If you’ve seen the El Food Brothers Twitter recently, you’ll have seen that Mash Madness has taken its hold of us.
The quest was set, lets find the best mash in the Northern Quarter. Our first hit of mash is being provided by Pieminister, for two reasons, first, we love a good pun, and secondly, it says ‘Pie & Mash’ in the window.
Entry to Pieminister is slightly confusing, not because we couldn’t figure out to push the door, unlike several other people we watched later, but because the first thing that greets you is a staircase.
“Have we walked into someones house?”
We head up the staircase, in the classic English way of confused politeness we make our selves known and are given the initial option “Are you eating in?”. So they do takeaway pies as well, good to know for grabbing a pie and mash on the hoof.
We are told to take a seat, and we decide to head back down the staircase, as things are looking at bit too ‘Yard and Coop’ cozy for our liking on the mezzanine level.
Its benches and hard looking chairs down here as well. I make a bee-line for the bench with the spongy looking surface, and am actually pleasantly surprised. El Food two takes the chair-shaped-bullet, but theres no complaints.
Service is speedy, and we are soon ordering a beer. It has to be the ‘Madness IPA’, we spot its 6.8%, but egged-on by the waitress we go for it. Having already agreed that “Thursdays are bullshit” anyway, a strong beer can only help.
We follow our ordering under pressure method of picking a pie, we already know we want mash. Its the ‘Matador’ (beef, chorizo, olive and butter bean) for me and ‘Beer and deer’ (venison, smoked bacon, kidney bean, scotch bonnet and Brewdog beer) for El Food Two. A friendly warning of El Food Two’s choice being “a bit hot” are heeded, but he’s been in the kitchen long enough to stand the heat.
Gravy is an optional extra, this is bullshit, why would you want a dry pie and mash. I think gravy is as optional an extra as a parachute when you’re skydiving.
Obviously we both take the gravy “option”, its 30p extra, the El Food Brothers millions haven’t quite rolled in yet, but we push the proverbial gravy-boat out.
You actually get a gravy boat as well, which round here, its a surprise to find one of these used for its intended purpose. Rather than floating a burger out to sea, or keeping your custard from your desert. It makes the whole thing seem quite classy by our standards.
The drinks come quickly, and the pies not much after. Obviously most, if not all, the menu is pre-cooked and ready to plate up. This isn’t a problem, it suits the lunch hour crowd perfectly, millennials don’t have time to cook a whole pie.
The brief interlude is spent watching passes by out of the window. Apparently people watchers are a thing, I find this an odd term, its like identifying as an air breather, but if you think of yourself as one, then this is the place for you. If you don’t want to do that, you can entertain yourself watching people try and fail to open the door to Pieminister. For the record, its a push to open situation from the street.
Pies delivered, gravy shipped and Colemans mustard in jar provided, we are ready to start. First things first, the pies are drowned in gravy, and then swiftly cut in two for the holy trinity (pie,mash, gravy) money shot. You can’t look at these pies and not think ‘bad things’ about them.
We nail the pies, that is to say, we eat the pies, quickly and not leaving any trace of pie and mash on the plate. El Food Two is loving his pie, “the perfect treat of heat and meat” he says. Personally the bit I tried was a bit hot, but I’m more of a mass than a heat fan when it comes to food.
My pie is tasty, but its not the sort of pie you’d write about on a postcard and send to your parents when on holiday. I spot a good few slices of chorizo in there though, so they aren’t scrimping on the ingredients. Having said that, I’m scraping the last of the mash of the plate with my knife and licking it off by the end, manners are bullshit.
Its all over quite quickly in the end, but everyone seems satisfied. Its not always a marathon, sometimes a sprint can be just as much fun. We head up the stairs to pay, its £10.40 a piece, with the beer proving the £4.40 in that equation. Its not quite the £5 lunch, but then no one forced us to have the beer.
Getting out of Pieminster provides the second challenge of the visit. We are now stuck with the till to the left of us, tables on the right, and in the middle a large group of people with absolute no self awareness or grasp of the basic laws of physics. Feeling like a contestant on the Crystal Maze who’s grabbed the crystal but only has 5 seconds till being locked it, we get out, but I’ve no idea how.
We will return, but might bring gloves next time.
Overall: 7.5 gravy boats out of 10 passengers on the gravy train.