1-1a Brown St, Newtown, New South Wales
I’d been wanting to visit this place ever since I first heard about it. They do a big line in pies, as one might expect from the name – both the savoury, meaty Australian sort, and sweet dessert types. The establishment is tucked away in a little side street off Newtown’s bustling King Street restaurant and university student shopping strip. If you didn’t know it was here, you’d probably never notice it unless you are a local to the area.
On a sunny winter Sunday I sought out the address and ventured into the old brick building, painted a neat light grey on the outside. The interior is funky and modern, with two large display cases arranged at right angles. The right one contains hot savoury pies of several different varieties, while the left contains sweet pies. Some of the hot pies on offer include: steak, cheese, and smokey bacon; lamb and rosemary; smokey beef brisket and mushroom; Sicilian style chilli lovers sausage and white bean; creamy chicken with hot seeded mustard and mushrooms; vegetable and lentil; sweet roasted duck with Cointreau and seasonal vegetables. While the sweet section has: Black Forest meringue; whipped lime; brown butter pecan; American style pumpkin; banoffee; creamy coconut custard; lemon brulee; Mississippi mud; and “the apple pie that ate Newtown” – an apple pie roughly the size of a car tyre, I kid you not.
There are no cakes or slices here, alas, but lurking on the bottom rack of the hot pie section are several sausage rolls. Not mere sausage rolls, they are labelled as “lamb roll with spinach and pine nuts”. Naturally, I ask for one, and since it’s lunch time, I add a smokey beef brisket pie to the order. The roll and pie are delivered to eat in on prison style aluminium plates. Not particularly appealing, but I put this down to the funky student vibe of the neighbourhood.
I take a table and examine the roll. The exterior looks nicely cooked, with a golden brown pastry exterior and an intriguingly juicy looking nub of meat poking out the end. Upon picking up the roll for a first bite, a clear brothy jus drips out of the lower end on to the plate. The meat inside this roll is no dried out hunk of sausage mince; it is an impressively juicy construction of lamb mixed with the aforementioned spinach and pine nuts. A bite or two reveals more ingredients: there are chunks of feta cheese mixed into the meat, and also small juicy berries adding a welcome touch of sweetness. I think they might be cranberries, or possibly juniper berries, but it’s hard to be sure.
The meat is absolutely delicious. I’ve eaten a lot of lamb dishes, and this is lamb treated with respect and in a way I’ve seldom seen equalled before. This is a dish you could cook and serve to your girlfriend’s parents if you want to impress them. It’s juicy and spicy and oozing with flavour – quite literally, as more of the hot meat juices drip onto the plate as I eat. This is like your grandmother’s Sunday roast lamb on steroids. It may well be the most fantastic filling I have ever encountered in a sausage roll anywhere.
The one niggling detail is the pastry. It’s not bad, but the bottom half of the roll is decidedly soggy from the sheer juiciness of the enclosed meat, and it sloughs off like the skin of a shedding snake as I make my way through the halfway point of the roll. The non-soggy top half of the pastry is serviceable, but the bottom is a write-off. I’m hovering between a score of 9 or 10… But honestly, I can forgive any and all sins associated with this filling.
I finish the roll and then, with a semi-sigh, move on to my brisket and mushroom pie – sad because I feel like I should have just ordered two of the rolls. Though it turns out the pie is delicious too. Visit The Pie Tin if you can. You will not be disappointed.
Although there was no vanilla slice on offer, I examined the sweet pie section for anything with vanilla custard in it.
The closest was the creamy coconut custard pie, but I deemed this just too far away to even qualify for an honourable “vanilla slice” status. However, I did get a slice of the intriguing Black Forest meringue for consumption at home later. This was just like a traditional lemon meringue, but with a chocolate and cherry filling in a chocolate biscuit base.
Chocolate and cherry is, as is well known, the perfect flavour combination, and the chocolate parts of the pie were great. The meringue too was excellent; light and fluffy and gratifyingly sweet. The trouble was the combination. Meringue needs something tart like lemon to offset its sugary sweetness, and the Black Forest combo just wasn’t up to it. Together the flavours merged into a miasma of overpowering sweetness. I ended up eating the meringue separately and then eating the Black Forest pie underneath. This way it was quite good – but the two should never have been combined into one dish.
Sausage roll: 10/10
Black Forest meringue pie: 5/10