs in the Greater Glasgow area and over the years I have learned that there are not one, not two but three different temperatures in which your pie can come in:

  • Furnace Hot: This is where your pastry has gone straight from the oven and into the glass display cabinet, sometimes if you are lucky you will see this very action take place among cries of “WATCH YER BACK AGNES I’VE GOT A HOT TRAY HERE!”. Whilst there is no doubt heat can be good pie munchers beware as that first bite will strip the skin from your lips and burn a hole in your soul. No amount of blowing on it will prevent you from escaping this fate. You just have to suck it up and do your best monkey impression as you take your first few tentative bites.
  • Wee Bit of Heat in it: This pastry will be a victim of one of two sets of circumstances. Either the branch of Greggs you visit is outside and the door left open, no doubt letting whatever apocalyptic weather is raging outside in to instantly cool anything that has come from the aforementioned furnace. Or scenario two, where the pastry has been sitting out for a while perhaps as a result of an overbake ahead of the lunch time rush. You will know if your pastry has a “bit of heat in it” as the person behind the counter will touch the pastry with the back of their palm and ask you this eternal poser, “It’s only got a wee heat in it, is that alright?” Even if you think it’s not you say it will be.
  • Staun Cauld: When you get presented with something that you wouldn’t hesitate twice to cool yourself down with on the beach. These pastries feel like they have been taken straight from the heart of a glacier. If a pastry is “staun cauld” there’s a high chance that it’s been sitting there since time began and could be used as a blunt instrument in battle as well as providing a disappointing pastry experience.

My pie had a wee bit of heat in it, which for me is the best for speedy consumption. The first thing I noticed about my pie was the heavy dusting of raw flour on top of the pastry lid which itself had been subjected to some boil out from the meaty contents below adding a darkly shaded puddle to the floury snowfall.

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The next thing that became apparent was that the pie was overbaked, or to use regional parlance: well fired, particularly on the bottom and on the edges. Whilst this wasn’t blackened it did make for a super crispy and somewhat difficult bite. As I took my first chomp, dabbed with the traditional squirt of brown sauce, I looked forward in anticipation to the taste sensation from one of the UK’s biggest selling pies. The crescendo of expectation soon turned into instant disappointment as this was perhaps one of the most one note pastries I ever did try. No notes of sweet or savoury. No pepper kick to warm the cockles and tickle the taste buds just a fairly banal but perfectly edible block of meat (beef and mutton, although I’m not sure you’d know). To be honest I suspected as much, this after all is one of the most mass produced pies on the market, but it was still disappointing not to have a single flavour peak or trough to pass comment on.

For £1.15 it’s hard to grumble too much but really this should be better.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easily available
  • I got my favoured temperature profile

Cons

  • Just a bit dull

So a Greggs’ Scotch Pie, not the culinary delight my heart would desire but it won’t be going anywhere any time soon so if you’re in a bind you could do a lot worse than a pie. But then, I like pies. Anyway, next up is a return to the football field and a review of the Queens Park Cheese & Onion Pie.

However, until then, go forth and eat pie!

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.

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Pies 120-122: Pie & Brew

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…and as he mopped the final splash of gravy off his chin he sat there and thought, “It’s time”. Meat Filled Pastries is back!

It’s been sixteen(!) months since I last posted on the site. Since then I’ve shifted some weight, done some travelling and I’ve just finished a three month stint living and working in Madrid. Of course I have done my fair share of eating too, both in pastry and non-pastry form, even going as far to set up a site for my eating adventures in Madrid without ever writing a single word. On my return though I did find myself thinking that now was the time to start looking for my next “creative avenue” all of which leads us to here and the return of Meat Filled Pastries.

This time around though I wanted to mix it up a bit and transfer my reviewing skills from the terraces to the table and truly go on the hunt for the best pies and scran around. For those who have followed my pie-scapades in the past have no fear as when a new pie at the football is sitting ready for consumption in my hand, one bite will be taken with a blob of brown sauce an old school Gravy Factor will be a-coming. Let’s just think of this as a widening of my pie-rizons.

As always, I will come at these reviews on the basis I am about to be provided with the kind of culinary joy that would make Gregg Wallace’s love affair with inhaling spoons look like a quick peck on the cheek. The first couple will involve a bit of testing out on format and content and I may or may not branch out into other non pie related things too but either way I’m back writing and for me, and hopefully you, the person reading this, that’s a good thing. So without much further ado, let’s rate some pie(s)!

Where: Pie & Brew, 129 Bath Street, Glasgow.

At the moment I’m not planning to go heavy on the ambience, decor, service etc. of any given venue, if something blows me away as good or bad I’ll mention it but for now my focus is on the food and food alone.

The Social: Website, Instagram, Twitter (because if you like the sound of somewhere I want you to be able to go snooping right in about it).

What’s it all about?: As their website states it’s pretty simple: “Beer, Music & Pies”, although as the Prince of Pies I think they should really be re-arranging their order a bit.

What was on my plate: Pie Board: 3 Mini Pies of Smoked Haddock & Spinach (with Mustard Sauce), Chicken, Leek & Ham Hock (with Chicken Gravy) and Haggis & Black Pudding (with Whisky Sauce). Neeps and Sweet Potato Fries (because Sweet Potato Fries are life).

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Price: 3 Mini Pie Board, Neeps & Gravy £12. Sweet Potato Fries £2.50. Total: £14.50.

Let’s get some eats: Ever since the tragic demise of Macgregors Pie & Ale Howff (boy do I miss that place) I have consistently moaned about the gap in the market for someone to exploit and open up a bar that sells good pies and good beer. With that in mind it was with much interest that I followed from Madrid the opening of Pie & Brew in Glasgow’s city centre and made a note to visit it as soon as I could on my return. This week I did.

Now as you can see I had not one, not two but three pies to contend with chosen from a roster of eight and so to keep myself right I’m going to judge them each on their individual merits before putting the pieces together to give my final opinion. First up, and going with what I felt was the most logical order to eat them in, was the Smoked Haddock & Spinach with Mustard Sauce adorned with a tiny pastry fish for ease of identification. Of the three, this one felt the best baked, golden and easily attacked with a fork from top to bottom, the filling had good large flakes of Smoked Haddock with a mixture of mash and spinach playing a supporting role. The haddock had good flavour and the whole thing came alive on pouring the sweet mustard sauce. Of the three this was my favourite, something I wasn’t expecting when I had placed my order.

Then followed the Chicken, Ham Hock and Leek which unfortunately had a few problems with it, as can be seen from the pictures it was well-fired, too well-fired if truth be told as the poor scorched chick on top would attest to. In fact the general over baking transferred itself into the pie as well as I initially had thought I’d been given the pulled pork option in error as the meat within was dark and had the texture that slow cooking often brings. It wasn’t until my palate was hit with the flavour of leek that I felt sure it was the chicken I was consuming. I love a good chicken & ham pie so to say this was a disappointment would be fair, although it has to be said that the gravy that accompanies was best suited to my sweet potato fries side order.

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My final offering from the pastry gods was that heady combination of Scottish staples Haggis & Black Pudding accompanied by a light and tasty whisky cream sauce. The pie itself was tasty enough although was again subject to some over-baking, in fact I had to use the gravy to moisten the base so I could cut it with a knife and fork. Whilst tasty I felt it could’ve been so much more than some haggis and black pudding wrapped in pastry and on reflection looking at the pies as a whole I found myself maybe just a little bit disappointed with my trio. It’s worth noting that the neeps, topped with a treasure trail of salt and pepper, which at first seemed an odd thing to do, were splendid and the sweet potato fries are everything you would want them to be but sides do not make a pie alone.

I think the slightly frustrating thing for me was I could see the potential for this to be something really good. They have a good range of beers, plenty of space and a couple of alternatives in case you are some kind of maddie who doesn’t like pies.

The big question now is, would I go back? And for me the answer would have to be yes and here’s why. Yes, the pies may not have been the best I’ve ever had but I can see the method behind what the folk at Pie & Brew are trying to do, and (not to labour a point) the potential for a bar specialising in good pies & beer. If I can’t get on board with this then really I have to question everything I’ve ever written over the last few years. I am always willing to give the benefit of the doubt on the basis of one visit and I would hope that the second really does hit the mark.

Pros

  • Wide variety of pie based treats
  • Good range of beers (A beer pairing service for the pies could really take it up a notch)
  • High quality sides & sauces

Cons

  • A bit well fired

So that was Pie & Brew, room for improvement but far from a lost cause and a nice segue into this bold new era for Meat Filled Pastries. I’d love to hear what people think, is a less regular but solely pie based site the future? or do you want to see what else tickles my taste buds in Glasgow town and beyond? If you want to see what that could be all about then you can follow me on Instagram “@mershdoesglasgow”.

But for now, until next time, go forth and eat pie!

 

Chris Marshall, is a BJTC accredited Radio Journalist with an honours degree in Communications & Mass Media from Glasgow Caledonian University. He has contributed to prominent football sites including Pie & Bovril, The Terrace Podcast, The Football Pink and The FBA’s as well as featuring in The Scotsman, STV and a number of other media outlets. A perennial ‘Scottish Sporting Optimist’ with a passion for food that has manifest itself in the wonder that is Meat Filled Pastries.