PIEMINISTER, ST. MARY STREET
Right then: these ‘industrial’, ‘minimalist’, or “Oh, look how much effort we didn’t put into our restaurant to look edgy but actually spent a fortune in buying ‘reconditioned’ new lights, steel mesh and MDF tables” are beginning to get, frankly, bloody irritating now. Even places that serve great food or beer, such as the Grazing Shed or a Brew Dog pub respectively, will not escape EATCardiff HQ’s Iron Fist™ when it comes to interior design. Same goes for Porter’s, The Cosy Club that’s nowhere near cosy, and Urban Taphouse (even though we love your beer range more than the children we don’t have) and anyone else we either haven’t been to yet or can’t remember.
Amateur interior design criticism aside, we’d like to invite Fact Fans to this paragraph. Pieminister Corp was founded in 2003 by a couple of pie-lovers (not like that, although we don’t know for sure) across the Severn Bridge in Bristol. Just over ten years later and even an opening of a restaurant in Amsterdam, where huge kudos is indeed handed, us Welshies finally get a slice of the pie, marking the end of the fact paragraph with such a bad pun we’re firing ourselves.
As long-term readers and Twitter followers (@EATCardiff_Blog) will be fully-aware, we’re rather honest about our visits and apologise somewhere in The Small Print for any offence caused at any point; but, our personally much-anticipated visit to Pieminister was somewhat subdued, partially due to the fact we’d been bar-keeping over the Easter ‘Holidays’ and raving at Clwb Ifor Bach at a rare trance night in Cardiff, and also partially because the Pieminister folk had either been working or partying too hard themselves.
Perhaps we’re wrong to judge when we know how difficult it can be on the ‘wrong’ side of the bar, but ‘slick’ was not the word on this occasion. It all felt a bit shaky, like a 13th Century pre-battle stare-out. Neither side knew what to expect of each other, and us as the invaders were on unfamiliar ground, while remaining undeterred to take all that we wanted from them. However, rather than leaving several-hundred causalities, we left some cash. Not really sure who won.
Nevertheless, the folks were friendly and informative, but we really got the impression that it was still early doors.
The presentation of the menus out-performed the newly-clichéd industrial design. In stark contrast, the various menus (Brunch, Mains and Drinks / Desserts) were clean, easy-on-the-eye like Dimitar Berbatov’s recent magic, and compact and varied in the right places. The food menu is limited, but in the best, reassuring way possible that ensures you it’s fresh and not the sort of joke you get at the likes of Cedar Tree Farm (yup, we’re calling names out this time). Alas, you get what you pay for.
There are eleven ‘core’ pies (if we may declare them so) surrounded by a tasteful amount of bar nibbles, sides, low-calorie pies (for some reason), desserts featuring ice cream bought by-the-ball and even cheese and biscuits, which doesn’t get much more British than that. Couple that with a great selection of craft beers – which we’re mad about these days at the EATCardiff brewery – and refillable draft soft drinks and you’ve got such a great, concise selection of everything you could spend a fair bit of time hanging around for.
But you won’t, which we think is a good thing!
We wandered to the bar over the shiny, varnished, concrete floor and ordered a handy £8 selection of a Classic ‘Matador’ pie, served with cheesy mash (sadly sweet potato fries were out of stock) and cauliflower cheese alongside a Coke and some FREE gravy. Yup, have as much as you like. Ordering bread is advised, in hindsight.
Six minutes later our carb and dairy fest all arrived on an achingly ‘rustic’ chopping board. Pardon the apathy towards presentation of food these days, but what did white plates do to get such a massive boot up the backside? Too many places put too much emphasis on presentation now, and worse, it makes it all the more difficult for waiters and waitresses across the land to actually deliver orders to tables with bits and pieces almost literally knocking around.
Ignore the moan if you’re into clichéd novelty (there’s an interesting oxymoron), and look for yourself:
Yes, that is a silver gravy boat.
And this brings us back to the opening rant. The venue presentation does not match up with the presentation of the food. What’s going on here is that ‘cool industrial kid’ is trying to be mates with ‘traditional pub kid’, only that traditional pub kid is tagging along longer than welcomed and often rings the doorbell of cool industrial kid despite making it rather clear that he does not want to be friends, yet reluctantly invites him in to play because he’s nice. We’ve all had those sort of friends before…
In our opinion, if you’re going to be quirky and cool, at least be consistently quirky and cool. If you’re going for an industrial look, keep it that way and don’t confuse things with postmodernist bullsh*t.
Pardon our language.
The point is that your food is the focal point, not the bits and bobs. You don’t need to dress up great food, because it speaks for itself. Stick it on a single plate and let us dig in. Is that really too boring to ask for? Our friend’s fries were served in a coffee mug, for Christ’s sake. Edgy.
We’re not being overly critical because the food was a bit disappointing, but frankly, the food was a bit disappointing. Not sure where the flavour was, in plain truth (see what we did there?). It was fine. Certainly filled a gap as it’s calorie-tastic in a great way, but it wasn’t really ‘there’. Couldn’t taste any cheese in the mash, the cauliflower cheese we can’t recall anything about, and the pie itself was interesting for the wrong reasons.
The Matador is said to contain beef, chorizo, olives and butterbeans. We counted three butterbeans, nominal chorizo and one olive. Hmm. The beef was actually rather tender, but we can’t recall how it tasted either. The pastry was certainly good. Robust, tasty and smothered in endless gravy that you really can’t argue with.
It was all fine but we expected so much more in terms of flavour. Pieminister having a great reputation and having expanded quickly, our expectations were higher, but it didn’t deliver as a memorable experience, just a decent one that is a good addition to Cardiff, granted, but not an essential one.
We’ve come all this way and not made a single reference to politics. What a shame.
No really, there will be no reference to politics here.