Photo: Florence Charvin

Midway through my quest to find the Bay’s best pies I fell into a food coma and lost focus. 

I had a nightmare that I was drowning in a flakey sea of mediocre gravy. I awoke ruminating on the meaning of pie, midway through a pastry encrusted existential crisis: Is it even possible to find a great pie? Isn’t a pie just a pie?

Is it instead an enigmatic bite of nostalgia, a fond food memory, dependent on contextual support to evoke that recollection of unctuous warmth and comfort? Were the happy memories created on a road trip transferred to the pie eaten on the journey? Probably. Nothing tastes as good as the memory of food shared with friends on an adventure.

Photo Florence Charvin

My current adventure had a clear mission: To find the Destination Pies Of The Bay – pies worth leaving home for.

Gathering myself together, I found six pies worth talking about. Actually I found seven, but that includes the Paetiki Bakery in Taupō (worth a visit on your next trip up the island). The pies that made the top list are those that have well-crafted fillings wrapped in a structurally sound and tasty pastry case. All are sold hot in paper bags ready-to-eat. Comfort food munched in the comfort of a car, van, or truck. 

In no particular order, here are my favourites: (I feel as if I should be wearing a tuxedo and opening an envelope).

Hollies Bakery, Swansea Road, Flaxmere – Steak and cheese pie
A stoutly proportioned offering in which the steak is well represented and the cheese plays an appropriate supporting role. A well-engineered crust allows just the right amount of flakey pastry to cascade onto my shirt.

New Century Bakery, Taradale Road Potato top pie
Superb mash topping over a traditional mince filling. Not the agar-like suspension but a savoury mince mixture that earns the label of ‘proper.

The Pie Man Maraenui, Bledisloe Road, Maraenui – Steak and cheese pie 
Certainly worth the short trip out to town. Again the steak to cheese ratio is spot on. I’m not looking for a meat lover’s pizza in a pie. I’m looking for cheese in a supporting role. 

Holly Bacon, Warren Street, Hastings – Beef and bacon pie 
Think rich casserole style beef and bacon. A meal-size pie, best eaten late morning before they run out. Famous for their bacon and ham products, Holly Bacon’s foray into cafe/kitchen is a hit. 

Shaneo’s Bakery Cnr St Aubyn and Hastings Street, Hastings – Smoked brisket pie 
A twist on the steak and cheese with the substitution of smoked brisket. A well balanced smokey flavour, a little cheese encased in buttery pastry. 

New Century Bakery, Taradale Road – Steak pie 
The best pastry of all the pies I tasted. A delightful crunch to the base pastry and, once again, a ‘proper’ meat filling. As a good friend once told me, “A steak pie requires steak, not just meat.” Wise words. 

There you have it. Those are the pies good enough to go out of your way for, to make a special journey for. Disregard the dyspepsia and grab them all in one magnificent pie excursion. Take a wingman along to share the load. 

My guess is that there are about 100 places to buy a hot pie between Bayview and Hastings. In order to compare like with like I also limited myself to traditional flavours. There are more exotic fillings available that our grandads wouldn’t recognise. I decided that these probably relied on bought-in flavour bases rather than from-scratch gravy formulations. 

I’ve also omitted those that use more thickener than I deem appropriate. 

I can imagine emails to the editor are already being bashed out bemoaning the bakeries that I have omitted, so strongly are pie opinions held by those who have the pie habit. 

I haven’t paid too much attention to the prices. Certainly there’s been lots of comment from my unpaid advisors on how much more expensive pies are than they used to be. I can’t argue with that although I would like to point out that prices do go up. 

The ‘A list’ pies ranged from about $6 to $9. Amongst other food-on-the-run options I think that’s expectable, if not acceptable to some. I suggest that we get used to paying good money for good pies and keep supporting the kiwi institutions that make them. In my mind if a long black coffee is worth $4.50 then a pie of quality is certainly worth $7 or more. 

Let’s not worry about pie crumbs in those hard-to-clean places by the gear stick or mince stained pants … pledge support for the pie persons of our area. 


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    1. Waipawa don’t do hot pies any more and the two from John’s Bakery that I tried had soggy pastry bottoms.

  1. Could you ask that man eating a pie, with a face like an owl wearing glasses, to please get off the havelock rd billboard..he’s frightening the kids.
    also, the best pie is a steak, cheese n bacon at Hstngs Nworld for $4.95….but has that nugget of truth been revealed to the public??……

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