Pie Mania! The shop’s logo screamed at me from across Wellesley Street on the way back from the pub last night. I made a mental note to re-visit it today. Multi-award winning for many years, a haven for pie lovers everywhere in the heart of town. Having spent this morning taking in the Croesus-like ocean going scenery of Auckland’s Wynyard Harbour and the busy waterfront, I skipped eagerly back towards town to the earmarked venue for my Friday treat.

Closed. Not closed in the Kiwi sense, as in randomly shut at lunchtime if and when the need takes you, but properly shut.

Fermè. Geschlossen. Tūtaki. No more pies here.

Ever.

Like a wasp that’s been winged by a flick from the rolled up Sunday colour supplement after a foolish foray into the stewed apple, I wobbled away, my pride wounded, my hopes dashed. I lurched dejectedly through the indoor markets teaming with South East Asian eateries. No steak and cheese loveliness to be had here. Approaching Ron Burgundy in-the-aftermath-of-losing-Baxter levels of despair and loneliness, I stumbled back towards the harbour. This weekend sees Auckland’s annual Lantern Festival take place and to celebrate they’ve loaded Queen’s Wharf with food exhibitors, sideshows and free cinema and in these most unlikely of surroundings I found salvation.

Heavenly Pies.

I’d take any pies at this stage. The lunchtime rush meant the stall holder’s take on the Kiwi Classic, the upmarket but not overly so, Port Wine Beef and Danish Blue had sold out. From Pulled Pork & Kawakawa, Moroccan Lamb Tagine and Mexican Bean & Mozzarella or Coconut Chicken & Cashew I chose the former. Probably still reeling from the body blow earlier I opted, recklessly, for the salad accompaniment.

A side dish of purples, puces and pumpkin intermingled with shredded carrot, feta, leaves and sprouts of various sizes. And beetroot. Lots of it too.
The warmth of the early afternoon sun buffed the burnt red bricks of the Ferry Building, the Isley Brothers’ Work To Do played prophetically in the background as a cooling sea breeze whipped around the wharves. Salad days indeed.

The pie sat wedged in its tin foil casing. I tried to prise it away with my fingers but it wouldn’t budge. Kiwi cricket fans will hope their top order proves as steadfast tomorrow. I hacked away with my fork through edges of short crust pastry rolled inwards like gold flaked waves and managed to dismantle the mixed herb-encrusted top, tearing it away with the type of flourish you associate with burly lock forwards flinging half backs from the fringes of a ruck.
The star turn was the pastry. The pork gravy infused fluffiness dissolved like savoury candy floss in the mouth. Kawakawa is a native herb, basil like in its qualities, and its sharpness buried itself within the pork and potatoes. For sweetcorn in last week’s effort, read pumpkin this week. Pretentious uninvited guests both, but in poncier pies like today’s version, it’s more the accepted norm. And, actually, surprisingly, it worked.

While not quite as heavenly as Steak & Cheese, Heavenly Pies’ Pulled Pork & Kawakawa rescued a potentially troublesome lunchtime. I wished the stall holder all the best with his new venture, he and his wife are opening a restaurant of the same name in Auckland soon. I very much hope the same fate doesn’t befall them as the late, possibly great (we’ll never know) Pie Mania.

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