FOOD REVIEW: Lifting the lid on Sheffield's best value pies
There are few things as thrilling as getting a bargain when it is most unexpected.
Once, upon discovering that a cashmere jumper in the Marks and Spencer sale had been further reduced when she reached the till, mum forced the entire family to hot-foot it out of the store as though we were handling stolen goods and the heavy hand of a store detective was about to land on our shoulders.
We had a similar feeling when receiving the bill at eclectic city centre venue The Old House last Tuesday - with two pies and all the trimmings coming to just £10 due to it being pie night.
They were proper ones too, with a full shortcrust pastry casing rather than an insubstantial top layer.
As British Pie Week approaches next week, we’d gone out with the hope of laying to rest the debate over Sheffield’s best pie...
“They are always the most popular item and probably our best seller”, said assistant manager Thom Darbyshire.
“I think it is because they are so good, they are a reasonable size and they are packed to the top with filling.
“We probably sell 250 to 300 a week - absolutely we do think it is the best value pie in Sheffield.”
Pie night used to be Friday, but has recently moved to Tuesdays as The Old House - known for its cocktails, and its gargantuan range of gins in particular - focuses more on food during the week and drinks at the weekend.
The rest of the menu is focused around comfort eats sometimes with a bit of a twist - think braised beef shin, served with kale, or chicken supreme with straw potato.
Thom added: “We’re aiming for a home away from home feel. The sort of food we do isn’t too out there because people want to come in and have something that they know, we try to do the classics really well.
“We do different things as part of a group, this week coming up we are doing mussels dishes for ten days for example, so we do try to do more things throughout the year.”
Ambience at the venue, which is part of the city-wide Forum group, is so relaxed and casual it is practically horizontal.
Decor is cosy and warm, with plenty of prints, mirrors and curiousities hung on the walls.
In contrast there was full table service, and our decent bottle of pinot grigo was placed in a silver bucket and carried over for us from the bar.
A good start to the evening.
We shared a ham and confit duck leg terrine to begin with - two good triangular wedges of gutsy meat with plenty of seasoning that clashed well with a sharp prune chutney.
The side of toasted sourdough was pleasant, with a slight nutty flavour, but the well presented plate did not need a lacklustre pile of green salad leaves that provided neither taste nor ornament.
The wait for mains felt rather long, but while catching up we didn’t realise quite how lengthy until our waitress came over and apologised. It must have been nearlyhalf an hour. It turned out the entire pub staff was away on a do and the night had proved unexpectedly packed, causing a busy night for the stand-in skeleton crew.
Any inconvenience was soothed away - in our case, at least - with the offer of free drinks to compensate.
Plates of pie, usually from £7.95a pop, arrived straight after the apology.
There are four, regularly changed, specials on offer.
I’d gone for the ham and apple, she the chicken, lemon and thyme.
There was plenty of everything to go around - thankfully the chips were shared between us or there might have been a Mr Creosote moment.
Pies were handsome individual creations, crimped around the edges and mine topped with a tiny pastry pig.
The casing was well structured, buttery and held together well rather than collapsing into a sloppy mess as some cheaper options often do.
Inside, the pie was indeed packed, from the bottom right to the top.
The ham was cooked perfectly, moist despite being inside the pie casing, pink and juicy.
Try as I might though, the promised apple could not be detected.
Across the table her lemon and thyme also seemed to be missing.
“Perhaps the gravy is drowning it out”, she said.
Regardless both mains were excellent, and certainly filling. A glossy gravy was slightly sweet, the fat potato chips crispy and there were peas of the mushy variety too.
Dessert was again shared.
Rum and raisin creme brulee had a golden,just caramelised top and was jazzed up, if a little runnier, because of the extra ingredients, with fine shortbread to dip in it.
It went well with our promised drinks, a creamy short Toblerone with Frangelico Hazlenut liquor.
Sheffield is spoiled for choice when it comes to pies, and this wasn’t the very best I’ve ever had. But perhaps we inadvertently stumbled upon the top -quality - value option instead. After all, you’d struggle to get two chip shop pies and sides for a tenner.
The total bill was £38.35 - with almost half being for a bottle of wine.
The Old House, Division Street, Sheffield city centre
0114 276 6002