Who ate all the pies? Pie perfection at Plymouth Barbican’s Ship Inn
The Plough Inn
The Well House Tavern
The Plough is one of Taunton’s proper pubs. A CAMRA pub no less, supporting the campaign for real ale serving a good range of local beers, while also staying true to towns ‘cider roots’ and stocking no less than eight varieties...There’s a proper menu too, full of real, local food including an extensive pie menu. So far, so good. All pies served at the Plough are Pieminister Pies – which can only be a good things. For those of you new to the award-winning brand, these beauties are all produced by hand using high quality ingredients. All meat is free range too.
The Ship offers good quality pub food in traditional and spacious settings that incorporate a modern and contemporary décor. There’s also a large outside area, with a postcard-like view of Plymouth’s Barbican. Who’d have thought we’d be sitting outside at this time of year, eating lunch and chilling out? Well, believe it! And if you’re after pies, the ones they serve here are first class.
My quest for the perfect pie led me to Exeter’s Well House Tavern. Positioned right in the middle of town, just off Cathedral Green, this pub is a great place to enjoy a pint and watch the world go by. As well as superb location it also has the distinct advantage of being part of the Michael Caines franchise, sharing a kitchen with his restaurant next door.
The pie menu is surprisingly inventive and diverse – there’ll certainly be something to tempt you. From meaty offerings like ‘Moo and Blue Pie’: British beef, vegetables, red wine and aged Stilton studded with rosemary and ‘Deerstalker’: British venison and outdoor reared cured bacon, with red wine and puy lentils to vegie friendly pies, like ‘Heidi Pie’: goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach, red onion and roasted garlic.
My pie was good quality all-round, starting with the meat, which is cooked to perfection: tender and at-one with the gravy. And when it comes to the crust, it’s “all gravy” too: deep, fresh, tasty and not too fatty. All the essential qualities of a tasty pie are present: crispiness, juiciness and good quality meat.
75 Station Road, Taunton, Somerset TA1 1PB / 01823 324404
I opted for the fishy option and wasn’t disappointed. Inside the perfect, indulgent pastry was a taste sensation: cod, prawns and salmon in a lovely creamy sauce. One of the best pies I’ve ever sampled. Really. My pie, like all the others served at The Plough came on a bed of creamy homemade mash, moreish minty mushy peas and a delicious, thick, onion gravy. A pie ‘n a pint may not sound like the most exciting meal, but my experience at The Plough was certainly a happy one. Good, local, tasty food, washed down with a pint in a cosy, real pub – perfect.
4 Quay Road, The Barbican, Plymouth PL1 2JZ / 01752 667604
Presentation makes such a difference: traditional is yet again the buzz word. The Ship’s steak and ale pie looks like a work of art, it tastes as good as it looks. You get a generous portion too.
I went with the new potatoes option, rather than chips. Again: they were cooked to my preference, which is not too well done, but just soft enough, maintaining a bit of a bite. The freshness comes across in everything, including the garden peas that come with it. The Ship are currently working on a brand new menu, but we were told that pies are definitely staying on it. Make use of their Food Collector Card, which gets you free fish & chips for two, when it’s stamped 6 times! Arash Torabi
16-17 Cathedral Close, Exeter EX1 1HB / 01392 223611
Local celebrity and head chef of the two Michelin starred Gidley Park, Caines also co-owns the Abode hotel concept, with 6 hotels based around the UK. The Exeter Abode comprises the Well House Tavern itself, a high-end restaurant, champagne bar, cafe and boutique deli – so there’s something for everyone. The menu at the Well House comprises of a combination of traditional pub-grub and some slightly more inventive additions. For instance, jacket potato with the optional filling of confit duck leg, white beans and cheese. Or for afters how about the chocolate parfait Alaska with sablés biscuits? As well as a varied food menu there is also a wide selection of ales available on tap. On the day I dined there the ‘pye of the day’ was chicken, leak and mushroom. Beneath lovely light golden puff pastry lay moist chicken in a deliciously rich creamy sauce. The flavours were surprisingly delicate, carefully seasoned and certainly nothing like any pub pie I’d eaten previously. Served piping hot with fresh baked bread and some choice seasonal veg, I was thoroughly impressed and can heartily recommend. Nick Emerson
Rachael D’Cruze www.247magazine.co.uk
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