This was written before the recent pandemic. I do hope you can enjoy it and remember to give Pieminister a visit after the lockdown has finished!
Queen St in Exeter is one of the main thoroughfares that leads straight to the heart of the city, it is a veritable culinary avenue being home to local foodie legends such as The Exploding Bakery, Pink Moon Cafe and others. Before Christmas, another name was added to this list.
Depending on who you ask, it’s either Pieminster or Pieminister. But I can tell you with authority on having been there myself, it is Pieminister. Think Prime Minister. But the Prime Minister of pies.
Opening directly opposite the Mercure Rougemont Hotel, this is Pieminister’s first restaurant in the area; the restaurant chain from Bristol that has become famous for putting pies back on the plates of punters across England and Wales.
Originated in Bristol, the first Pieminister restaurant was opened in 2003 by Tristan Hogg and Jon Simon who have built the business up from scratch. There are now sixteen Pieminister restaurants across England and Wales serving some beautiful Bristolian pies to meat-lovers, vegetarians and vegan customers alike everyday.
The thing that made me particularly excited about Pieminister is that they are a large company that has a heart. They strive to be as sustainable as possible. They have a page on their site that explains the sorts of things the company is doing to help the environment, keeping it as local as they can.
If you’re not in a link clicking mood, then here is some of the things they are doing:
- Last year Pieminister went plastic-free, taking the plastic out of their packaging and replacing it with transparent wood pulp substrate, which is biodegradable and much better for the environment.
- They also try and use farmers near to their Bristol Kitchens, which means they are helping their local community by supporting local businesses too.
- They are using palm oil from sustainable sources.
- The company is also raising funds for the Frank Water ‘DrinkMe:SaveLives’ initiative, through a discretionary tap water donation in their restaurants
We were invited along to try some of their lush pies for ourselves.
For those residents of Exeter who remember this shop from it’s previous iteration, yes, you are right, this was a piano/keyboard shop up to last year. The only things that will be tickled (opposed to piano keys) now, are the taste buds of customers who drop by for some pie. Unfortunately this was the best I could come up with. I do invite you to leave your pie/piano puns in the comment section below.
There are no chips. It’s mash here. Like burger restaurants, you buy the pie and the sides separately. And no, nothing costs £3.14…
A few things I like about the menu is that there are plenty of Vegan and Veggie options, all tastes are catered for as much as possible.
The pie itself is encased in two types of pastry. A light flakey filo pastry top, allows easy and delicious access through the top, whilst the stronger and equally delicious short pastry sides and bottom give it a firm foundation without going soggy. Lifting the lid of the pie was like opening some sort of tiny heated box.
It felt wrong cutting it from the side, but at the same time, the full spectacle of the steaming insides oozing out was enough to overcome my initial misgivings on how to eat it.
Tori’s traditional approach with peas and regular mash was most probably more gravy friendly than mine. I had decided that the perfect thing to have with my squishy mash and the gravy was Smokey Beans in a tangy-just-come-off-the-smoker tasting sauce. This I feel might have been a pie-eating newbie mistake given the liquid to pastry ratio was a bit off-centre.
The pie is so achingly British. In a world where our diets consist of things inspired by or imported from all parts of the world, it’s refreshing to find somewhere that has taken the humble concept of Pie & Mash, and given it a full frontal facelift.
With punchy fillings like my Fandango that was filled with chorizo, chicken and bacon in a zingy sauce and Tori’s Moolin Rouge with consisted of red wine, beef steak, dry cured bacon, their pies are varied to say the least. The alternative choice to my Fandango Pie was a pie called Kevin, consisting of vegan mushroom, tomato & red wine with baby onions & thyme.
Pieminister is excellent value. You can make it as expensive or cheap as you wish. It is perfectly possible to have a good meal, excluding drinks, for well under a tenner.