March 19th, 2010



Location: 122 High Street. Loughton, Essex. Opposite M&S.

Pie's a shiny new shop in the town of Loughton, way out east on the Central Line in greater London. It has a few tables for eating in - full on the day - and a solitary table out front on the broad sidewalk. I suspect it has wider aspirations, given that its Facebook and Twitter accounts are named PieLondon.

First things first: the pies are good. Buttery, crisp crust with ample filling on the medium size serving. The steak and mushroom was classic, well-rounded and rich, but not more. The chicken, leek, and ham, on the other hand, was a standout, with a lovely, light wholegrain mustard sauce to bring it all together. Sweets were forgettable, and would have been improved by taking a note from the savory pies and being made in more delicate or distinctive crusts. As was, bland pastry enveloped a nicely smooth chocolate-hazelnut mousse whose flavor couldn't quite counterbalance the crust. Equally bland pastry and crisp meringue shrounded an intense layer of Jolly Ranger flavor-like lemon-passionfruit filling. They looked very pretty at least.

Inside, the counter is a visual combination of pastry store, jewelry store, and bank. Large, solid glass cases filled jewel-like with hot or cold pastries, sweet and savory, cut a line down the edge of the countertop. (Photo) The gaps between the cases, bank cashier-like, are the windows of opportunity for ordering. The signage is poor: pies hide the bottom half of their labels, and the hot pies are cryptically flagged with abbreviations whose entirety is divided between the two halves of the sticker wrapped around a toothpick. Fortunately, there's a flier - for the astute - to read in compensation.

Food options include three sizes of pie, from miniature to small dinner party, mashed and baked potatoes, mashed and baked squash, substantial salads, drinks - hot and cold - and a beautiful array of sweets, some of which might be more memorable than the ones we had. Some of it's for takeaway, especially the mash already in plastic containers and larger pies. It's not cheap, with the medium pies priced at £4.75, but it's not trying to compete with Gregg's. If it gets its signage and intimidating countertop act together, this could be long-term competition for the likes of Square Pie.