One of the most recent foodie launches in Cardiff is the fantastically named Pie Minister, which opened a couple of months ago on St Mary’s Street. I was only vaguely aware of the Pie Minister brand before this – possibly due to the fact that one of the things they are most famous for is serving up pies and mash at festivals, whilst one of the things I am most famous for is being one of the least likely people ever to attend a festival! I did feel, however, that I’d been missing out, and on reading the Pie Minister story on their website, it transpires that they have an impressive history and are now known for a lot more than festivals, with their pies being available in Waitrose and at farmers’ markets as well as their numerous restaurants. They are a fun and innovative brand, and I liked what I read on the website about their ethos and personality, which reminded me a little bit of one of my favourites, Cook.
My first visit to Cardiff’s Pie Minister was with fellow food blogger Bev from Eats for Wales, but as our visit came after an evening spent working our way through the cocktail menu in a local drinking establishment, I wasn’t really in the best frame of mind to blog about it, so Mr W and I visited again recently and I had a much clearer head with which to take in the finer details.
The menu is a simple one, featuring mostly pies, a few pots (pies without pastry!) and lighter option pies. There are a few nibbly type starters and light bites, but we went straight for the main event and had a Pie Feast each: any pie or pot with two side orders (we decided to share a selection of four different sides).
I chose the Free Ranger – I was attracted by the name as I’m very fussy about chicken and will only eat it if I know it’s good quality, but it turns out that all Pie Minister meat is free range, so a big tick in that box. The Free Ranger is filled with chicken and ham hock with leek and thyme. Mr W went for a Shamrock: British beef steak and Irish stout. He was tempted by the Moo and Blue – British beef steak with Long Clawson blue stilton – but was concerned it might be overpoweringly stiltony. I’d actually had this one on my first visit so was able to confirm that it did indeed have a strong stilton flavour. This made up Mr W’s mind for him – even though, for me, this was a big positive as all too often, stilton in a beef pie is completely undiscernible and I like a strong flavour, but it wasn’t good news for him!
Each pie is served with a jug of gravy, and for our side dishes, we chose macaroni cheese, skin on chips, cauliflower cheese and minted mushy peas. We tried to have some homemade slaw as well, but unfortunately they’d sold out.
Let’s start with the good bit: the pies. As you’d hope for a pie shop, the pies were really good. The pastry is crisp and buttery, and the fillings generous with plenty of meat. I didn’t enjoy my Free Ranger quite as much as the Moo and Blue I’d had before, but mainly because the accompanying gravy just didn’t work very well with the creamy sauce in the chicken pie, so the overall experience was a tad on the dry side, as the pies seem to be designed to be eaten as a takeaway just as easily as with a knife and fork, so they’re not overly generous on internal sauce.
As for the sides, this was a mixed bag. The chips were fine, but nothing particularly special. The minted mushy peas were the best of the bunch, not least because it was nice to have something vegetabley amongst so many starchy carbs! The same unfortunately couldn’t be said for the cauliflower cheese, which was undercooked, incredibly dry and lacking in any obvious sauce, with only a sprinkling of cheese on top. The macaroni cheese was much better in the sauce department but had a strange tangy taste to it which may just have been very strong cheddar, but ended up giving the dish a bit of an artificial taste. Big plus points, however, for the fact it’s called macaroni cheese – as opposed to mac ‘n’ cheese or macaroni ‘n’ cheese, which seem to be creeping unnecessarily in to British menus with alarming frequency these days.
I had a glass of homemade ginger beer with fresh lime, which I really enjoyed – and which is not for the faint hearted as the ginger was quite fiery! It was a big glassful, too, which you’d hope for £3.80! Pie Minister only serve three wines: Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Rose (we’re not sure what type of Rose!) and Mr W had a glass of the former which was drinkable – just! At least this time it was in a proper wine glass; my Pinot on my previous visit had come in a tumbler! Admittedly, it’s not really a wine-drinking type venue and there is a big selection of craft beers, ciders and ales on the menu, so we’d probably have done better to have one of those instead.
Service was very friendly – you order your food and drinks at the bar, so the interaction with staff is fairly minimal, but the ones we saw seemed enthusiastic and cheerful enough. We didn’t have a pudding, as I was hoping that there might be some sweet pies, or at least some traditional British puddings on the menu, but most of the options were ice cream-based, so we gave it a miss.
I wouldn’t rush to go back to Pie Minister for a sit down meal, as the casual ambience and straightforward service is not really my cup of tea (see above re festivals!) – but if it’s yours, you’ll probably love it, so please don’t take my word for it! As something a bit different for a group of friends or colleagues, it could be a fun experience, and the Pie Feast offer is very reasonably priced for the amount of food you get. I would consider going back there for a takeaway pie for lunch, as the pies themselves were really good, and there are others on the menu that I’d still like to try.
I was sent two Pie Feast vouchers to visit Pie Minister as a guest, and as such our food was complimentary; we paid for our own drinks.
Pie Minister,35 St Mary Street, Cardiff CF10 1AD