It was slightly surreal finding myself wandering round the Northern Quarter late May looking for meal inspiration and deciding that a pie would really hit the spot. God bless the summer in Manchester.
Pie and Ale is part of the Bakerie family - hidden away in The Hive mini-arcade like Narnia inside the cupboard behind the eponymously named main restaurant on Lever Street. Despite never really hearing anyone talk about the restaurant it's clearly got a decent following within Manchester, there were very few free tables at tea time on a Friday night. There is a large dining room on one half of the building with picnic table style seating, the other half features a typical bar area with a few smaller tables and some diner style booths.
As you'd expect from the name, they had a great range of Beers and Ales on cask as well as bottles - a fairly imaginative range as well - good to see Tiny Rebel, First Chop and Arbor options. I finally settled on an Arbor Breakfast IPA which a perfect accompaniment to a pie, hoppy fruity and nicely light.
There were loads of options to choose from including a wide range of meats (steak, lamb, rabbit, game, chicken) and some interesting sounding veggie options (three cheese, Moroccan root vegetable tagine and woodland mushroom).
I was having a tough time making a decision as most of the options sounded like they'd hit the spot but in the end I went with the BBQ Belly Pork and Three Cheese pie.
BBQ Belly Pork - this came with a little pastry pig sat on top which immediately raised a smile. When I think about what I want from a pie, it needs crusty pastry, deep filling and lashings of gravy. Pie and Ale delivered on all fronts. The mash comes sat on top of the pie and was rich and creamy, the crust was sufficiently thick and well cooked to be crisp and hold everything together. The filling was described as '6 hour roasted belly pork' but the pork was more well cooked than you'd expect tender belly pork from that description - quite chewy chunks. The gravy had jalapeño hidden away and was fairly subtle but by the time I'd gobbled the pie down the warmth really kicked in, a really solid winter warming pie.
Three Cheese and Creamed Leek - the cheeses in this one were a smoked cheddar, brie and Shropshire blue and padded out with leek and some diced potato. When I ordered the waitress offered vegetarian gravy which I thought was a great thing for them to have asked, I'm not veggie but I'd never have thought to ask. The pie this time came with a pastry number 3 stuck in the top, not as cool as the pig for me - I'd have preferred a mouse or a triangle of cheese. The pie itself was another really good one, the melted cheeses all worked together really well, it was creamy, rich and comforting. As is often the case, the blue won the battle of the flavours.
Portion of mushy peas was ok but they disappeared in a couple of spoonfuls, a larger portion wouldn't have gone amiss but it only cost a couple of quid.
If you head into a restaurant called Pie and Ale you'd be pretty confidant with what to expect and they absolutely nail the concept here. A wide range of pies and a cracking bar menu all for reasonable prices - £30 here for 2 pies, a side, a beer and a gin and tonic. Another place I'm certainly glad to have tried and whenever I'm in the mood for a pie in the future I'll definitely head back.