The restaurant brings pies – and curry flavoured popcorn – to the Northern Quarter.
Even the most committed Yankophile would raise an eyebrow at the “special relationship” America been has been pursuing with our cities’ restaurants in recent months. From Free State Kitchen’s pulled pork “sammie” to the syrup-soaked pancake stack served up at Moose Coffee and Byron’s undeniably delicious burgers, we’re smitten with stateside cooking. But don’t start reciting a Pledge of Allegiance to the onion ring just yet because British food is fighting back, albeit without the have-a-nice-day paraphernalia. Manchester’s glitziest restaurant, The French is all about British cuisine and the rise of the boutique tea house has made the humble brew cool again. And while we’re not saying that Almost Famous’ kitchen fire was anything other than a freak accident, it might just suggest that someone up there has had their fill of burgers too…
If anyone can lure us away from the mac’n’cheese, it’s Pieminister. Offering artisan pies and substantial sides (their scotch eggs are handmade and come with a smoky bacon dip – bog standard picnic fare this ain’t), the Bristol chain opens its newest restaurant in the Northern Quarter. “Pies have been making a strong comeback in the past couple of years,” says manager Ben White. “The American diners are really popular but I think people still enjoy traditional British food.” Although the menu doesn’t stray far from tried-and-tested pie fillings, Pieminister isn’t afraid to twist tradition. Fresh tarragon, chestnut mushrooms and asparagus give old favourites a thoughtful edge and the steak and kidney pie is reimagined as the Kate and Sidney, bolstered with a real ale sauce. Care is also given to the pastry: satisfyingly crumbly with none of the stodginess that plagues many a subpar pie. For vegetarians, the Heidi (sweet potato, cheese and spinach) uses Somerset goats’ cheese and boasts a seal of approval from the Vegetarian Society.
Tarragon, chestnut mushrooms and asparagus give old favourites a thoughtful edge
Housed in the former White Label Clothing shop on Church Street, Pieminister has all the sleek lighting and artfully exposed brickwork it needs to make for an agreeable pit stop between desk and bar, as well as the laidback feel (and price range) to market itself as a student friendly eatery. The restaurant also does takeaway, giving you the satisfaction of transporting your pie home in a recycled cardboard box.
Pieminister has a similarly eco-minded approach to its ingredients. “We use free range meat and organic vegetables,” says White. “Our gourmet pork scratchings also go really well and they’re only served in Manchester and the main Bristol restaurant.” The Church Street outlet’s selection of snacks has also been adapted to suit an adventurous Mancunian diner: curry flavoured popcorn, anyone? Pieminister’s specialty popcorn changes every week, with cheese on toast and chocolate flavours coming soon. For the more conservative palate, the pie-and-ale marriage is honoured with a selection of cider and craft beer from Bristol Beer Factory.
Pieminister may not be able to compete with fellow gourmet pie makers, Pie & Ale in the hipster stakes but its commitment to local ingredients and a tendency for christening its pies with silly names (a fish pie called the Pietanic is one of its more inspired puns) is enough to make it another solid Northern Quarter eatery. Pieminister, you have done your country proud.