Regular readers will have seen my piece on the Seven Wonders of Bedfordshire a month or so ago. It was a close run thing, but the fantastic view from the top of Ampthill Hill just missed the list. There is something of the lowlander about us here in Bedfordshire, being fairly devoid of dale and vale, but even the hardiest of highlanders would give us a little credit for this marvellous vista. Meanwhile, the historic Houghton House and its importance to county lore is just a cricked neck away too.

A tradition stemming from the Middle Ages and my psychotic (misunderstood) namesake’s visits to Houghton House still takes place today, the Thursday market. Held on Market Square beneath the Clock Tower and between the charming Georgian buildings either side of the narrow high street, the market has provided a focal point for town life for centuries.

Trying to lay the foundations of a tradition of my own, The Engine & Tender on Dunstable Street in Ampthill is the hastily chosen venue for Friday Pie Day following the morning’s cricket meeting with Johnno. Johnno Snr reckons the pies from the Engine & Tender are well worth a bash.

Johnno Snr is from Lancashire so he should know. So, at about lunch time we piled into, what has recently become, my youngest brother’s local to meet him.

The Engine & Tender is a great local pub. With the cream wall paper design ripped straight from the Ronnie Corbett school of fashion design and the familiar wooden panels, comfy claret soft furnishings and three hand pumps featuring guest ales this is the archetypal British boozer. There’s a pleasant atmosphere which is enhanced by the local office workers pouring in for their end of the week bar snack and tipple.

Johnno Snr gets ’em in while the obliging barmaid goes through the pie list. Firstly, there’s no steak and cheese option.

But why would there be?

This is the archetypal British boozer after all. We mock the Kiwis at every given opportunity for allegedly playing catch up on the rest of planet earth, but I reckon it will be another twenty or so years before steak & cheese pies become the norm in British pubs.
Not so smug now are we fellow Britons?

I digress. From Steak & Ale, Steak & Kidney and Chicken, Bacon & Mushroom I opt for the former.


The pastry is denser than a Page 3 girl pub quiz team and as tough to break down. Chips and peas with a healthy dollop of HP provide the thinking man’s garnish and the thick gravy, brought out at Johnno Snr’s insistence, nicely tops off this Friday feast. Delighted to have finally breached the pastry wall, I ready my awaiting taste buds for the beefy, beery good stuff.


Unless my buds deceive me, the steak and ale tastes suspiciously like chicken. And bacon. And mushroom.

No, it is indeed the chicken, bacon and mushroom version. I’m relieved to say that after months on the Ollie Reed Diet my gustatory organs, thankfully, aren’t completely shot to bits. And as chicken, bacon & mushroom pies go, it’s very nice.

But, as any pie lover worth his or her salt knows, just as you don’t make friends with salad* you don’t make pies with chicken.

*Copyright Homer J. Simpson