On visiting any pub in England one would be hard pressed not to find at least one meat pie on the menu. They have been a staple of pub fare since the medieval era, if not before. There is something infinitely hearty and comforting about meat and vegetables swimming in a rich gravy wrapped in a thick, flaky crust. I daresay working men in England have been popping round to the pub for a pie and a pint in the middle of the day to get them through afternoons on the job since that very same medieval era.
As a historical note, wrapping food in a sort of pie crust has been around since the Egyptians. Once Alexander the Great started building his empire this Egyptian staple soon moved on to Greece and eventually the Romans acquired it… about the same time they acquired Greece. The Romans moved on to occupy Britain and whilst those early Brits did all they could to shove the Romans back to Rome, they did like the idea of baking meat and vegetables into a pie crust so they pilfered the recipe. Seems a small price to pay for slaughtering a large portion of the Celtic population and murdering Bodiccea.
Fast forward to today and the meat pie is part of the very culinary fabric of Britain. And it is definitely one of the very best things to order in any pub in England. Pubs take a great deal of pride in the reputations of their pies. There are even annual contests for the best pub pies in counties, districts, and even the entire country.
By definition, a meat pie is any meat dish served in a pie crust. Which means everything from the lofty Beef Wellington to the lowly Cornish pasty can be considered a meat pie.
Chef Gordon Ramsey’s recipe for Beef Wellington is considered the epitome of Beef Wellington recipes.
The D-shaped Cornish Pasty, a hand pie with a storied history that comes filled with beef, potatoes, swede (rutabaga) and onion was developed as lunch fare for workers in the ancient English tin mining region of Cornwall. it played such an important part in the history of mining in Cornwall that the dish was awarded Protected Geographical Indication status in 2011 to prevent it being copied by imitators.
Here is a recipe you can imitate for a scrumptious pasty.
Now cooking your own pub pie might sound well and good, but frankly I much prefer acquiring a good pub pie in its natural habitat – a pub in the UK! There is something to be said for the flavor added to a pub pie by the rafters and hearth of a pub that has been around for several hundred years. And nothing can compare to strolling about an English village or a stately home or the grounds of an ancient castle only to wind up in the local pub with a delicious pub pie and the local ale or a hot cup of tea on a scarred oak table ready for you to enjoy.
Check out some of the other pubs on this list !
For me, however, it is the out-of-the-way, small village pubs that cook up the best pub pies. Nothing can compare to a local cook striving for bragging rights and desiring nothing more than to provide the comfort of a great pub pie for their friends, families, and neighbors.
And nothing can compare to a meal of steak and ale pie at a historic pub with one’s fellow travelers after a day visiting stately homes and a village unchanged in hundreds of years. Sometimes it is the food that makes an indelible memory. Sometimes it is the company. And if you are very fortunate, it is both. Who’s ready to take a trip to The George for some glorious pub grub?