We ate all the pies

By Alexia Santamaria

Pies have come a very long way from the flat, greasy petrol-station staple, finds Alexia Santamaria.

Mustard Kitchen pies - free range, fresh and "made with love". Photo / Jason Dorday
Mustard Kitchen pies - free range, fresh and "made with love". Photo / Jason Dorday

Despite our incredible culinary diversification, and the fact that hand-pulled Northern Chinese noodles, Thai larb and Korean bulgogi are now readily available in Auckland, our love for the great New Zealand pie does not seem to be diminishing.

There's nothing so comforting in these colder months as soft pastry wrapped around your favourite warm, saucy, savoury filling, whether that be braised goat and kumara or good old-fashioned steak and cheese.

It seems pies are no longer just something you grab from a gas station after a night out on the town. They range from $3 to more than $10 and there is a whole new gourmet sector evolving.

These are often made with high-end, often free range or organic, ingredients and are more of a meal than a grab-and-go option.

But no matter your leaning, or budget, there is a pie with your name on it somewhere in Auckland. We checked out mainly new pies, but also a few old favourites.

Posh Pies ($8-$11)

Little and Friday
Little and Friday needs no introduction, its baked goods and cookbook already have a large, loyal following. Little and Friday pies are at the top of the price scale but they're more of meal than a bite on the run - don't even contemplate eating them while driving.
If you're after filling, look no further - these are loaded to the brim with masses of free-range meat and veges and fillings such as chicken, bacon and leek, pulled pork and mince and cheese.

The puff pastry top sits high and proud, making it one of the tallest pies we've seen in these parts.

• Little and Friday, 43D Eversleigh Rd, Belmont and 12 Melrose St, Newmarket, littleandfriday.co.nz

Scratch Bakers
You won't find standard old mince pies at Scratch Bakers in Cityworks Depot. Think duck and sweet potato, chicken, leek and white wine, beef cheek and braised goat and other fancy flavours. The pastry is flaky so it is not tidy to eat but the pies are certainly large and generously filled.

Scratch Bakers' pies come out of the oven at 10am every day and are gaining increasing popularity with the media and advertising folk working nearby.

• Scratch Bakers, City Works Depot, 90 Wellesley St West, CBD, scratchbakers.co.nz



Nikki Ross' Heaven Scent pies are all about the filling. Photo / Doug Sherring

Heaven Scent
You may have had one of these at a festival or market, as that's where they started their life before finding a permanent home in a lovely light-filled cafe in the city - a truly gorgeous place to have lunch on a sunny day.

Nikki Ross is a trained chef and thinks pies should be all about what is inside the casing. For that reason, the cafe uses a simple thin shortcrust pastry and load it with fillings generous on chunky ingredients.

Blue cheese lovers will like their port wine, beef and blue cheese flavour and, for a touch of Asia, try the braised pork belly with shaoxing wine gravy. Flavours rotate to keep it interesting.

• Heaven Scent Food Co, St Patricks Square, CBD, heavenscentfoodco.co.nz

The Fridge cafe
The Fridge's pies have had a huge following almost from the day it opened eight years ago and current owner Suzanne Recchia has no plans to change the recipe.

They are flaky pastry top and bottom, made with lashings of butter, and the punters keep coming back.

The Fridge can only cook 20 or so at a time so they bake all day, meaning ultimate freshness. The top seller is chicken, creamy mushroom and pesto, but the cafe also does an interesting, mince, mozzarella and potato top in which the potato sits in, rather than on, the pie.

The secret to the decadence of the Fridge's mince and cheese and steak and cheese variants is the use of mozzarella to keep things gooey.

• The Fridge Cafe, 507 New North Rd, Kingsland, TheFridgeCafe on Facebook

Mid Range ($5-$7.50)



Madeline Marie Clarke, owner of cute Kingsland cafe the Mustard Kitchen. Photo / Jason Dorday

The Mustard Kitchen
Madeline Clarke's little Morningside cafe has had a lot of attention in the short six months it's been open and the pies are one of the big drawcards.

They have a "made with love" rustic feel - as does everything in this unassuming lunch bar - and the pastry is light and not too oily. The free-range fillings are all fresh with just enough gravy to balance.

"We try to make our pies as real as possible, rather than just full of jelly-like substance. People want actual food now, not processed stuff," says Clarke. People-watching is fun here, too - a mix of tradies and trendier Kingsland folk.

• The Mustard Kitchen, 5 Morningside Drive, Morningside, The Mustard Kitchen on Facebook

Celia's Pies
Celia Hay is the founder of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine and the pie shop is located at the bottom of her school.

As you'd expect, these are well-thought out pies; the fat content has even been cut down using a kiwifruit enzyme alongside the butter in the pastry.

Lamb features strongly at Celia's Pies - even in the mince versions - and the meat comes from her own farm so it's certainly very traceable.

If lamb's not your thing there is also curried chicken, beef osso bucco, smoked fish, vegetarian, and bacon and egg.

• Celia's Pies, 104B Customs St West, Auckland Viaduct, celiaspies.co.nz

The Food Room
The sign at the counter says "Best Pies in Town", and we certainly were impressed by what they have to offer.

These pretty pies had perhaps the best pastry of all we tried and the generous fillings were full of flavour.

All the standard flavours work well, especially the chicken varieties, and for something different there's the huffer pie with mince and extras like sour cream, Tabasco sauce and jalapenos.

We understand this is the work of Angelo Georgalli, who also set up the Fridge in Kingsland. Despite new owners in both places, his recipes and pie legacy remains wherever he goes.

• The Food Room, 250 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, thefoodroom.co.nz

Farro Fresh
We weren't the only people crowding around the busy bakery section of Farro Fresh in Grey Lynn on a Saturday morning.

Its pies seem very popular, especially the ones made on-site. It uses Paneton pastry and free-range chicken, plus great quality Hawke's Bay beef for the mince.

The smoked fish pie has a huge pastry top, with a large baked F. According to chef Fraser Slack, it's the favourite among Farro Fresh customers.

• Farro Fresh, 34 Westmoreland St West, Grey Lynn, farrofresh.co.nz

Crafty Baker
Crafty Baker's pies are a reason to stop by Glen Eden if you're out west. Lee Morgan has been baking since he was 14 and the family make their pies using organic butter they churn themselves on-site.

The pastry contains Zany Zeus organic sour cream and all fillings are either free-range or organic. The mince and cheese has a chunkier rough-chopped texture and a layer of cream cheese as well as the regular tasty cheese. It has an excellent range of vegetarian pies, too, such as cashew, red bean, carrot, celery and mushroom with great spices and flavours.

• Crafty Baker, 115 West Coast Rd, Glen Eden (only Thursday to Sunday), craftybaker.co.nz

Old School (under $5)



John Williams of Muzza's Pies. Photo / Jason Dorday

Muzza's Pies
Muzza's is an Auckland institution for old school pies. Owner John Williams (pictured above) has been the baker since Muzza, his nephew, started up in a different location in 1990; he took over operations in 1997.

Williams has one customer, now in his 80s, who has been coming weekly for 24 years through all locations.

Production is very open - right behind the counter, so you see your pies being made by the super-friendly and chatty staff. Pastry is made on-site and meat comes from the good folk at Westmere butcher.

These are good old Kiwi pies Williams has been making for 40 years. They make them as fast as they can sell them so they are never long out of the oven. They do some nice, simple fruit pies too.

• Muzza's Pies, 55 Richardson Rd, Owairaka.

Mairangi Bay Bakery
Tina Yi and Vong Hean have made it their business to know what Kiwis like in a pie. Short crust on the bottom, flaky on the top, with a mix of the standards and more exotic flavours such as chicken and cranberry and beef cheek, cheese and pepper - all nicely executed.

They've picked up a few awards over the years in the Bakels National Pie Awards, too, including this year. The pies aren't as loaded with free-range meat and organic veges as some of their pricier counterparts, but they're a great example of an old-school Kiwi bakery standard. Perfect for an easy post-Saturday sport lunch at the beautiful beach across the road.

• Mairangi Bay Bakery, 366 Beach Rd, Mairangi Bay.

Supreme pie winner

A lamb cutlet and kumara mash pie from The Clareville Bakery in Carterton, Wairarapa, was judged as the country's best pie last weekend at the 2014 Bakels New Zealand Supreme Pie Awards. Lauded for its "succulent taste and balance of ingredients", it was baked by Michael Kloeg.

• For more information on other winners, go to: nzbakels.co.nz

- Herald on Sunday

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