Sunday, December 13, 2015

Square Pie

It was late morning when we arrived in London. After going through immigration (which took a while because we landed at the same time as a plane full of NFL fans going to the game), we bought our Oyster cards and jumped on the train to head to our hotel. We checked in and rested a little bit, and then went out for a late lunch. We were really hungry by that point and the most logical option seemed to be the food court at the Westfield London (sometimes called the Westfield White City), which was located only a short walk from our hotel in the Shepherd's Bush neighborhood.

The food court was packed. Apparently everybody wanted to eat lunch after 2 pm at the mall. The Westfield had a ton of options, and in our exhaustion, everything sounded good. Many of the outlets were restaurants that had other locations throughout London in addition to their space at the mall. In my pre-trip research, I had come across a few of those spots with locations at the Westfield so we headed for those first. One of those was Square Pie. Eating pie was high on our list of things to do in London, so we were able to check something off our list right away.

Square Pie had a lot of pie options, which were all, of course, square shaped. The menu and choices were enormous. You could get a classic pie, or a skinny pie, or mini pies. The varieties included many classic English choices, as well as some more "modern" pies. You could get steak and Guinness, or lamb and rosemary, or spinach, sweet potato and goat cheese, or many others. On top of all the pies, they also had sausages, sausage rolls, and jacket potatoes. (We didn't know what jacket potatoes were at the time, but quickly learned they were baked potatoes.) Even the jacket potatoes came with lots of options. There were more than 10 ways you could top those, everything from curry to cole slaw to prawn cocktail.

If choosing the type of pie wasn't enough decision-making for you, there were the sides and extras. Each pie/roll option came with the choice of getting them plain or with 2 sides. The sides included fresh mash, oven baked wedges, mushy peas, beans, sweet potato mash, cole slaw, or various salads. On top of all that, you could also top your plate with onion gravy or parsley liquor for free. There was a lot to choose from.

I gladly let A choose the pie since I was completely exhausted and unlike A, hadn't taken a nap before lunch to refresh my brain. He went with the chicken and mushroom pie with sides of fresh mash and mushy peas, topped with onion gravy. Sounded good to me, and it looked pretty good as they piled everything on the plate.

Our general feeling about the pie was that it was just okay. It tasted like a chicken pot pie, which was fine, but the flavor wasn't that special to us. As we sat there eating our pie, we wondered whether our expectations were just totally off, whether exhaustion was dulling our taste buds, or whether the pies here were just okay. We've had a lot of good pies here in NY (our favorite is the NZ style DUB Pies, which we shamefully haven't finished our post on yet), and the ones we had in NY just seemed better to us. We also started to think that maybe we didn't know what a "proper" English pie really was like, since our exposure has been mostly to Australian or NZ style pies in the States. Maybe this is what English pies were supposed to be, and we just didn't know it.

The mushy peas were fine, but they were much more mushy and mashed than we thought they would be. We were picturing something akin to the Thirsty Koala's mushy peas, smashed but still with some texture, but maybe that's again a difference between English and Australian styles. (If it is, we prefer the Australian.) The mashed potatoes were also fine, skin-on red potatoes all mashed up and buttery. The best part of the meal was the rich onion gravy, but that's probably because we like onions. The mash and the mushy peas both tasted better with the gravy, as they were light on seasoning without it. We guessed that they figured you would get either the gravy or the liquor since they were free, so maybe they deliberately seasoned the sides a little less (which is fine).

Overall, our feeling about Square Pie was that it was fine, solid but not spectacular. We mostly found ourselves each independently thinking about DUB Pies. While we didn't feel any need to return if we found ourselves back in the food court, we were glad that we had opened our eating exploration with some classic pie, mash, and peas.

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