Posted by: Anna | September 1, 2011

The Great Australian (and New Zealand) Meat Pie Quest

From Guest Blogger Sally Field (Anna’s mom):
I am a foodie, no doubt.  Some may argue this point but to me, like England, Australia and New Zealand do not really have great food.  They have a lot of the English traditions, like baked beans for breakfast.  Not the yummy homemade kind but of the canned pork and beans variety.  Yuck!  They do have a strong Asian influence with lots of sushi, curries and noodle dishes available.  Howver, that is not food unique to them.  So my food expectations were pretty low.  And for the most part, I was right. All except for the meat pies.
It all started accidentally in Cairns.  We were searching for a place to eat that actually looked interesting but didn’t break the bank.  That is not easy to find in Australia and New Zealand.  We found a bakery called Meldrum’s Pies that looked casual and good.  When we started looking at the menu we saw a large variety of meat pies.  And they were about $5 each – very cheap compared to what we had been seeing.  And they looked fabulous.  They had beautiful crusts and were about the size of a small pot pie.  Here you could get them with peas (mashed minted peas) and/or with mash (mashed potatoes) and/or gravy.  We were neophytes and so got a variety composed of things like chicken vegetable, butter chicken, steak and pepper, steak and cheese and kangaroo.  They had beautiful  flaky crusts top and bottom and amazing fillings with a gravy or sauce inside.  We all liked them but Tommy and I were really hooked on meat pies.  Would there be more in our trip — we weren’t sure but we were hoping.

Kangaroo meat pie - love the tiny pastry kangaroo!

For the next day in Kuranda one of the recommended places to eat was also a bakery selling pies.   It was Annabel’s Pantry on the main drag.  Again good pies at reasonable prices and very filling.  Annabel’s had lots of options.  Tommy and I were excited to have pies again for lunch.  The fillings were fine but there was limited seating and the crust was not up to Meldrum’s.  Meldrum’s became my standard by which all pies thereafter were measured.
For Tommy everything is a contest.  He learned that the average Aussie eats about 12.5 pies a year.  Tommy was determined to at least achieve the yearly average in our short trip to Australia and NZ. In our first day in Sydney Tommy and Jack had meat pies at the Lord Nelson pub in The Rocks.  Score — for Tommy the best of the trip.  I unfortunately did not have meat pie.  It looked amazing.  We also hit the famous Harry’s On Wheels pies.  Sadly, just adequate but they looked great and the shop was darling.  Count now — 4 pies.
Next stop was overnight at Christchurch.  Unfortunately, no pies eaten.
However, there would pies in Queenstown.  We arrived hungry In Queenstown and wanted lunch immediately.  Upon arriving we asked our shuttle driver where to get a good meat pie.  He said The Bakery.  He was not wrong.  There we had our first butter chicken pie.  I traded with Anna as she had to have it.  Apparently butter chicken is an Indian dish.  These were excellent pies but the crust was still not up to Meldrum’s standards.  One difference from Australia — in New Zealand no mash or peas are typically offered.
After lunch, we headed to sort our ski rentals. Our ski rental guy in Queenstown insisted that pies from Humble Pie were better than those from The Bakery.  He said it was all in the crust.  He had my attention.  We were determined to make a trip to Humble Pies.  Two days later we did.  You could blink and miss it — it is right around the corner from The Bakery and is just a walk up counter on the street.  Jack and Jerry were skiing at Coronet.  We ordered and sat on a bench on the sidewalk to eat.  Anna got butter chicken and declared it the best she had all trip.  Tommy and I disagreed with her.  I had the mince which is ground beef with onion.  We believed our favorites intact with Tommy’s still the Lord Nelson Pub and mine still Meldrum’s.

Tommy's favorite of the trip -the Lord Nelson Pub meat pie - and the only one served on a proper plate.

At this point, Tommy and I are seriously on a meat pie quest.  Tommy of course to achieve his 12.5 pies and me to learn as much as possible about these delicious savory meat pies.  The added bonus was that they were literally the only cheap and unique and filling lunch out we had found in either Australia and NZ.
On to Rotorua.  There we found what I think is the most local (think divey) option of the trip.  Our host at our lovely motel suggested it when we asked where to get a good meat pie.  She said it is just called The Bakery.  It was in a strip mall very much off the beaten path for tourists.  The cost: about $3.80 a pie.  The selection was very good going from traditional to a little gourmet.  I had an apricot, chicken and Camembert cheese pie.  Amazing.  Anna had their “award winning” vegetarian.  Way too cheesy!  Jerry had a sweet option that he declared delicious in addition to a meat pie he ate.  We ate them standing on the sidewalk outside.  They had a crust almost good enough to rival Meldrum’s!
Tommy achieved his 12.5 pies of course finishing with a pie at the Auckland Airport and a pie earlier that morning from the Gloria Jean’s coffee house chain.  Certainly not a finish up to the standards of the amazing pies we started with.  However, I like a man who sets his goals and then achieves them.

Tommy - the meat pie champ!

All in all, this makes me want to learn more about the Aussie meat pie and even learn to make a great one.  I promised Tommy one for Christmas.  Mine will have steak, mash and peas with gravy on the side.  The steak will be slow cooked like brisket.  Only Tommy can say if it will beat out Lord Nelson’s.
Thanks Tommy for allowing me to tag along with your meat pie quest and for a great trip to Australia and NZ.


  1. Ok, these look really good. Is the “mash” normally outside the pie, and the peas outside the pie also? I see some cooking in our future-

  2. It is silly to comment on your own post but I want Tommy to know that I am hosting an event for my women’s group on Sept. 29th that is called: “Meat & Sweet: A Pie Tutorial”. The meat is my effort to perfect the Aussie meat pie.

  3. Oh my gosh you made me so hungry!!!

  4. Way to go, Tommy! You make the Gaines family proud! XOXOOX, kita

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