Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Red Lion - Barnes, London

We were good in the Olympics, Team GB. Had pie eating been an event, I'm sure we'd have been even better. Although fears of glorifying obesity have seen the World Pie Eating Championship in Wigan reduced from volume to speed, pies are still as popular as ever and their stock is surely rising. Always synonymous with fatness - 'who ate all the pies', a popular taunt toward the overweight - everything can be consumed in moderation and a pie every so often is easily countered by a good jog. One everyday, on the other hand, requires some serious worn rubber on the Asics.

Mind you, shoes with no soles aside, I really am a rank amateur. There are some out there whose consumption of pies dwarfs mine by a factor of ten or more: The Pierateers. These guys are anonymous pros and my visit to The Red Lion in Barnes was not only to try a pie from South London, but to say hello to The Pierateers and marvel at the masters as they work.

The Red Lion may sit out on a National Rail limb, flanked by proper countryside of fields, trees, and the Wetland Centre in the suburb of Barnes, but it's not far from Putney by train or Hammersmith by bus. The pub is a large square box, painted a strange shade of green, with Fuller's on tap, and huge Sunday dinners delivered in a roasting tray. Pies, however, aren't on the menu on a Sunday. No-one says no to these pie aficionados though and three special slices of a tray baked chicken and leek pie arrived for us, sitting on a bed of (possibly) tarragon mash - it was green anyway. There was definitely some difficulty in telling where the mash ended and the pale innards of the pie began; not a problem for taste, perhaps an issue if you're attempting a meticulous dissection for the purposes of a fair rating. These guys prodded, probed, chewed, and with limited discussion ("Is that a false side?") set to work scoring marks against their own seven criteria. Their consumption of the pie took minutes; mine was gone in seconds - a sure sign of a pie amateur.

I'll be interested to read their final rating. Mine was seven thumbs up. A flavourful pie, strong pastry, with a healthy does of mash on the side, the only improvement being some form of green included. You have to balance all of that belt-popping pastry with some healthy vegetables once in a while.

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