Full disclosure: I have emotional skin in the game here. Having grown up in Crosby, Satterthwaites bakery holds a particular place in my memories of childhood; the behemoth vanilla slices that my grandma would buy from its counter were one of the key reasons why her visits from the Lakes were so eagerly anticipated by me and my siblings.
Any pie shop opened by the owners of Sattherthwaites, therefore, was always likely to be OK by me. However, this being the Albert Dock – or Royal Albert Dock, as we must officiously now call it – I was slightly taken aback by the somewhat rudimentary nature of Pie Port. After a press release oozing talk of “industrial-style interiors, which include rustic features and vibrant red branding” and amid a major push by the Dock’s owners to lure high-end independents from across the city to the waterfront, I didn’t expect to be greeted by, well, just a pie shop.
There’s a counter, a few stools and a wooden table, a warming cabinet for the pies, a vat of mash and that’s about it. An A5 flyer which doubles for a menu lists four kinds of pie – cheese and potato, chicken and mushroom, Scouse or steak and ale – all at £4 eat-in or £3.35 to take away. There is a baby steak option (£2.70/£2.25) and three kinds of pork pie, plus sides of mash, peas, gravy and, in a token nod to its highfalutin environs, an incongruous couscous salad. The full extent of the drinks menu reads: “Can or bottle of water”, although there is also a coffee machine.
So, what to say? The pies are tasty. My steak and ale was packed full of flavoursome meat, though it could have done with a touch more gravy, and the mash (correctly, in the context) had way more butter in it than I would have added myself and the peas (correctly) were overcooked and had gone a little limp. The cheese and potato was a doorstop of yummy squidgy wrongness.
We didn’t have any couscous. I suspect nobody does. What the customers do like, judging by the queue snaking out of this little outlet’s door, is pies. That queue was largely made up of people wearing the uniforms of other businesses on the dock, and those workers must be delighted to have an affordable, no-nonsense place to buy lunch among the fripperies and expense of the Dock. Families visiting the museums or Tate with hungry young mouths to feed and finite spending power will also likely flock here for a cheap bite to eat while sat on a bench watching the boats.
Pie Port was only three days open when we visited, and needs to steady its own ship slightly and perhaps expand its repertoire a tad. A vanilla slice would go down a treat. But I hope it doesn’t posh up too much. Just a pie shop is fine.