What would his nannan think?
She created what she believed was the recipe for the perfect pie decades ago. Her secret was the dense, pillowy pastry she created by using a 50-50 mix of plain and self-raising flour.
It must have delighted her that grandson Alex Westnidge loved what he called Nannan’s Fluff Pies so much, when he got the chance to open his own cafe in January, he turned to her recipe.
Alex, a trained chef who worked at Mount St Mary’s College and Hardwick Hall, makes all his pies the way Nannan Shirley did – with a thick, golden, almost pizza-like crust. He even named his place Cafe Pie in homage.
It’s a quirky little place with a retro feel – seaside cafe-style cream and red fixed tables and bucket seats. I loved the red plastic tomato-shaped ketchup bottles on every table.
There’s a Yorkshire theme – from the locally-sourced ingredients to the decor. Rows of Hendo’s bottles, displayed like ornaments, vie for attention with local-themed illustrations by Sheffield artist Matthew Cockayne – and collages of the Sheffield Star. Our rag has even been used to papier mâché a vase of flowers.
But just four months from opening, sacrilege... He’s thinking of tampering with Shirley’s recipe. Some customers love his pies – sold for a bargain £4.95 in steak and kidney, meat and potato and chicken and ham varieties, each with gravy and mushy peas or braised red cabbage infused with Henderson’s relish. But some don’t. Is Nannan’s Fluff Pie the best they’ve ever sunk their teeth into? It’s 50-50.
He’s wondering whether to go with a thinner, crispy pastry. My husband would urge him to err on the side of caution, though.
The whopping chicken, ham and leek version he manfully munched through when we reviewed Alex’s dinky, Yorkshire-themed Walkley cafe was his idea of perfection.
Tender, moist chunks of chicken and ham in a savoury brown gravy with soft, thick pastry; delicious, he said. Ditto the “proper” mushy peas.
Knowing I couldn’t wade through a pie, I perused blackboards of breakfasts, daily soup and quiche specials, hot and cold sandwiches (from £2, BBQ pulled pork £3.95) and comfort food classics like corned beef hash and sausage and mash and chose the Wensleydale Rarebit and a £1 plate of chips.
It was pricy at £5.95, but it came with a classy side salad of cherry tomatoes and spinach, chunky coleslaw and sticky red onion chutney, both hand-made.
The portion was huge – two sides of a large brown breadcake – and there was plenty of cheese, but it could have done with a few more minutes under the grill.
Bet his nannan would have told him that, too.
Tea and a Cafeology coffee (£1.20 each) brought the bill to £14.30.