Food Review: Popping up with an eye for a good lunchtime pie in Sheffield
Pie really is a sought-after thing. At just shy of 2pm Jack Norman has only a single variety of his pastry creations left to sell.
“I only have chicken balti, I’m afraid,” he says apologetically.
But there’s no fear - I’ve astutely pre-ordered my choice, having been forewarned of the popularity of Jack’s pop-up café, Pie Eyed, which runs every Thursday at the Union Street co-working venue, a couple of strides away from the Peace Gardens in Sheffield city centre.
The café space is taken over by a different producer every weekday - noodles, ‘healthy hotpots’, pasta and vegan tacos are on rotation, too.
But Pie Eyed is actually a wider venture than just a one-day pop-up eatery. Jack, aged 24, from Rotherham, used to work for Pizza Express but decided to set up his own business nearly two years ago.
At the time, the popularity of street food was spreading in earnest, and Jack spied a gap in the market for, as he calls it, ‘good old British pie’. He pitches up in a horse box at festivals, markets and even weddings, offering more than a dozen pies, ranging from beef brisket and Black Sheep ale to chestnut, mushroom and roasted squash.
Jack makes up to 80 pies to sell on Thursdays at Union Street, with three types available each week, and they nearly always sell out.
My pick was brisket and ale, with all the trimmings - pies are £3.50, with gravy, mash and peas 50p each, so £5 all told, with the mandatory cup of tea - refills are free - only £1.
Diners can take their pie away if they desire, or eat at the café’s large shared tables. Cutlery, condiments - Henderson’s Relish present and correct - are provided.
The pies themselves are the proper sort - a complete handmade entity with pastry base, sides and top, rather than simply a lid perched atop the filling. The crumbly, golden, all-butter shortcrust pastry is excellent, and the innards equally good - tender chunks of well-cooked beef in a thick gravy.
An ice cream scoop of dense, creamy mashed potato - which could have been warmer - and mushy peas, which still had an agreeable firmness in parts, completed the meal, served in an eco-friendly cardboard tray. Quite the lunchtime feast.
Pie Eyed is clearly on an upward curve. Jack is moving production to Carbrook in Sheffield and is looking to start selling online.
And if anybody fancies getting involved, he’s recruiting for someone to help him serve at Union Street.