AN hour or two in Walkey is a goldmine to any reporter with a quest for colour and an itchy notebook.
You only have to walk down South Road, from the Curl Up and Dye hairdressers to the Good Mourning shop for bereavement charities (yes, I had to read the facia twice) and pause at the windows of the Albert Ross Salvage Emporium (open only Saturdays) and those pages are filling up.
The road may be one gigantic puddle after the rain but some bits of this Sheffield suburb have a swagger.
Beeches, home of the “Secret Sheffield Sausage,” proclaims itself to the world as “the inner city farm shop of the Walkley Quarter.”
Now here’s a bit of drama: Steve’s hairdressers’ is closed. An obviously painfully handwritten note in the window explains: “Sorry, closed till Friday. I broke my finger on Monday.”
We are on a way to the Perfect Pie café (no ifs or buts about that name, then) which is on the corner with Palm Street, windows all misted up with the steam from chicken and mushroom, steak pies and Cornish pasties.
For anyone who remembers Butler’s on Brook Hill and its Cow Pie, the windows permanently steamy around dinner time, this is a good sign.
I open the door and am instantly met by the sight of rows of pies in foil containers, the Zombies on the radio and two blondes behind the counter. Three-nil and I haven’t eaten anything yet!
“That’s my favourite group,” I say to the younger of the two (the place is owned by Jane Furniss and her daughter Jenna) as she recites what pies they have.
I select the steak and ale which comes as a wedge from a quiche dish and find a place to sit.
Most of the café is made up of two rows of three red and cream Seventies-style bench sets, which Jane bought on eBay. On each is a plastic tray holding condiments: plastic red and brown squeezie sauce bottles, placed upside down in readiness, and Henderson’s Relish.
Blackboards list hot and cold sandwiches and a roast of the day with requests to “Like us on Facebook.” In the corner stands a metal pastry mixer.
This is an exploratory visit and I haven’t quite cracked the Perfect Pie formula. Just order a pie, all priced at £2.95, and that’s what you get (with baked beans and gravy).
Pie, chips, peas and gravy is £3.95 while the homemade pie dinner, at £4.95, with mash, vegetables and gravy, is in very manly proprtions.
My steak and ale is highly satisfactory, with a good filling, flaky pastry top and more substantial shortcrust pastry bottom. Now that’s care for you.
In front of the pies were little brown and beige cakes like Catherine wheels and I ask for one of those. They call these wagon wheels. Do I want it hot, with custard? Oh yes, so that’s £5.45 altogether.
It comes completely submerged in custard so I spoon it off to reveal the shortbready wagon wheel beneath. Filling.
Reassured of its pie credentials, I return the following week with my wife. Jane has taken the day off and in her place is Clare Hillon, who works there some days with mum Lil.
This time we have the chicken and mushroom with chips, peas and gravy, and the meat and potato with mash and veg.
Both are individual pies and the chicken and mushroom, in a white sauce, is very tasty meat within a flaky pastry.
The meat and potato is good shortcrust pastry containing a nicely robust filling which almost doesn’t need Henderson’s.
Of course, I give it a splash because that is what you do.
There are vegetables of almost every description, from sprouts to carrots and green beans and
I just manage to put myself on the outside of them all.
What we’ve eaten confirms that, for the price, this is indeed a place well named. It’s good, plain home cooking at a bargain price.
Jane tells me later that she’s had the place for eight years. It was once called O’Riley’s and has always had a bit of a reputation for pies in the past so she decided to revive it.
Jane, who has run quite a few cafes in her time, reckons she makes a couple of dozen pies a day and meat and potato is by far the most popular.
Other varieties include steak and kidney, minced steak and vegetables with a daily special.
In all, she bakes about two dozen pies a day, to eat in the café, take out for lunch or take home for tea.
They are all pretty traditional and I wonder if she ever does something different, like game or venison.
“We’re not into the exotic market,” says Jane, adding that roast Sunday lunches are a big draw for punters at the seven-days-a- week café.
And considering she is the boss of what is, after all, Walkley’s Pies-R-Us, which pie does she select for her lunch?
“To be honest, when you are around them all day you don’t want one.
“It’s just every now and then.”
Our lunch, with tea for two, cost us £9.90.
The Dawes Verdict
Perfect Pie Cafe
382 South Road, Walkley, Sheffield S6 3TF.
Tel: 0114 231 5353.
Open: Mon-Sun: 8am-3.30pm.
Cash. Street parking.