The mince pie is a surprisingly controversial snack. What looks like a harmless pastry-cased treat conceals spices that tend to polarise opinion, such as cinnamon and nutmeg, plus lots of fruit of the wrinkly, dried variety. In times gone by, it was the done thing to put actual meat into the filling, something you definitely wouldn't find today. Or would you? Read our round-up of the best pies in London to find out.
Holborn Dining Room
Did you know that Holborn Dining Room also have a delicatessen? Well they do, and they're selling mince pies in it. This is a riff on the traditional pie, made with puff pastry, which is lovely and buttery. The pie in general is soft, not dense and hard as lesser pies can be. At first they looks as if they might be dry, but quite the opposite is true and they have an almost cake-y texture. The mincemeat is great too, with bursts of citrus, and we really enjoyed the sweetness from the almond topping.
Holborn Dining Room and Delicatessen, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN. Pies are £1.60 each.
The Deli Clapham
This deli from the people at The Dairy restaurant sells lots of lovely things like their own pickles, preserves and of course, pies. Their own sweet shortcrust is filled with veggie friendly mincemeat, and we're a sucker for those cute pastry stars on top.
The Delicatessen, 16 The Pavement, SW4 0HY. Pies are a bargainous £1 each.
E5 Bakehouse pride themselves on "using the best quality ingredients from known and trusted suppliers, organic where possible". They prepare the mincemeat three months in advance to ensure a good flavour and they're focused on the ratio between pastry and filling, an important pie consideration.
E5 Bakehouse, 395 Mentmore Terrace, E8 3PH. Pies are £2.00.
One of south London's best bakeries makes one of the best mince pies. No surprises there, then. They're actually a mince pie and Eccles cake combo, with rich, buttery and very flaky pastry, around a well-spiced currant filling spiked with orange zest, allspice and nutmeg. We love the way they've glugged in rum as their booze of choice, too, rather than the more traditional brandy.
Brickhouse, 1 Zenora Street, SE22 8HP. Pies are £1.50 each or 6 for £8.
The mince pies from St. John are predictably excellent, and seriously boozy. They're definitely one of the richest pies we've tried, rammed with fruit including apples, sultanas, currants and raisins. There's orange and lemon, plus loads of spice and brandy. They're on a par with their Eccles cakes in fact, which is high praise indeed.
St. John Bakery, Ropewalk, SE1 2HQ. Pies are £2.75 to take away or £3.50 to eat in (served warm with clotted cream).
Crosstown's mince pie dough bite is a mini-sized sourdough doughnut with a mincemeat filling, topped with a brandy butter glaze and vanilla crumble. In their words, "it epitomises the indulgent flavours of Christmas, giving the traditional British mince pie a Crosstown twist with our signature sourdough for an alternative take on this seasonal favourite". So there.
Brompton Food Market
Brompton Food Market have thrown us a curve ball by going back to the true roots of the mince pie and adding meat. The veal and sage pie is made with slow braised English rose veal with dried fruits, spices and a load of fresh sage. If the idea of that scares you, then perhaps you'll be tempted by the sweet mince pies, made with amaretto-soaked figs, kirsch soaked cherries, candied peel and toasted almonds. We can tell you that they're both excellent and as a major bonus — massive.
Brompton Food Market, 33 Thurloe Place, SW7 2HQ. Pies are £1.95.
40 Maltby Street
Another meaty pie comes from 40 Maltby Street, who use fresh suet and dry aged chuck steak from their butcher, Jorge at Swaledale Foods, along with apples from Chegworth Valley and lots of citrus. They also make their mincemeat an impressive six weeks in advance. Their pastry is very short, made with good English butter and the pies are served warm with Jersey cream from Jeff Bowles at Ivy House Farm in Somerset.
40 Maltby Street, SE1 3PA. Pies are £5.30 served with Jersey cream as a pudding in the restaurant.