Sustainable, ethical, natural, but above all thoroughly delicious. Pieminister lands in Manchester.
Pieminister, 53 Church Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1PD (opposite Black Dog Ballroom)
The student diner demands high standards in this day and age of the British food renaissance where provenance awareness, animal welfare, and quality are paramount in many outlets’ manifesto. These in minds, an eight month old venture in the Northern Quarter caught our attention—enter Pieminister.
It seems a pretty straight forward concept, but co-founders John and Tristan and Manchester franchise owners Ben and Graham White are trying their hands at projecting an entire culinary and lifestyle philosophy through the medium of the pie. The word we’d heard on the street was good but nothing beats first-hand experience, so off we went to investigate whether Pieminister’s vision materialised on the plate.
First and foremost is to address the food. The whole thing is about the pie, and so they would have to be pretty much flawless, if not the whole idea would be compromised; the menu makes impressive reading—eight of the eleven pies on the menu hold national pie awards, the only ones yet to adorn a crown are the new ones which are yet to compete.
Now, there seems to be a skilful blend of tradition and innovation, beef is paired with chorizo, there is venison and dry cured bacon, furthermore a reflection of the social awareness of Pieminister, centre stage is the ‘Heidi’ vegetarian pie made up of goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion.
All pies can be served on their own (hot or cold) but there are an array of sides and toppings to turn a solitary pie into a multifaceted feast. ‘The Mothership’ meal deal is a pie, mash, and gravy, with minty mushy peas, and sprinkled with grated cheddar and crispy shallots—for £7.95 this is either a massive lunch or a substantial supper. Being gluttons we went for the mighty ‘Mothership’ and I must report some remarkable findings.
With all Northern Quarter style and flare, the pie-centricity of this entire outfit, and impressive display of red ribbons attached to their pies we were expecting nothing short of wonderment. That is what we got; butter pasty walls and a suet lid makes for a nice contrast in texture and appearance, the fillings are chunky and discernible—no homogeneous gloop in sight, and I can’t resist saying ‘no soggy bottoms’.
The Heidi is really a sort of Greek tart in pie form and initial doubt was cast as the whether these flavours would pair with gravy but all concerns were abated as the different elements married nicely. We tried too the Spanish inspired Matador Pie; the chorizo was spicy and cut through the rich gravy and buttery mash. Pastry, potato, and boozy gravy can be all a little too sweet, and the masterstroke in this pie is the inclusion of olives—their saltiness balances everything out just lovely. The Matador has a little kick of spice and certainly is a triumph of fusion cuisine. Third we sampled the big selling Deerstalker, a venison, bacon, red wine, and puy lentil concoction highlights the innovation of Pieminister once more; this pie is very rich and a slight criticism could be angled that the cured bacon was not pronounced enough amidst the other powerful flavours.
Alas, not to forget the extras, as they were happily not just a tokenistic sideshow. The mash was rich and creamy, the peas were a dream—not puréed but left chunky with a good heft of mint. The crunchy shallots offer a much needed texture variation amidst the soft peas, spud, gravy, and pie filling.
This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of the menu however! Combinations of ham hock, chicken, leeks, and mushrooms account for the, ‘Free Ranger’, Wild shroom’, and ‘Chicken of Aragon’, the latter crowned champion at the British Pie Awards. Of the 11 pies there are 3 vegetarian options, plus a MSC certified mash topped smoked haddock, salmon, pollock, and prawn pie for the hearty sea lover.
We had, before our Pieminister experience, consigned this place to a lunch-time specialist, but in actual fact, being open until 8pm and serving booze and bar snacks (the pork scratching and apple sauce were of the highest crunchy, salty and unhealthy calibre), Pieminister is a dinner and supper venue boasting a small but elite selection of beer and cider to supplement and compliment your feast.
The food in undoubtedly the essential thing here, but of course it wouldn’t be the Northern Quarter without an interior exuding style and atmosphere. The industrial chic, reclaimed school chairs, the exposed brick, enamel crockery, and fluorescent wall feature add up to make this the epitome of the pie and mash shop for the twenty first century.
The one thing I felt was missing however was any attention paid to the health conscious punter, as nothing puts on love handles quite like pastry. Yet my questioning was met by a confident rebuttal; there were in fact a range of new pies that are in the process of becoming menu staples that had a ‘calorie count’ of 440 per pie, which for a whole pie with pastry on all sides is rather quite decent. There is also a new salad creation being designed for the summer.
Pieminister has entered a very competitive market of casual, informal eateries in the NQ and no doubt people have loyalties, but I must say, Pieminister is value for money, substantial and filling fare, a neat blend of tradition and culinary innovation, and made from ingredients that are sourced responsibly and conscientiously.
There really is no reason why you shouldn’t pop on up and get your 10% student discount at this quite excellent addition to the Manchester foodie landscape.