1296 Pacific Hwy, Cowan, New South Wales
The Pie in the Sky is a bit of a legendary pie shop, operating for almost 30 years on a site on the old Pacific Highway, a winding two-lane road that used to be the only way to travel north of Sydney before the opening of the F3 freeway. The place is nestled on top of a cliff overlooking the freeway below, and across a vast panorama of eucalypt forest in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, across to the Hawkesbury River.
It’s a favourite weekend hangout for motorcycle riders and vintage and sports car drivers, who prefer the scenery and thrills of the old road over the bland freeway. We arrived at lunch time on a Sunday, to find the car park area almost full to overflowing with motorbikes and fancy cars. Fortunately we located a spot that must have just been vacated, and joined the queue, a good 40 people long, to buy our lunch.
Pies are the main specialty here, and they also do a range of fruit pies for desserts, but they do have a sausage roll offering, so I grabbed one of those, plus a lamb, honey, garlic, and chilli pie to round out the lunch meal. A tiny cake display inside had a few lonesome looking muffins and some caramel slices, but no vanilla slice. Nevertheless, we chose a table out the side, in a shady spot with a bit of a view through the crowd of other hungry patrons to the outlook over the national park below.
The sausage roll is of average size and has a smoothly glazed pastry showing some spalling of the layers, leaving a bit of a split down one side. It looks a little plain, but the first bite releases an explosion of peppery flavour. The meat filling is very hot and spicy, with loads of black pepper. The meat appears to be beef, moist and acceptably meaty, with no evidence of filler, however it has a slightly unappealing greyish colour. It tastes okay, like a strong pepper steak – so it’s fortunate that I like pepper steak.
A close examination reveals some chopped green herbs, and very small pieces of onion, so finely chopped that I missed them at first. There’s also a dense sprinkling of black dots throughout the meat, evidence of the vast quantity of freshly ground black pepper that must have gone into the batch of meat before they began rolling it into pastry. The pastry is light and very thin, almost secondary to the overwhelming flavour of the meat. It’s not greasy at all, and is quite nice and acceptably flaky. It’s perfectly fine pastry – it just is really very thin, so takes a definite back seat to the complexity of the filling. Overall, this is squarely on the good side of acceptable, assuming you like your beef really peppery, but doesn’t rise to any great heights.
Coda: The lamb, honey, garlic, and chilli pie was excellent.
Sausage roll: 7/10.