A steaming, meaty filling encased in top notch pastry is hard to beat when it's chilly outside. London is famed for its pie history, but there’s more to our capital's pie game than the traditional East End shops. Here's our pick of the city's best meat pies.
The pie you'll have to share — Camberwell Arms
Head to The Camberwell Arms for its Sunday lunch at the earliest convenience and advance directly to the sharing pie for two accompanied by comforting mash and greens (the latter for health reasons, of course). This gastro pub does classic British pub grub ludicrously well, and their beef pie is the absolute highlight. Their regular pie fixture features silkily tender Hereford beef, ale and marrowbone — the marrowbone lending a glorious collagen stickiness — with burnished suet pastry holding it all together. Portions are vast, the meat is melt in the mouth, and the cooking is as serious as you’d expect from a team versed by the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms. Sundays are busy, so it's worth noting the pie also appears on Saturday’s lunch menu. Otherwise try and pop to St John when pie is on the menu for another foray into the joy of marrowbone — seen often in their rabbit and trotter pie and beef and kidney versions.
Camberwell Arms, 65 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
The pie made in its own special room — Holborn Dining Room
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years you’ll have heard about chef/pastry king Calum Franklin and what he's been doing with pies at the Holborn Dining Room within the Rosewood hotel. From the utterly perfect puff-pastry encased wellington, to the traditional hot water crusted pork pie and everything in between, all the baked goods here are intricate, precise and frankly addictive whether eaten within their swish brasserie with luxe mash, or straight from the Pie Room. Handily they've launched a loyalty card for their pies.
We're especially into the curried mutton pie on the menu at the moment, where gentle spices marry with heady mutton, but the dedicated pie kitchen carries a thrilling roster of changing pies that are all contenders for the 'best in town' prize.
Holborn Dining Room, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
The pie that will have you pressing for champagne — Bob Bob Cité
Bob Bob Ricard’s newer, flashier and more outrageous Cheesegrater-dwelling sibling is making waves with its Le 'Pie' de poulet with morels, oyster mushrooms and sauternes, and we're not surprised. Like the restaurant itself — which is decked out like a glitzier Orient Express — everything about this pie screams excess: from the rich, creamy and boozy tarragon scented chicken nestling into meaty mushrooms to the glossy burnt amber crust, and the decorative chicken design.
This is classic French cooking at a high level (thanks to Eric Chavot) so oblige yourself with the famed 'press for champagne' button, order up some truffle mash and you've got a meal to remember. Just take a deep breath before looking at the bill.
Bob Bob Cité. Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street, EC3V 4AB
The old school pie — The Guinea
A grill house since the 1950s and a pub for 600 odd years, this Young's establishment, tucked away in Mayfair, is steeped in history — so it makes sense that its pie offering is of another era too; a proudly old fashioned steak, kidney and mushroom suet number, dressed in the frilly collar it presumably had when they started serving it.
As nationwide steak pie champions three times over, this is a properly meaty pudding of a pie and uses the same signature dry aged, grass fed Scotch beef as in their famous steaks, topped with a suet pastry lid. The Guinea is a warm, convivial pub and dining room that it is all too easy to spend too long in. For a similarly historic and excellent suet pudding try Rules' steamed steak and kidney version which uses British beef dry aged for 28 days and is optionally topped with oyster. Posh, eh?
The Guinea, 30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL
The ultimate football pie — Piebury Corner
Having started life as a match day stall in a front garden in N5, Piebury Corner became a market stall proper, before opening its two bricks and mortar sites in King's Cross and Holloway. At each, you can indulge in their award-winning handmade pies of over 20 varieties, all made with locally sourced ingredients fully encased in wonderfully short, buttery shortcrust pastry.
Choose from classics like chicken, ham and leek; pork, apple and stuffing; and lamb and mint — or go leftfield with our current winner, venison and red wine, or the well-spiced jerk chicken in porter. Veggie options abound, if that's your thing, and there are a few gluten-free options too. In the restaurants you can sup craft beers from Camden Town Brewery, cocktails and wine with take away or eat-in options and choose to have with variations of mash, roast potatoes or on its own. Try a scotch egg chaser (Buckingham Palace gets them delivered) and leave space for a sweet pie for pudding.
Piebury Corner, 3 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX and 209-211 Holloway Road, N7 8DL (Highbury is currently closed for a while)
The original pie and mash shop pie — various Manzes
We could have written this entire article on East End style pie shops alone. Instead we've restricted our pick to the oldest — and many say best — pie shop in London, M. Manze near Tower Bridge. Many others bear the same name, but this one is the original M. Manze premises, and is still run by the family today. Here since 1891, there are now branches in Peckham, Sutton and Walthamstow too, all providing the true cockney experience of pie (and it’s a full pastry cased pie), no-nonsense mash, liquor and eels. (Walthamstow's also transforms into a speakeasy, although it doesn't serve pie alas).
Pies are the traditional minced beef and touch of gravy, with all beef minced on site, baked until shiny and brown (sometimes very brown, but then they're best like that) then drowned in the famous parsley liquor (if you wish). Cover it in chilli vinegar and add a side of jellied — or stewed — eels like a real East Ender. Honourable mentions go to Goddards of Greenwich and the revamped Maureen's in Chrisp Street Market for a similar pie and mash experience.
Manze, 87 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 4TW; 105 High Street, Peckham, SE15 5RS; 226 High Street, Sutton SM1 1NT; 76 High Street, Walthamstow, E17 7LD
The grab and go pie — Ginger Pig
The Ginger Pig has a plethora of pies which are handmade and ready to take home to cook. All feature insanely good meat with various leek, mushroom, bacon etc. additions. But we’re very much for their traditional pork pie which you can pick up from their Borough Market location. Featuring a firmly packed pressed pork interior delicately seasoned with herbs and spices and a meaty trotter jelly — encased in a fabulously lardy hot water crust, this is a shining example of the classic British food. Pick up one of their legendary sausage rolls while you're there too. Sold out? Borough has great pork pies from Mrs King, whose pies are made according to tradition in Melton Mowbray since 1853.
Unit 7W, Cathedral Street, Borough Market, SE1 9AG. See website for other locations
The pie crafted by a father and son team — W.H. Wellbeloved
More good news for south Londoners, with what is surely the best value pie in London at the 200-year-old Wellbeloved Butchers in Deptford. The father and son team make dozens of top quality pies before dawn each morning to sell to their loyal customer base for the rock bottom price of £2.50. They’re packed with tender chuck steak slow cooked down for four hours, oozing with gravy and with a perfect pie crust. Sadly there’s no eat in option, but take a few home, pop them in the oven and impress your mates with a dinner party.
In north London, meanwhile, we're big fans of another takeaway option — the beef bourguignon pie at Hampstead Butcher & Providore. These beauties are homemade in their kitchen using British grass fed prime chuck steak from Smithfield Market slowly cooked in bacon, silverskin onions, lots and lots of red wine and mushrooms then surrounded by rich, flaky pastry ready. Just yes.
Wellbeloved Butchers, 31 Tanner's Hill, Deptford, SE8 4PJ