I’ve always said there’s no practical limit to the number of pies I could eat in one sitting. The limit does not exist. It’s theoretically out there, like intelligent life on other planets, but you’d need a thousand pie makers baking pies for a thousand years to find it.
Well, a mate told me to put my pie-eating skills to the test and check out Melbourne’s best pies…in a single day. That’s not a challenge I take lightly. I skipped breakfast, and dinner the night before. I meditated for several hours. I researched the crap out of meat pies (it might interest you to know that Food Standards Australia New Zealand counts “snouts, ears, tongue roots, tendons and blood vessels” as ‘meat’).
With the phrase ‘tongue roots’ snuffling around my mind, I set off to conquer Melbourne’s best meat pies. Here’s what happened.
Tivoli Rd Bakery
You’ll have to put up with the odd stroller that costs more than your first car, but Tivoli Rd Bakery, is worth the South Yarra snobbery. It’s the sort of place where boat shoe-wearing men shell out $8 for a sourdough loaf. God knows what they do for a living. The braised beef pie is a hulking beast of browned, mushrooming pastry, set inside a foil pie tin. This one is unashamedly gourmet—recognizably beef, big chunks of carrot and celery, served with chilli-tomato relish and dusted with poppy seeds (a nice touch). The sort of pie you’d feed your mother in law. Do not eat this while driving: the pastry base can’t handle the filling. Half of it will end up in the tin (or on your lap). This was my first pie of the journey. I felt fucking untouchable.
Port Melbourne Bakehouse used to do a solid pie, but their bases have gotten stodgy in recent years. Pure Pie is the one you want in this neighbourhood. It’s at the top of Bay St, where the road hooks towards the city. The pastry has that hand-rolled, higgledy piggledy look, like a classic British pork pie, and the fillings are the stuff of legend. Local theory says the Beef, Red Wine & Rosemary is the best thing on the menu, but I actually prefer the Chicken, Mushroom and Tarragon pie. It’s probably the best chicken pie in Melbourne. Pure Pie was only my second stop on the pie marathon, so I hedged my bets and ordered both chicken and beef. In hindsight, this was Icarus-level stupid.
Keith’s Pies is a suburban throwback to a no-nonsense time when men were men and pies were pies. You’ll probably get called ‘Darl’, whether you want to or not. It’s so old school they don’t even serve beef + mushroom on the menu, which everyone knows is a no-brainer pie combination. We’ll forgive them that one, because their curry pie is probably my favourite in Melbourne. Yep, I’m making the call. Expect a softer shell on this one (Keith doesn’t really go for shatter pastry that explodes on impact), a few sesame seeds, and a curry sauce with that powdery, supermarket kick. If you’ve been on the fence with it comes to curry pies, this thing will convert you. Guaranteed. I could eat five of these with a smile on my face then run a beep test.
Next was Princes Pies in the CBD, a newcomer from ex-Mamasita chef, Matti Fallon. By this stage, I was feeling the rumblings of gastric distress—like a subtle warning that my body was nearing some unexplored beef tolerance threshold. We’ve tried the plain mince pie here before, and while it’s delicious, the pastry disintegrates after the first bite, often resulting in second-degree meat burns and you gobbling scraps into your mouth behind a dumpster like some demented racoon. Chunky steak with blue cheese is the way to go here: it’s a New Zealand spin on the classic steak pie. Cheese in pies is normal over there, and the funky, melted blue cheese adds a real twang. Solid.
The Pie Shop
On the way to Matt Wilkinson’s Pie Shop, I made my first tactical mistake of the day: a strawberry Big M. Suffice to say, this did not ease my stomach congestion. I pretty much crawled through the door of The Pie Shop, threw some coins on the counter and croaked, ‘One Allen pie, please.” This is Matt Wilkinson’s steak and veg pie, baked fresh daily, and it’s bloody good. Even in my heightened state of pleasure-pain, I enjoyed every mouthful. Slow-cooked Warialda beef from Clonbinane, carrots, celery and onion, wrapped in a no-nonsense pastry crust. Eat with a squirt of sauce (no frilly relishes here) and definitely not a strawberry Big M.
Beef and mushroom! Trust me, this one’s worth the exclamation mark. Darren Farrell and the Sugardough gang have been baking here since 2004, and their beef and mushroom pie is my favourite thing on the menu (with the breakfast pie running a close second). Despite the fact I was already six pies deep at this stage, and starting to hear colours, I managed to forced a sauce-splattered beef and mushroom pie between my lips. This is a no-fuss country bakery-style pie, which means you could eat it one handed while riding a unicycle—the structural integrity is excellent. And the filling…sweet Jesus. A slow-cooked beef and thyme gravy that fairly sizzles your brain. A steal at $5.40.
By this stage, I would have gouged my own eyes out rather than eat another pie, so I had to call the experiment short and admit defeat. Turns out there is a limit to the number of pies one human can eat. But seven pies in a row felt like a pretty good effort, even if my Mazda 2 now needed some serious crumb vacuuming.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of Melbourne’s best pies by any means. Special mention has to go to:
- Pie & Mighty (Pakenham): It’s going to sound crazy, but try the Tandoori Chicken Pie. It’s insanely good.
- Heavenly Pies & Cakes (Bayswater): Multi-award-winning bakery, but no-one outside Bayswater knows they exist.
- Dinkum Pies (CBD): I think Princes Pies has leapfrogged them, but their beef and mushroom is still an A-Grade CBD snack.
- Pie In The Sky (Olinda): Another award-winner. Avoid weekends though—the crowds get insane.
If you want to check out the best country pies in Melbourne (and there’s a fair argument that country pies rule, while city pies drool), check out our list.