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.
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.
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.
The Pie Shop has taken a break over summer but they'll be back on Fridays and Saturdays from Friday 29 January, so stock up when you visit.
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 force 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.
Country Cob Bakery
BORONIA & KYNETON
It may be a bit out of town, but Country Cob Bakery in Bornia & Kyneton has an award-winning resume. After taking out awards for Australia’s best for four years running it’s hard to argue that Cob Bakery’s isn’t the best pie Melbourne has to offer. Keeping it classic and timeless, their pepper beef pie encased in a golden flakey pastry has brought joy to pie critics and regular punters alike. Their stacked selection of pies extends out of the conventional with a signature lobster and garlic prawn pies, their vegetarian-friendly Mushroom pie has also earned its fair share of accolades taking out the Best Mushroom pie award with a mixture of Swiss Brown and Portobello in a rich slow-cooked gravy. A trip outside of the city that is truly worthy.
Down on Langridge Street in Collingwood, you’ll find Wonder Pies. These titans of the pie industry are headed by chef and pie connoisseur Ray Capaldi, his pies are stocked all over town but getting your hands one at the HQ is always best pie practice. Now down to business, if you’ve gotta be on your way then definitely tackle the handheld chunky beef, or the beef with cracked pepper and cheese. If you prefer to take a little extra time with your pies then opt for the fam sized option, its decorative crusting alone is worth it, but eating one of the best pies Melbourne has slowly is something you’ll always treasure.
Essendon’s finest pastry outpost is famous for a couple of reasons, chiefly their pies, but their sausage rolls have also earned Tony some serious notoriety. A favourite among locals, the lineage of Tony’s Pie’s has aged just as well as its pies. With a range of options but none greater than their steak pie, the rectangle shape can be quite polarising but if anything it aids to the entire pie punishing experience of being able to firmly grip the perfectly puffed and crisped corners and manage the rich meaty filling. Tony’s Pies is a timeless reminder that one of the best pies Melbourne has doesn’t need too much reimagining.
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.
- Pie In The Sky (Olinda): Another award-winner. Avoid weekends though—the crowds get insane.
More of a sausage roll person? Consult our list of Melbourne's best over here.
Image credit: The Pie Shop | Annika Kafcaloudis