Food: Olly tries out Bert’s Pies

pie 1’s Oliver Heath samples the latest pie offerings:

A few years back I snuck into the ATP musicians’ afterparty and a friend boasted that Nick Cave had just asked him where to get a late night snack. He proudly declared his answer was “Pie Face.”

“Noooooooo!” I yelled as time slowed and I caught a glimpse of Saint Nick exiting the venue. It was too late. Maybe he’d be so disgusted that he’d never return to Australia again.

For a nation where meat pies are one of the pillars of our identity, we don’t take enough pride in their making. Shame Australia, shame. I’ve taken one bite out of a 7/11 bought FourN’Twenty pie, gagged and put it straight in the bin. For all its airs and innumerable outlets, Pie Face is no better. There ain’t no love in that gravy; I’ve spat some horrible gristle out of a mouthful Pie Face grateful that it was too dark to see what it was. Go ahead cover it in peas and mash, you ain’t fooling no one Pie Face, no one. It’s a Pie Farce.

I’m glad the recent taco invasion in Australia has improved the drunk snack situation, but we can’t rely on taco alone. If you’re too wasted the filling will fall out of your taco! And where will that leave you? Hungry, drunk and punching people no doubt. Jokes aside, it’s a serious issue, less people would get fists swung at them by strangers in The Cross if their assailant reached for a pie instead of another beer.

pie 3There’s a glimmer of hope from an unlikely place: the Merrivale food and bar empire. I was invited to try their new “Bert’s Pies” now available at a bunch of their places. The pie was the result of a cook-off among Merrivale chefs and the winner was 3 Hat Est. Chef Alex Woolley. That’s about as far as I got into the press release before I decided I was in. Fuck yeah! Pies!! I invited a babe I’m mates with to make the night complete.

As I was about to leave for the event I looked up the venue, Pailings restaurant… sweet… oh wait that’s at The Ivy. Not my scene. Lucky it was a fake date or anyone who’d have any interest in me would be unimpressed. It’d just be a culture clash. Imagine my moontan and look of disdain amongst all those shinny Young Liberals. Ain’t gonna mesh. I break into a sweat thinking of all the lychee martini drinking fake tans howling with outrage when I won’t let them wear my cowboy hat and go Gangham Style. Fuck I’m an atrocious snob. To break the bad news to my companion we stopped for a drink at Mojo Records Bar. They gave us free Burger Rings. She didn’t ridicule me too badly when I broke the news. But I could feel her judging eyes.

Yet again I’ve let my hunger lead to imaginary melodrama. At the Ivy we were greeted by completely lovely staff. I have some friends that work for Merrivale and they’re all wonderful people too so clearly they make good hiring decisions. I was shown to a table full of middle aged food bloggers & one of the losing chefs. I wondered if I should have brought my eating-enthusiast Uncle instead. The first course was a pork and fennel sausage roll, and it was the best sausage roll I have ever eaten. It wasn’t as compact and loaded with binder as other pie 2rolls. I would have happily eaten two, and I’m not a glutton when it comes to meat. The pie of the hour was good, but honestly a little dry, like it had been sitting in a warmer for too long. Still a massive step above what you’d expect from an emergency eats corner store pie and nothing some sauce couldn’t fix.

My mate date remarked that this would have been her fantasy of a perfect date when she was a kid. Table service of what was essentially fancy party food. Starting with a Burger Ring appetiser all of a sudden seemed more appropriate. She was spot on – as a kid if you imagine a perfect date you’re thinking of spending a wonderful evening laughing with your BFF (that maybe smells nice and has really shinny hair), not strategies for getting an emotionally unstable person that never eats and you have nothing in common with into bed with you. These pies were food for thought. Thanks Hemmsey. I had a really good time at your Ivy restaurant. I look forward to many more surprises at your venues. This time I was surprised I was even there, but glad I was.

oliver heath


Words and pictures by Oliver Heath.