Saturday, 10 March 2012

Leeds Pork Pie Challenge

It is National Pie Week this week and in a moment of madness I asked my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter who sold the best pork pies in Leeds.  The response I got was staggering.  Even discounting the pie shops and butchers from Doncaster, Bradford and Pontefract, I received recommendations for 11 different pie-men within the Leeds postal district.

I realised, after Z pointed out the obvious, that getting around all of these shops in one go would take hours and leave us with far too many pies to eat in one sitting.  I jettisoned the shops in Otley, Wetherby and Garforth from my list and set off around Leeds.

The six pies I ended up with were from:

Wilson's, Queen Street, Morley
Stephenson's, Lower Wortley Road, Wortley
Bentley's, Robin Lane, Pudsey
Costelloe's, North Lane, Headingley
Haley and Clifford, Street Lane, Roundhay
The Little Yorkshire Pie Company, Kirkgate Market, Leeds

Obviously I knew which pie was which, so Z stepped in to act as the control judge as we nibbled our way through a pie heavy lunch.  In an attempt to be vaguely scientific we decided to judge the pies on the following criteria; the pie's appearance, the quantity and distribution of the filling, the quality of the pastry, and most importantly the overall flavour of the filling itself.

On looks alone, the pies from Wilson's, Haley's and The Yorkshire Pie Co. took a three way lead into round 2.  None of the pies looked properly hand raised, which would have been my preference but that clearly isn't the Yorkshire way.  To my surprise only a couple of the pies contained any trace of jelly when we cut them open.  I'm going to put that down to undercooked pastry that soaked it up after it was added rather than it not being there at all.

The Pastries were a mixed bag and this was where we could start to separate the men from the boys.  The pie from Costelloe's just wasn't that good.  I didn't have high expectations when I bought it and those expectations were met.  The real disappointment was from Bentley's.  A traditional butchers who make the pies on the premises.  I'd had high hopes but they were shattered by an unappetising looking pie that didn't look any better once cut open.  There wasn't much filling to talk about and the pastry tasted overcooked.  The pie itself was ok once you got it into your mouth but by then the damage had been done.

In joint 3rd place were the pies from Stephenson's and The Little Yorkshire Pie company.  Both had their merits but were ultimately beaten by better pies.  That left two.  Judging by the sheer number of recommendations I'd received, I was not surprised at all that Wilson's had made the final.  It is a great pie but on the day it was beaten by the pie from Haley and Clifford by a single point.  On analysis it boiled down to the flavour of the filling.  The pie from Haley's had a more robust, almost bacony, flavour and was very well seasoned too.

Back Row L-R: Wilson's, Stephenson's, Bentley's. Front Row L-R: Costelloe's, Haley & Clifford, Little Yorkshire Pie

So that's that then.  Well not quite.  There was one vital piece of information that I had withheld from Z, the price of the pies.  When I told Z that the winning pie cost more than twice the price of the second place pie she started to have doubts.  There is no questioning the result as it stood but we both wondered if we could recommend that you spend your hard earned money on an expensive pie when you could save money and have a great pie at the same time.

So, in a Top Gear style bombshell reveal, I'm not going to suggest that you hunt out the winning pie.  Leeds, I give you Wilson's Pork Pie.  They do make a really good pie and it wont hurt your wallet.  There is the added advantage that there are a number of Wilson's stores around Leeds so you needn't go all the way to Morley from Shadwell to get one.

For the record, my favourite pie was the one from Stephenson's in Wortley and if I'd been judging alone the results would have been different but that's why I roped Z into the taste off.  No doubt your taste in pies is different too.  Wherever you buy your pies this week just remember one thing, don't forget the mushy peas.


  1. My choice would be Wilson's and I would recommend an excursion to their Crossgates butchers shop. Not only are the pies warm and juicy, but the shop is very heaven: a meaty sweet-shop!

  2. I've tried all those pies (except Stephenson's) and wouldn't stray too much from your conclusions. Wilson's are indeed a very fine pie and good value. Hayley & Clifford's are bought in from Voakes of Whixley Grange, so it's likely they'll have been frozen at some point, which earns a black mark in my book. I'll check out Stephenson's after your comments, although being on a par with TLYPC is worrying since I thought their offering rather poor.

    If you attempt Round 2, visit Growlers on Richardshaw Lane in Pudsey and Weegmans in Otley. Both have much to recommend them.

  3. I finally got round to trying the offering from Stephenson's and was suitably impressed. A mighty fine pie. Good shout.

    I may have to conduct my own side-by-side to settle on a personal favourite. Good times.

    1. I keep meaning to go back to Stephenson's for more but it would be a diversion for pie. I think the next leg (should there be one) will focus on Otley and the surrounding area.

      Thanks for the comments.