I love a good meat pie. In my travels I have tried pastries of all sorts from pain au chocolat in finest patisseries of Paris to dust covered doughy disgraces in Dehli but to me nothing beats a meat pie. Flaky crust, tender meat that has been seasoned well and just the right amount of gravy will keep me coming back over and over but the search for the best pie in Wellington, New Zealand, was a delicious and greasy adventure that I challenge anyone to undertake.
I was recently living in New Zealand’s capital city for four months and I made it my personal mission to find the best meat pie in the city. I asked customers in the bar I worked at and brought up the discussion at every party I went to. It became a running joke with the people I met but I did get a lot of suggestions and sometimes I would get word of a great pie shop in a neighborhood out of the way and I would have to go investigating. People in New Zealand also take their meat filled pastries very seriously and I respect that. Some people look for the right crust and others focus on the contents but I believe it’s a balance that has to be reached by a baker who loves pie and devotes their career to making the perfect batch.
On a bike ride around the city I would pass by dozens of pie shops and cafes that all seemed to have a great selection and offered up their own version of the classics but it never felt right. I would be full to the brim from eating two, three, or four pies in a day when I be on the hunt. I abandoned all hopes of keeping any kind of respectable waistline in those four months but that freedom allowed me to have no dietary restrictions in my quest. One day at work I had a co-worker tell me that their friend was also a pastry connoisseur and that they had found the best pie in the city so with a scribbled name on a piece of paper in my pocket I made my way on my bike to the outer reaches of the city. I was headed to Island Bay.
You can imagine what a pie heavy diet will do to your ability to bike up steep hills and keep riding for kilometers at a time but for the right pie it is always worth it. I made my way out there to Island Bay and after a long trek uphill the reward was a beautiful long cruise down the other side. The wind in my hair cooling the sweat on my brow was almost a good a feeling as a person gets after pushing their way up the side of a mountain but the thought of getting the best meat pie in Wellington made it euphoric. I cruised down into the small village that sits on the flat embankment before the actual bay with an island in the middle. I locked my bike up and strolled into flash and kind of funky looking cafe and asked what pies they had. The girl behind the counter kindly showed me the display and named off what each pie was. The one I ordered was not a traditional flavor really, a pork and apple sauce pie, but it looked nice and I though maybe I have to order one of the nicer ones to get the best experience. With my pie on the plate I grabbed a seat outside on a table and got stuck in. It was ok… and that was disappointing. I was good but that was not what I was after. I sat there thinking that I might just have to call it a day and get back on my bike and trudge up that hill again and that was not helping that pie settle very well.
As I sat there an adorable old woman went rolling by in her electric wheel-chair and flying high on the back of her little rascal was a confederate flag. It was a sight to see. She zipped by with a letter in hand headed for the post box and looked as cool as could be doing it. On her way back by I called out that I liked her flag. I do not have any real attachments to the flag or what it might stand for but I am from the deep south and seeing a sight like that demanded a comment. She pulled up in front of my bench and thanked me for noticing her flag and and asked my where I was from. I told her Alabama and that I was here in New Zealand looking for the best meat pie around. She leaned over and loudly whispered that although the cafe I was at had nice pies that she believed the best pies to be had, hands down, where just down the street. She had my attention. I mean you have to take a woman of her age and strong personality seriously. She gave me the simple directions and scooted out of my life leaving me with a new lead on my search and I was going to get to that pie shop no matter what.
Just a few blocks down the road on a corner, I came upon a relatively unassuming building with a sign that said Patrisha’s Original Pie Shop and the door was open. I jumped off my bike hungry. Maybe it was the long bike ride or the weird circumstance that led me there but I was ready to get another pie in me. I walked in and was greeted by a lovely woman who ended up actually being the shop owner. It is always a great sign of quality when you go into a place and you get served by the owner of the establishment. As I get the run down of the pies available that day I tell my story and get a interesting story in return. The owner tells me that the shop is named after her mother who owned the shop for years and that the family had actually sold off part of the business and that the shops in Wellington running under a similar name had originally been theirs but after the sale the chain of pie shops had been run into the ground. The shop she was running was the last remaining vestiges of her mother’s legacy and that the business had been running for decades. The story was a great build up and the smell of the pies was making my mouth water. I decided to get a mince pie and figured that if it was going to be good then the simplest pie would be the best thing to judge them on. The kind lady put my pie in a paper bag and wished me a pleasant day as she slipped back into the back of the shop where I imagine magic takes place.
Pie in hand I reckon a nice place to enjoy this pie would be on the bay just a few blocks down the road. I pull up and hop up the concrete wall that sits back off the water and the beach. Feet dangling, I face the small island that sits in the bay of Island Bay and unwrap what is seriously heavy pie. My first bite made me realize that all the pies I had eaten before this one were basically garbage. Meaty, flaky, flavorful and a perfect balance of texture and taste all baked together and lovingly placed on a shelf for sale at a reasonable price. I knew the entire time I sat there with the beautiful natural surroundings of New Zealand that the real wonder was the culinary greatness I was devouring. The pie was big and amazing, everything you want in just about everything in life.
I did not go back up that hill I had taken to get there, instead I decided that I should push on around the coastline and find my way home another way. The spirit of adventure hits us all in different ways. For me it was searching for the best meat pie in a land that is known for its stunning natural beauty and eventually finding what I was looking for and getting to eat it with satisfaction while looking out on that rugged and awe inspiring landscape.
To get there go to
Patrisha’s Original Pie Shop