AS NICE AS P I E
PIES are serious business in Australia: the wonderfully named Harry’s Cafe de Wheels in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo is a heritage-listed tourist attraction, no less, about to chalk up 15 million sales. Owner Michael Hannah tells me he even has two customers who have been regulars for more than 40 years (they are about to be rewarded with free pies for life). The Woolloomooloo operation is the most popular (and well known), but there are Harry’s pie vans in inner-city suburb Haymarket, outer-west Liverpool and Newcastle.
On a busy day, 4000 pies are sold (and consumed), including curry, beef, chicken and mushroom, and cheese and vegetable, as well as pasties made to a 1945 recipe and sausage rolls. The Tiger is the most popular — peas, mash and gravy — named for the original owner, Harry ‘‘ Tiger’’ Edwards. It’s Sydney’s version of South Australia’s floater (where the pie sits upside down in pea soup). ‘‘ Here we like the peas on top of the pie,’’ Hannah explains.
He says the secret of the pie’s popularity is in the making: filtered water, 96 per cent fat-free, grass-fed beef, rock salt and low-fat pastry. The pie cart has long been part of Sydney’s nightclub scene (it stays open until 4am at weekends), and numerous celebrities, from Elton John and Frank Sinatra to Kevin Costner and Pamela Anderson, have been customers. Edwards started selling pies from a caravan near the gates of the Woolloomooloo Naval Yard during the Depression. The curious name came from the local council’s insistence that mobile food caravans move a foot (30cm) a day. Before that, it was simply named Harry’s.
In South Australia, the pie floater is so revered it is on the National Trust’s heritage list. In the 1880s there were 13 pie carts across Adelaide, but this dwindled to just two by the 1950s.
The pie floater can still be experienced at The Pie Cart outside Adelaide Railway Station on North Terrace. It has been described as looking like ‘‘ a bowl of green, mushy gruel with a lump of something solid sitting in it’’, but it’s actually a pea soup with a meat pie and often embellished with tomato or Worcestershire sauce or vinegar. Some say it’s best consumed while drunk. Also in South Australia, the Old Bakery at Stone Hut in the southern Flinders Ranges (between Laura and Wirrabara) offers some unusual pies: crocodile, camel, emu, venison, goat, rabbit . . . there’s even steak.
TravelandIndulgence ’ s correspondents also recommend:
The Robertson Pie Shop, perched high on the escarpment in the NSW southern highlands, has a choice of 24 varieties.
Jocelyn’s Provisions, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, sells memorable pies from the bakery door. Jocelyn’s red wine and beef pie is said to be perfect for a winter snack on the run.
Mick’s Bakehouse, Wagga Wagga and Leeton, NSW, has a wide range of fillings: prawn and crab in Thai red curry, satay chicken, apricot chicken and seafood are among the more unusual.
Pie in the Sky, Olinda, Victoria, presents offerings from owner-chef Denis Sideras that include beef and burgundy, beef and Guinness, tandoori chicken and spinach, and Thai green curry.
The Welsh Lady, Rosalie, Queensland, is well known for its pastries and specialty cakes but ownerchef Gwen Gideon also cooks tasty pies that regulars apparently drive many kilometres to sample. Barry Oliver
Upper crust: Harry’s Cafe de Wheels