craven cottage

Pie 66: The Fulham ‘Steak’ Pie

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Down by the Riverside...
Down by the RiversPie…

It has taken nearly 16 hours of sleep and general slovenliness today but finally it is time to say welcome back to Meat Filled Pastries and Pie 66 on my quest to tell you about the best pies around. Today’s malaise has been brought as a result of a couple of days spent in London with the Tartan Army. This particular adventure took me to Craven Cottage a ground I have always wanted to visit for its refusal to turn itself into a cantilever carbon copy of so many grounds in the Premiership. The cottage in the corner with its 72-seat capacity, its sudden emergence from the heart of west London’s leafy suburbia and the river bubbling by at the side of the stand all designed to endear the ground to football traditionalists everywhere. At this stage I should probably confess this review may come across as a little fuzzy as a 7am flight from Glasgow meant that come kick off time at 8pm the same day I was rather well lubricated. I’ve also made the assumption that this pie would be the same pie provided should I attend an actual Fulham game, as I’m not sure if there is a long history of meat filled pastries in Nigerian culture.

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

Where: Craven Cottage, Nigeria v Scotland, International Friendly

Price: Considering Craven Cottage’s location in one of the more affluent areas of one of the most expensive cities in the world it should come as no surprise that this pie left a sizeable dent in your wallet. That dent was to the tune of £3.80, the equivalent of about 3 Scottish Junior Pies! Despite my suspicions being proven correct it still prompted an ‘Excuse Me!?’ (the language may have been tidied up a bit here), as the young chap behind the counter opened the till.

Presentation: I wonder if they would have knocked a pound of the price if I had just asked for a napkin?!? This pie was pimped. First at the base was a small cardboard holder producing additional shielding from the heat generated at the base of the pie transferring itself to the tinfoil case it was sitting within. Slotted between the cardboard holder and the tin foil case was a square of picnic-like greaseproof paper, totally superfluous to the consumption of the pie itself in that it did not help to hold the pie nor clean your face after its consumption, however, this was not the most ridiculous thing about it. Oh no, that was reserved for the plastic fork plonked, and I mean plonked, directly into the middle of the pie!

A B#**@@”ING FORK! Do the delicate digits of the nearby Belgravians not appreciate getting down and dirty when it comes to eating a pie? Look girls, take off the silk gloves, tuck in your pearls, get your hands on this meaty marvel and get right set about it, if you get a bit of gravy on your chin then wipe it off with the napkin provided and then touch up your make up in the closest WC. DO NOT EAT A PIE AT THE FOOTBALL WITH A B#**@@”ING FORK. I challenge anyone to try to eat a pie with a plastic fork and see how long you last before your throwing it away in anger and getting elbow deep in your pastry.

Meatiness: This is probably where this review is going to go downhill a bit as it is at this point that my review notes stop and my memory will have to come in to play, so I apologise for what may be about to follow. Reviewing my notes I am able to tell you that the meat inside was formed by large chunks of steak, my preference when eating a luxury steak pie, but from here though it’s a struggle. I’m assuming there was an abundance of gravy as when I woke up in the morning a gravy smattered napkin was in my jumper pocket and I do remember thinking that the pie was well seasoned within. Whether or not it was £3.80 worth of well seasoned? Well, a second trip may be required.

Pastry: Now for some reason I have a pretty good memory of the pastry. The top of the pie was a thick-ish layer of puff pastry, the kind of puff where you can noticeably see the layers and it flaked nicely as I bit down. The top of the filling and the bottom of the top crust mixed well and although there were a couple of spillages more than likely down to my compromised dexterity the pie held together well throughout. The edge of the crust where the walls and top met were a little thick for my liking, a minor grumble but that thick edging would have no doubt broken any plastic fork that attempted to break it down.

Overall: A good but pricey steak pie that kept this drunk man’s hunger at bay. It was presented like a box of chocolates and it would be remiss of me not to say that eating a pie by the riverside was how I’d like all my pie tastings to be. There was no scotch offering but that was to be expected.

Gravy Factor: Look, you just don’t eat gravy with a fork no matter how luxuriously it’s priced!

Another pie done, I’m almost tempted to call this a bonus pie, purely on the basis that I wasn’t expecting to remember it sufficiently for a coherent review but I think I’ve done a pretty good job considering. There’s still a few more pie reviews to come before things kick off in Rio at which point I’ll be taking a break from the pie chat for a few weeks.

However until, next time go forth an eat pie!

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Pie 65: The Scottish Cup Final ‘Steak & Ale’ Pie

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But that's not a Pie!
But that’s not a Pie!

Hello and welcome to Meat Filled Pastries, all about the pastry of all pastries the humble pie. This latest review comes from The Scottish Cup Final at Celtic Park between St. Johnstone and Dundee United and as you may have already noticed I have had a camera related mishap when it comes to the capturing the one bite expose that graces every review I do. Put simply I haven’t saved it. I took it. I know I did because I remember looking at the picture and thinking what a tiny looking bite I had taken but alas as I went to upload it there was no picture to be found. That however doesn’t mean there will be no pie review.  I ate a pie and you need to hear about it so instead of a pie glistening in the sun you have my view from the stands as Dave Mackay lifted the trophy for the first time in St. Johnstone’s 130 year history.

The other thing to make you aware of is that I have broken my own rules by not having a simple scotch pie on my first visit to Celtic Park since this blog has started. Instead as a fitting tribute to the celebratory feel that the cup final provided I dived head first into the luxury market safe in the knowledge that I will return to Celtic Park soon as a member of the Tartan Army.

So it’s a luxury steak and ale offering this time round, so without much further ado, let’s rate some pie!

Where: Celtic Park, St Johnstone v Dundee United, Scottish Cup Final

Price: At £2.90 this pie certainly had a price that matched its luxury status with only Pie: 36, The Hampden Curry Pie, being more expensive on my journey so far. There was an option to combine as part of a meal deal which would save you 10p or so overall but I ignored this option. Even with a potential 10p deduction this pie had some pricey expectations to meat, and yes I am aware I’ve spelt ‘meet’ wrong but sometimes a pie pun is too good to miss. Moving on….

Presentation: Before I actually get to the pie itself I feel I should let you know how this pie arrived in my paw. Whilst standing in a queue that was clearly going nowhere fast I noticed a refreshment hut solely devoted to pies. I booming love this idea as I approached the counter there was no queue and I was served straight away. Obviously I was delighted to have my hands on some hot pie but saddened that the chips, burgers, hot dogs and even pizzas (which looked rotten by the way) brigade continue to force their way into the football snacking market. It wasn’t just that though there was also indian and mexican food stands each offering their own alternatives to our grizzly pie faced veteran. Some will say variety is the spice of life and, in general, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement but a football ground is not where you should experience your first taste of cuisines from around the world, it was all just a bit annoying. As for the pie itself it was presented in a tin foil case with a slightly larger than normal napkin, pretty standard although I couldn’t hep but notice the sheer size of it and suddenly £2.90 didn’t seem too bad at all.

Meatiness: Recently I have found the steak pies I have been offered have shied away from the tender meaty chunks approach of pie preferring a texture closer to the cheaper scotch pie equivalents, on this occasion however I am happy to report the return of the meaty chunks. It’s these chunks of pull apart tender steak that really make these pies worthy of the luxury name. There can be no debate about the fact you are eating meat and it means the gravy, that was well seasoned with a lovely malty background taste from the ale, can truly wrap itself around the chunks and be assessed independently in its own right as i have jsut done. This was a really tasty pie and as I have alluded to earlier the filling inside was generous to the extreme, this was no four bite wonder but a full ten minutes of happily nibbling away.

Pastry: The pastry was a classic puff all the way round with the top hanging over the edges of the tin foil case in which it resided. This however caused a problem with the lid coming clean off after a couple of bites, something which I will do if a pie is presented to me on a plate but not the most convenient of things when standing in a football ground. Luckily my years of pie eating experience meant that I could strategically place each bite so that by the end I was left with only a small mound of meat to scoop up with my fingers. The pastry was lovely although a few knobs of butter short of being truly great but given the volume of the meat it provided a well judged counter to the richness within. This pastry was far more than a receptacle for the meat inside.

Overall: I really liked this pie, especially the additional of ale in the gravy. The malty notes it gives when mixed with the chunks of gravy are a taste sensation that all pie lovers should at least get to try once. It was huge and  although still a bit pricey by the time I finished eating I certainly didn’t feel short-changed. The top was loose but what was inside more than made up for it, maybe not quite the best ‘Steak & Ale’ pie I’ve had but as an overall package I would certainly have it again.

Gravy Factor: Chunky Ale Gravy! Yum!

A pie certainly worthy of a cup final, my next review, alcohol intake permitting, will be from Craven Cottage as Scotland take on Nigeria. I’m disappointed that the Michael Jackson statue will not be there to pose beside but a Tartan Army trip away is always an adventure not to be missed.

However until nest time, go forth, and eat pie!