pie club

...mince pie mayhem

 

Pie Club 2011

For those new to the club, this page is where you will find the latest mince pie reviews, the thrilling climax that is the Pie-Offs, along with graphic crumbshots and introductory twaddle. Clear? Good.

Bring on the pies!

Check out the final standings in the group stages league table.

The Pie Club Pie-Offs 2011


The Pie Club Pie-Offs 2011



Pie Club 2011 has been tough going in the testing labs. With time constraints, stockists and a dearth of second opinions contriving against us, only twenty competitors came before the judges. Not that there were any particularly notable absentees, mind. Mrs Peek was in line for a debut until a breakdown in second opinioning scuppered her involvement (they were rubbish anyway), while it's hard to see how the likes of Sainsburys Organic or Netto would have added any value. Lack of availability in the northern badlands derailed Walkers and Waitrose, though the latter may well have put all their eggs into Heston's ineligible puff pastry basket in any case.

Whatever the issues, those twenty are down to four. It's hammer time.

This is the Pie-Offs.

The draw was made at tea time on Wednesday December 21st amid an all-emcompassing atmosphere of disinterest.


This is it

M&S The Collection versus M&S Luxury
Sainsburys Taste the Difference versus M&S Classic

The format has been tweaked slightly this year in order to keep things on the edge of interesting. Ties will be played out before two judges, over three bites and on a best-of-three basis, with home pies bitten first. In the event of a draw, ties will be settled first by aggregate scores (which won't ever produce a definitive outcome), then by Pie Factor, then by final group stage placings. Away bites will NOT count double after extra pies.


Semi Final One

M&S The Collection(COL) v M&S Luxury (LUX)
Tuesday 21st December 2011.

Today's esteemed judges are Michelle Allbright of Pie Club and Hughie Harrison of Wigan. Disconcertingly, it's a wonderful spring day.




First Bite:
COL kicks things off with a sturdy opening bite that demands proper chewing before releasing those mellow, buttery notes and brandy soaked fruits, but LUX hits back early with a heady combination of cherry and almond backed by an imposing double whammy of booze. A very assured start by the underdog. Game on.
COL 0, LUX 1 (0-2)


Second Bite:
Rattled by the early setback, COL comes back with renewed vigour, all boozy warmth and hearty of crust, with a deeply flavoursome and varied chew. LUX isn't for lying down, though, standing its ground with its own brand of buttery shortcrust and bevvied-up fruits. This is close.
COL 1, LUX 1 (2-0)


Final Bites:
It's anyone's guess which way this will go. COL is all minimal, stylish rusticity on the eye and rich, unfurling loveliness on the palate, while the lingering majesty of LUX continues to tantalise long after the last bite. It really is hard to separate this pair.
COL 1, LUX 1 (1-1)


A hell of a contest sees M&S The Collection safely through thanks to a Pie Factor of 22. M&S Luxury's semi final performance belied the 13-point chasm in the group stages, but a Pie Factor of 20 just wasn't enough in the final reckoning.

Will the Classic make it a fourth all-M&S final on the bounce, or will the spirit of Wimbledon be with surprise package Sainsburys TTD.

Find out later.

Semi Final Two

Sainsburys Taste the Difference (TTD) v M&S Classic (CLA)
Wednesday 22nd December 2011

Once again a panel of two sits, with Marc Willacy of Lancashire and Clive Wheeler of Widnes putting themselves through the pastry mill to figure out who will face now perennial champions M&S The Collection in the final.

The Classic's presence at the business end of Pie Club has been a given for many years. Winners in 2005 and 2006 and at least semi finalists at worst in three of the last four seasons, this year saw them lead the group stages until two days from time, when they were knocked off the summit by the defending champions. Hopes are high, then, for a return to the big dance, but they'll have to get past the season's surprise package first. Sainsburys TTD hadn't been within 20 points of the Pie Offs in the last five years, but a sudden renaissance built on their stubbornly leftfield filling has catapulted them into contention for 2011.




First Bite:

TTD gets off to a sluggish start, with that sturdy Scottish pastry outstaying its welcome a bit and the sticky inner struggling to engender any discernible flow. CLA has far more experience at this level, however, and throws some smooth opening shapes, making the most of that time honoured pastry and a nutty zeal.


TTD 0, CLA 1 (0-2)


Second Bite:

On the ropes in the early exchanges, TTD tries to rally but is hampered by lack of moisture. Old foibles look to be coming back to haunt our plucky underdog. CLA is cruising now, with candied peel and orange bind showboating as TTD founders. It's brutal, to be honest.


TTD 0, CLA 2 (0-2)


Final Bites:

TTD looks all set to throw in the towel, with judges' jaws reportedly grinding to a halt mid-chew amid claggy, dehydrated vine fruitery. CLA doesn't rub it in, though, finishing the job with a crowd pleasing flourish of clove. A bloodless victory.


TTD 0, CLA 3 (0-2)


M&S Classic canters into the umpteenth final of its illustrious career without so much as breaking sweat against Sainsburys TTD, who found the big stage all a bit much in the end, reverting to old ways and attempting to suffocate the life out of unsuspected judges who were clearly expecting more from a Top Four pie. The Classic knows from bitter experience it has it all to do at the last hurdle, having tasted defeat at the hands of The Collection (then Connoisseur) in the Grand Final back in 2009. However, many feel this pie is better equipped for greatness than ever before.

Tune in next time.

The Grand Final 2011

M&S Classic (CLA) v M&S Collection (COL)
Friday 23nd December 2011

The end is nigh.

The latest in a long line of M&S-Offs sees the Classic up against the Collection. First v Second in the group stages and arguably the finest pies ever to have graced Pie Club, it seems somehow fitting that it should all come down to this. There's a panel of three for the main event, with JC of Pie Club, Michelle Allbright of Bolton and Clive Brooks of Hampshire bringing down the curtain on Pie Club 2011.


First Bite:


CLA wins the toss and comes out all guns blazing. A mild festive hangover has driven my appetite to fever pitch and CLA takes full advantage with a short, all butter assault and a fruity, gently spiced chew. COL is unfazed, though, and brings an almighty butter hit of his own to the table, backing it up with a swift one-two of brandy and port. These two aren't for hanging around, that's for certain.


CLA 1, COL 0 (2-1)


Second Bite:

CLA's dander is up now and it piles on the pressure with a fabulously varied chew, throwing nuts and peel into the mix and introducing clove for extra impact. COL steps it up, playing on the opposition's shortcomings in the beverage department and sending a boozy festive warmth right through our awestruck panel.


CLA 1, COL 1 (0-3)


Final Bites:

CLA throws everything it can muster into one final push, tantalising onlookers with its moist luxury and precision pastry. Orange is performing with flair and juicy vine fruits are a steadying influence alongside the enigma of clove. COL is all understated power, though, with the crunch of that sweet pork pie pastry and the sheer gloriousness of that boozy apricot and almond chew pushing all the way to the last crumb.



LUX 1, COL 2 (1-2)


It had to work much harder than the group standings suggested, but has come through to land a fourth consecutive title. Pushed incredibly close by M&S Luxury in the last four and taken right to the wire by the brave Classic here, the Collection had to dig deep into its box of tricks to come through. As individual as it is brilliant, it's difficult to envisage anything coming out of the chasing pack to break its stranglehold on competitive pieing

As usual, big thanks to Simon Wilson, who once again provided the technical support that enables Pie Club to function without the need for pen and paper. Thanks, too, to PC, whose vision now ensures indigestion and chronic pastry fatigue each and every December. Finally, thanks to all the second opinioners who prevent pie rating from becoming an exact science year upon year. You know who you are.

Have a cracking Christmas and a very happy New Year
Until November, then
JC

Pie reviews - group stages


Two pies in one day? Well, It's been a longer, harder slog than usual (for readers and writers alike) but this is our last one of 2011. Whilst we're well down on numbers this year, we'd still like to think we've covered more or less all the likely contenders. So with the Pie Offs all but upon us, can Asda Extra Special force themselves into the reckoning for the first time since 2002?
 The Last One  Asda Extra Special
The Last One Asda Extra Special
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda Extra Special 21st Dec 2011 £2 6
Container Style
Still purple with the three pie viewing pane at the bottom and one of the genre's duller crumbshots in the top right corner. Handily, Asda advise the consumer that the box contains six servings, so nobody will make the mistake of trying to make two pies go twelve ways when the Queen has finished banging on.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Well browned and sturdy, if a little wonky, with its single air hole properly clogged by a generous helping of sugar. An attractive golden lid is adorned with one big star and three little stars. Like the Bangles. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Heady butter notes fill my nostrils as I go through my pre-pie routine. The pastry is biscuit short, with clag and cloy kept at bay by a proper all-round crunch reinforced still further by that crisp, granulated layer. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
The filling glistens enticingly as a waft of booze urges closer inspection. If grapes and stuff had heads and shoulders, that's how far above their vine fruit colleagues these statuesque, brandy-sozzled sultanas would tower. The fat, drunken buggers large it as candied peel, orange oil and apple go quietly about their business, lifting the portly afterglow above the realms of boozy gratuitousness while glace cherries and a cinnamon and ginger tag team work subtle magic on the fringes. 20
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
It's been a long wait for Asda but this winning combination of crisp, buttery pastry and moist, warming filling might well be worthy of a place in the post season. Simple but effective from the Leeds boys. 20
Second Opinion - Brighty, ex-Hants Marks out of 25
I'm not averse to the haphazard lumpen crust, and the three baby stars with one big daddy star has its own charm too. Liberal sugar drifts form in the dips and the pie is nicely browned, including on the all-too-often pasty base. But Asda is notoriously inconsistent - the finest carrot cake I know, but rubbish bread - so my bite is tentative. I am confronted by a yawning gap between glisteningly promising goo and pie roof. A strange medicinal note registers, which I vaguely recognise as clove and ethanol; alcohol is present, but only in the same way you sense its presence in cough syrup. Plentiful vine fruits dominate and a spark of citrus pops up late on, but aridness prevails, unaided by the dry, crunchy shell. Not very special at all, really. 15
Total Marks 92
Any Other Business No room at the inn for Asda after all, then. In case you've lost track and can't be bothered to look at the standings, our semi finalists are the M&S trio Classic, Luxury and Collection, along with the surprise package of 2011, Sainsburys Taste the Difference. If anyone's keeping count, that's three years in a row Morrisons have finished fifth.

See you in the Pie Offs.
Date Added 21st Dec 2011

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As the 2011 group stages head towards their conclusion, fans the world over are still waiting for the first 100+ score of the season. That can only bode well for M&S, whose Collection has dominated Pie Club since 2008. Is their bid for four in a row a foregone conclusion?
 Big pie, little pie, cardboard box  M&S The Collection
Big pie, little pie, cardboard box M&S The Collection
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S The Collection 21st Dec 2011 £2.99 6
Container Style
M&S have kept last year's box, once again presenting all six shimmering, bronzed contestants for inspection, with only a stylish brown and gold ribbon to distract us from their beauty.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Unchanged since last season, so still very much blurring the boundaries between mince and pork. Traditional anti-clockwise cogging encircles a single, central air hole, while gallons of egg wash give a suitably golden finish. Awesome. 21
Pastry Marks out of 25
Genius pastry engineering gives us a crisp outer shell before unleashing a soft, sweet secondary layer. Butter seems more understated than in previous campaigns but this is still mincemeat conveyance of the highest order. Savoury stylings in a sweet context. 22
Filling Marks out of 25
Moist and plentiful with a new flavour sensation every second chew. Chunks of almond run amok among the plump vine fruits as brandy and port take it in turns to wash in and out of your Christmas consciousness. Traditional festive spicing is eschewed in favour of apricot and nutmeg, but you're certainly not going to spend Christmas wondering where the cinnamon went. 22
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
What's to say? There's going to have to be a hell of a shock in the Pie Offs for this mob to be knocked off their perch. 22
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club CEO Marks out of 25
Glimpsing these defending champions through their viewing pane, a particularly polarizing egg wash alarms or delights (delete as applicable). I'm in the camp that is heartened by the Miggins-era browning and pudding basin fundament, but many of the people I have consulted with have renounced such Dickensian ways. There is very little argument arising from the glamorous inners however. Allow the tide of brandy and port to wash away your shopping stress and remind you about the true spirit of Christmas; self-indulgence. Go on, spoil yourself with brand name currants and a heavy touch of almond from this gentle giant of the competition. 22
Total Marks 109
Any Other Business God yes. Another pie, later today. Time's getting on, see.
Date Added 21st Dec 2011

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Winners in 2004 and back to form with an appearance in last year's final, the M&S Luxury will be looking to break the stranglehold of in-store rival The Collection, Pie Club winners under a varying nomenclature in each of the last three seasons.
 BOO!  M&S Luxury
BOO! M&S Luxury
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Luxury 16th Dec 2011 £2.69 6
Container Style
Contrary to recent form, M&S appear to have resisted the urge to make changes to their mid-ranger, which means we get a second chance to marvel at their 3D rendering of three pie ghosts collaring a pie Pacman within touching distance of the power pill. Box side bangs on about mutton and ox tongue. Incongruous without context, I know.
Appearance Marks out of 25
As untinkered-with as the box that brought them here, with pirate ship tiller taking centre stage and triple air holes relieving the pressure from within. Theyre a tidy size and Magic and Sparkle haven't been shy with the sugar. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
Very short, with pleasing extra crunch provided by the plethora of sugar crystals on top. Butter continues to be this pie's driving force, though its influence doesn't seem quite to strong this year. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
This lot weren't finalists last season for nothing, you know. A plentiful selection of vineyard refugees loll about in a citrus jus shot through with warming brandy and smooth port. Glace cherries put in regular appearances in a chew lifted still further by the occasional zing of candied peel, while cinnamon appears to have taken full responsibility for Christmassing things up. Simple but very, very effective. 21
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
M&S's decision to leave the Luxury meddle-free has been more than justified. A fine pie with high hopes of going one better in this year's post season. 20
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Marks out of 25
I've shuddered at the thought of some pies before, but rarely have I had to cower in fear following the unsheathing. Six alien faces manifested atop my luxury six (see other-worldly visage on teetering top pie on box crumbshot). Therefore, I can't confirm whether the problem chew I experienced was down to an overly stodgy inner or my mouth drying in terror.
Every once in a while a cherry/ET heart would loosen the mix, but on the whole I would expect more assistance from the apple puree. Brandy and port are willing but not pushy, and a buttery aftertaste can be achieved from the right mouthful.
One note of caution, my fourth pie suffered from a touch of stalk or grit interference, and because of that my score stays in the teens.
18
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business It's hardly news nowadays, I know, but perennial drivel-spouters Which? have recently made their annual pronouncement that Aldi and Lidl are better than M&S. Now we REALLY know it's Christmas.
Date Added 18th Dec 2011

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Tesco Finest were within touching distance of going all the way to the big dance last year, reaching the Pie Offs only to taste narrow defeat at the hands of M&S Luxury. Rather than simply tweaking their best pie in years, the Tesco bakery boffins have opted to rip it up and start again. Will this brave play bring belated glory to the blue and white stripes?
 Tesco Finest  Not for girls.
Tesco Finest Not for girls.
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Finest 13th Dec 2011 £1.5 6
Container Style
A new look for Tesco's flagship mincer sees the viewing pane jettisoned and most of the sleek black and silver colour scheme swapped for, er, brown and turquoise. Box end carries tales of festive folklore, while the designers have left nothing to chance drawing attention to Courvoisier's involvement.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A new look for the pies within, too. The four-pronged piercing is reduced to a single airhole in the middle of the SOB (star of Bethlehem). Browning of the edges has spread to the base and much of the top surface, while some sloppy lidwork let's down a potentially attractive contestant. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Extra time in the oven has done no harm, with a nice crispness to the lid offsetting any suggestion of clag from the walls beneath. Plentiful sugaring lends a welcome sweetness, while butter is reassuring and understated. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Tesco haven't been shy with the filling this year, packing in vine fruits and then shoehorning whizzy chunks of citrus and nutty lumps into any gaps. The orange goo acts as lubrication and a suitable playmate for the much-vaunted boozy do, but spicing is pretty low key and the aftertaste carries a suspicion of artificiality. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Margins of failure can be small at Pie Club. More care with lid placement may have eked out an extra point or two, while less meddling with last year's innards would almost certainly have given Tesco another shot at post-season glory. 18
Second Opinion - Grahame Dunbar, Bury Marks out of 25
What appears to be the Star of Bethlehem on the pastry lid misleads you to expectations of finding something magical beneath it. I think the Three Wise Men might have been a bit disappointed. Although a pleasant consistency pastry and filling, I wasnt able to taste the brandy in the fruit. 18
Total Marks 89
Any Other Business A recent taste test at Seven Hills W.I. in Sheffield (average age of 33, before your preconceptions get the better of you!) described Tesco Finest as "good pies and pretty good value, but not enough flavour in the mincemeat. For the record, M&S Luxury came out on top. Good work, ladies.
Date Added 16th Dec 2011

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I'll be honest, now. Perverse lot as we are here at Pie Club, we kinda look forward to the more potentially traumatic entries. And with fig roll-style horror stories blighting their recent campaigns, they don't come with much more potential for trauma than Sainsburys. So, with molars primed and scorn at the ready, these are their Taste the Difference.
 STTD  STTDB
STTD STTDB
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsburys Taste the Difference 14th Dec 2011 £2.5 6
Container Style
A classy affair in deep purple with a three-pie pane. Cleverly, Sainsburys have provided a neat thumbprint around the nutritional information so as to facilitate an unfettered view. Something Girls Aloud could learn from, perhaps.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Broad at the shoulder, pale and biscuity, and edged with the most determined cogging we've seen so far this season. Given JS's history of dry innards, the star cut-out in the lid doesnt seem such a good idea. 20
Pastry Marks out of 25
As unmistakably Walkers as ever. We've had our differences with those brave highlanders before but there are marked improvements this time round. A soft yet firm bite leads to a smooth, creamy butter hit that endures without turning sour. 19
Filling Marks out of 25
Interesting. Well filled with squishy vine fruits, cherry and a decent scattering of almond hunks, but it's the consistency that causes the stir. The absence of binding goo makes for a texture and depth of flavour not unlike that of rich fruit cake. There's enough moisture here to lubricate the chew, but enough bite to forge an individuality. Brandy creeps in at the last possible moment, while orange somehow manages to pull off understatement and intensity at the same time. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
We thought they were just rubbish but it's clear now that Sainsburys were salvaging valuable lessons from their annual Pie Club wreckage, adding a teaspoon of liquor with each passing failure until the vision was realised. I don't know if they're quite there yet, but next year's extra teaspoon might be something to really look forward to. 19
Second Opinion - PC, Pie Club Old Boys Marks out of 25
Akin to a BBC newsreader in HD, wrinkles surprise on closer inspection. Interesting debates abound regarding how big an air hole has to be before the pie becomes a tart. Flirting with disaster then, the bulky highlander needs to make the most of each square inch of pastry. Softer than in previous seasons, Walkers have crafted a more suitable bite for the festive nibbler, and the inners have grudgingly put a decent shift in to follow suit. Though still too thick in tone, the chew has enjoyed a step change from the crunchy then claggy trap of old. One of the better brandy aftertastes of 2011. 19
Total Marks 96
Any Other Business Hot on the heels of yesterday's frankly disturbing search engine news, today saw us discovered by a crazshy Dutchman on the hunt for images of 'hairy pie'. It took just four seconds of Readers Pies to realise we're not really that kind of website.
Date Added 14th Dec 2011

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Given the way society has gone, it seems strange that folk still bang on about shopping days before Christmas. As far as I'm aware, they're all shopping days, which means you still have eleven of them to snap up these Co-op Luxury All Butter for your festive spread. Should you see fit, that is...
 Co-op Luxury All Butter  Monky Magic
Co-op Luxury All Butter Monky Magic
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Luxury All Butter 13th Dec 2011 £1.5 6
Container Style
With all the browns and the candles, The Co-op's new box has something of a monastic air about it. The cleaved pie in the crumbshot appears to have been drained of all fluid before its photo call, while the M&S-style "Truly Irresistible" tag line seems a bit far-fetched for such a historically middling-at-best contender. The Co-op's favoured three-pie viewing pane remains intact.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The packaging my be all change but the pie appears very much the same, with the now familiar three-pronged holly motif cutting a dash across a lid with a lopsided demeanour not aided any by being far too big for the base on which it sits. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
A chomp of that ridiculous overhang gives a rich, buttery preview of things to come. Crisp but not brittle and thick without stodge, it's fair to say this delivers far more than its appearance might suggest. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
A moister-than-most inner sanctum awash with splinters of almond and hunks of apple and candied peel. Brandy and orange combine to offer a tangy, reassuring warmth as gentle ginger and cinnamon whisper softly in the background. A bit subdued, but perfectly pleasant. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Probably the Co-op's best effort in living memory. A bit more finesse with the pastry and a little more oomph in otherwise decent innards could see them pushing for a place in the Pie Offs next season. Certainly a world away from their red box atrocity. 18
Second Opinion - PC, DD Marks out of 25
If you like your pies a touch more fluid prior to the mouth mash, then you've come to the right place. The buttery pastry does very well to contain such slippery fruits, and gives a fair account of itself with sugaring to please the eye then some depth of character to hold firm, even post-bite. Brandy is aware of the job required and sets about her task with some precision, but no flair, allowing the viney tang enough time to parade its own wares. A steady, if somewhat moist, ship. 18
Total Marks 88
Any Other Business Pie Club feels somewhat sullied today having been offered up by Google in response to a Polish search for 'Dirty Pies'. Mercifully, Zbigniew took just nine seconds to achieve full gratification.
Date Added 13th Dec 2011

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Straight outta Knightsbridge, poncy big timers Harvey Nics look to bring a touch of class to Pie Club on their competitive debut. Sadly for the Sloane massive, at six quid for four pies we'd already all but ruled out a Pie Off appearance. Conveniently, though, it turns out there's sufficient precedent to justify our arbitrary whim.
 Harvey Nichols  Full of rich fruits
Harvey Nichols Full of rich fruits
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Harvey Nichols 30th Nov 2011 £5.99 4
Container Style
A clear, square plastic box with pale yellow side panel. I don't know where else I can go with this, to be honest. YOU CAN REALLY SEE THE PIES.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Bright gold, bordering on yellow, with a comprehensive dusting of sugar and six air holes in neat formation around centre pie. Very much reminiscent of Selfridges controversial semi finalist of 2009. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
Aye, if these aren't made by the same mob that supplied Selfridges I'll show my arse in their shop window. You can smell the butter at twenty paces, but it's almond that kicks in at first bite, leading into a subtle afternote of vanilla. It's thick and soft but cloy is minimal. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
Selfridges comparisons remain impossible to avoid on the inside, where a thin sliver of brown mincemeat paste works overtime to exude Christmas. Booze makes its presence felt early doors before giving way to cinnamon and ginger. Apple offers a token fruit presence in the absence of any discernible old grapes. 16
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Selfridges used the element of surprise to make the final two years ago, before being found out by a wily old campaigner in the shape of the M&S Classic. Harvey doesn't have the same luxury, though, and, while the visuals and the pastry are fine, the absence of any real substance at the heart of this pie will probably prove its downfall. 17
Second Opinion - Jimmy Allbright, once of Fareham Marks out of 25
"Wowee! These look springy and sugary", I thought, on first sight of this illustrious Harvey Nics pie. As I released the pie from its foil enclave the biscuit lid broke off to leave two shards for me to gobble up. Pie stuck to the cup, too, which I wasn't sure was a good sign. The biscuit lid was sweet and buttery, with aromas of almond and cherry. I sunk my teeth into the spongy cake and encountered more of the same, with a brief preview of mincemeat. Excited I munched on, but further mastication failed to reveal the mincemeat I craved and I was left floundering.

As an expert pie taster of some three years standing, let me tell you: mince pies should first and foremost contain the requisite festive boozy mincemeat. Secondly, they should not be akin to trifle biscuits of childhood. They might be good enough for Harvey, but they are definitely not suitable for St Nick.
15
Total Marks 87
Any Other Business Hats off to the recent visitor from Nottinghamshire who, evidently gearing up for quite a session, googled 'how many mince pies to be over the limit'. They didn't stay for long, sadly. I assume they had 436 quarters of wine gums to get through.
Date Added 12th Dec 2011

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With their twelve-pie red box laughed out of the competition in the preliminary rounds, cut-price German multi-national Lidl are left to rely on their luxury offering for their unlikely attempt at Pie Club domination. In the words of one of the sneakier Gestapo officers, "good luck".
 Der Pieser  Lidl Deluxe Luxury
Der Pieser Lidl Deluxe Luxury
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Lidl Deluxe Luxury 11th Dec 2011 £1.69 6
Container Style
Clad in the same colours as Die Nationalelf, with a cleaved pie in the foreground and the unusual inclusion of the weapon what did it at the rear. Even more unusual is the jug of milk in the serving suggestion. Perhaps it's for the reindeers. On the back of the box is Pie Club's first documented "cherry stone and nutshell" warning.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Slightly pallid but nonetheless pretty, with a three-berry holly motif on the lid and what appears to be Grand Marnier on the nose. Impetuous donning of the oven gloves has probably cost it a point or two. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Ever so soft without so much as a hint of crunch, but with enough buttery goodness to make up for its not-so-shortcomings. Melty. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
Regularly punctuated by the glint of nut or the zing of candied peel, this foreboding, dark, orangey ooze does a sterling job of hiding a healthy population of juicy fruit. The booze is cheap enough to suggest a proper slug would be more likely to burn than gently warm, and a mid-chew crack or two of stalk turns my thoughts momentarily from nativity to dentistry, but there'll certainly be far worse lurking behind pastry walls this Christmas. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A sterling effort from the Teutonic underdogs, undermined by a couple of basic errors that will surely be eradicated once the stereotype efficiency kicks in. If nothing else, they can take heart from giving rival discount Deutschlanders Aldi a good kicking. 18
Second Opinion - Brighty, Lancs Marks out of 25
"A Lidl pie comes with pre-conceptions, even if it does make bold claims to luxury. So when this pie turned out to be good, I couldnt help but wonder if it was just because it had surpassed all expectations. I like to call this the Chelsee Healey Effect. Beneath the golden, undulating exterior of the pastry, with its tacky holly/berries motif, this pie was rather yummy. The bottom of the pie had a tinge of golden brown too, and booze wafted up enticingly, which all boded rather well. Inside, a medley of fruits - both vine and citrus - sang out. A distinct marmalade undertone and winter spices completed the harmony and, as warming brandy hit the back of the throat, final notes of cherry, almond and coriander echoed their Christmas encore. This pie has plenty of spirit, if the packaging is a little rudimentary, but that doesnt mean I will be giving this pretender full marks. " 17
Total Marks 88
Any Other Business Unless we're much mistaken (and we often are), this was Lidl's first foray into competitive pieing. Ominous beginnings? Probably not.
Date Added 11th Dec 2011

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Next up for inspection are Bradford's finest, Morrisons the Best. Moz's flagship pie has finished a close-but-no-cigar fifth for the last two years. Will 2011 be third time lucky for these plucky Northern nearly pies?
 HELLO-OOO-OO-oo-oo  Morrisons The Best
HELLO-OOO-OO-oo-oo Morrisons The Best
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons The Best Deep Filled 7th Dec 2011 £2 6
Container Style
Still in British racing green with a three-pie viewing pane, but the box design has been tweaked a bit. The cover price is up 11p for a start, while the crumb shot rather fancifully displays a filling that looks like a bowl of Skittles compared to the real thing.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A pretty, broad pie with neat, well-browned cogging and a large, endearingly childish star spreadeagled over the lid. The prodigious dome suggests a rich bounty within, though experience warns us this ain't necessarily so. 19
Pastry Marks out of 25
A crisp lid sat atop walls that are short without so much as a hint of stodge. Sweetness doesn't particularly prevail but the soft, buttery notes that ring throughout the chew is a more than adequate alternative to more conventional sugary goodness. 20
Filling Marks out of 25
One part fruity goo, one part evaporated alcohol, three parts fresh air. What little there is in there isn't easy on the eye - all browns and darker browns - but the chew is one to savour. It's all here, albeit in small measures: juiced up vine fruits, candied peel, a scattering of walnut shards and a unusually high volume of glace cherry, all brought together with a convivial shot of booze. Were there more - a lot more - Morrisons would be onto a proper winner. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
But there's not more, and the ratio of oxygen to pie ought to be enough to scupper Bradford's interest for another year. It's a shame, because they were only a bigger spoon away from causing a real stir. 17
Second Opinion - PC, Old Skool Pies Marks out of 25
Such was the cavernous void between filling and lid, I half expected a couple of mynocks to escape post bite. Having left my pot-holing gear at home, I decided not to climb in but to continue my oral investigation. I'm glad I did, as the tangy fruit gloop took me back to a simpler time, with an almost savoury 1980s mincemeat that spoke of the flavour austerity before Sunny Delight recalibrated our sense of sweetness. Good, proper Northern fayre - well done all concerned! 19
Total Marks 93
Any Other Business 92 points saw Moz into fifth place in each of the last two seasons. Just in case they start to get their hopes up, however, a score of 93 saw them placed tenth in 2008!
Date Added 9th Dec 2011

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For decades Booths has been the acceptable face of the supermarket, massive corner shops tucked discreetly into corners of picturesque Northern outposts. One can only hope the opening of their new store at Salford Media City doesn't give them a taste for the bright lights. The idea of Gary Lineker popping in for a few bits is quite disturbing enough, thanks.
 Smooth...  Booths All Butter
Smooth... Booths All Butter
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Booths All Butter 19th Nov 2011 £2.09 6
Container Style
The same box as last year sees a gentleman clad in Victorian garb, dragging his daughter round the shops. They didn't have mobile phones in the old days, so they've stopped outside Tandy in hope of a peek at the half time scores. She doesn't give a toss but he's quite happy to see Barnsley are losing.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Tidier than last year, but essentially the same. Well proportioned in pale gold and entirely bereft of adornment save for a binload of granulated sugar. The seepage that blighted last year's entry is now contained beneath a lid that might best be described as jaunty. 17
Pastry Marks out of 25
Pleasingly short, with a hint of crunch from the sugar dunes and the sort of creamy butter hit many so-called 'luxury' ranges could learn much from. So far so good from Lancashire's finest. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
The sharp tang of orange nags away throughout the chew but there's enough going on in here to tune it out. Vine fruits seem bigger than last year's paltry gathering, and there's lots of candied peel and a pleasing nut content for variation. The spicing is light but well balanced, with cinnamon and ginger keeping an undercurrent of clove at arm's length. 18
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Little or no change to the outside but much improvement on the in, with better quality fruits and a more varied chew making for a filling worthy of its superior red box pastry compadres. 18
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
This pie comes out punching! Its robust and pleasingly simple design gives nothing away but a sprinkle of sugar teases you to look inside. One big bite and soft butter pastry crumbles away to mincemeat. And that is where it all goes wrong. Nice chunky vine fruits are festively seasoned with spice and a distinct orangey hit, but the grainy texture grinds on the palate and only an unplanned mid-pie brew can oil the wheels of mastication. At about a centimetre thick, the dreaded pastry cloy is inevitable. And in the final round of chewing, a knock-out blow to the gums leaves me defeated. I just can't muster the last bite. This pie has defeated me. 14
Total Marks 85
Any Other Business Chris Evans got wind of our Readers' Pies ganache-topped mincers the other day. If you didn't catch it, it's HERE , from about 1hr 46min. After bloody Paloma Faith.
Date Added 8th Dec 2011

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I know, I know, you've heard all the empty promises before. We're with you until Christmas now, though. Honest. If anyone's still bothering, it's Pie City from hereon in. Today we bring you the red box effort from the Japanese knotweed of the supermarket fraternity. Not only that, but there's a serving suggestion in Readers' Pies that could change your festive dining forever.
 Approaching supernova  Tesco Deep Filled
Approaching supernova Tesco Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Tesco Deep Filled 3rd Dec 2011 £1.25 6
Container Style
Like the inside of a kaleidoscope at Christmas. Frankly, if these are the prettiest pies they could lay their hands on for the photo shoot, I'd suggest someone in the kitchen has been on the rob in order to furnish their own festive table.
Appearance Marks out of 25
If the star adorning this pie had led the three wise men to Bethlehem, Christ's birth would have been floodlit and Ray Bans would have been all the rage long before the crucifixion. The lid doesn't look at all secure, while the base looks as if it could have been crafted from pine. 15
Pastry Marks out of 25
Quite a contrast of textures here, with the lower portion's borderline cloy offset nicely by a crisp, well-sugared lid. With the whole affair underpinned by a mellow sweetness, hopes start to rise for this perennial underachiever. 18
Filling Marks out of 25
The promise of the outer casing is swiftly undermined by a fairly basic to-do on the inside, where a gently spiced orange jus envelopes dominant sultanas. There are minor roles for some less statuesque vine fruits and a brief cameo from candied peel, but it's all rather underwhelming and a bit too brown. 13
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
With great improvements in the pastry department, Tesco are edging towards 'decent session pie' territory here, albeit at the sweeter end of acceptable. Rather fittingly, then, theyre no great shakes but they'll fill a corner. 15
Second Opinion - Mark Moran, Orford Marks out of 25
The pie looks home made with the crust slightly to one side and load of granulated sugar dumped on top. The pastry was pale in colour and very dry. The filling was moist and with good flavour. The pie tended to crumble and fall apart so didnt hold its shape too well. Overall a basic, cheap effort but with good flavour. 14
Total Marks 75
Any Other Business We've taken extra care with the crumbs from these pies, lest they be like Hydra's teeth. There are enough Tescos knocking about without us exacerbating the problem with careless eating.
Date Added 7th Dec 2011

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We've done our best to ramp up the tension so far but something had to give sooner or later. A two-time Pie Club champion in the mid-noughties and still very much the pie by which all others shall be judged - this is the M & S Classic.
 Pie Club Hero  M&S Classic
Pie Club Hero M&S Classic
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
M&S Classic 18th Nov 2011 £0.99 6
Container Style
After a couple of years of chopping and changing, M&S have stuck with last year's box design. The pies mob up centre stage, as you would expect, but I find myself warming to the ever-so-subtle 'partridge in a pear tree' logo. Peace and goodwill indeed, sirs.
Appearance Marks out of 25
The pies are unchanged, too, which at least avoids any embarrassing inconsistencies between box and contents. M&S's laurel-resting means last year's controversial slit lids continue to blight otherwise flawless aesthetics. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
The kind of precision engineering we've come to take for granted in the Classic, all buttery and short without compromising structural integrity. Right notes? Bosh! 20
Filling Marks out of 25
Moist and luxurious, with a scattering of nutty goodness and the tang of fruit peel making for a pleasingly varied chew alongside plump vine fruits. Apple and orange notes are well balanced and the spicing is gentle but effective with a characteristic clove aftermath. 19
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
What can we say about this pie (or, indeed, any other!) that hasn't been said before? With last year's minor spicing issues seemingly resolved, the M&S Classic is arguably as good as ever. 20
Second Opinion - PC, Old Pies Network Marks out of 25
My yearly reunion with MSC feels like a chance encounter with an ex-wife. I see the familiar cogged edging and broad shoulders, but almost fail to recognise her with the gaping slit atop. In my day her lid was pristine, but time must have worn this comfortable looking aperture.

The flavours are still neat and tidy, particularly the clove/ginger ghosts within the pastry walls. And the chew has always been one of her better points, although quite why she has resorted to designer labels ("Vostizza Currants") is beyond me. She is classier than that.

Had my head not been turned by the sultry delights of the Connoisseur, who knows? I think there'll always be a soft spot in my heart for MSC and yet conversely, she has hardened my arteries with love.
20
Total Marks 97
Any Other Business While M&S have been knocking out the Classic for less than a quid, some bloke has cobbled together the world's most expensive mince pie using sugar derived from sperm whale secretions and pastry bound with holy water from Lourdes.

Anything to keep the in-laws away on Boxing Day, eh?
Date Added 29th Nov 2011

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German piemeisters Aldi offer up Pie Club's first boozy do of the season today. The first of many, we hope. Here is their Holly Lane-guised Specially Selected.
 Pie had a hangover  Aldi Specially Selected
Pie had a hangover Aldi Specially Selected
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Aldi Holly Lane SS 21st Nov 2011 £1.69 6
Container Style
Our photo doesn't really do this box justice, looking, as it does, as if it were taken in 1982. It's quite a classy affair really, in black and gold with lots and lots of holly.
Appearance Marks out of 25
By jingo, that's a monstrous overhang. You could use these to shelter from all but the most horizontal of downpours if you were to find yourself waiting an eternity for a Bank Holiday bus. The snowflake motif has a strangely nautical feel to it, and the bloke who did the cogging evidently got sidetracked three quarters of the way round. Sturdy, too. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
The initial hit of butter is swiftly overpowered by brandy odours powering through the pastry walls. I need all my experience to recover my equilibrium and, if I concentrate hard, I can just about make out short, sweet pastry. If I'm honest, I'm afraid to venture beyond it. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
A fairly stingy portion of chunky vine fruits, tangy peel and glace cherry rub shoulders in what can only be described as a sea of house doubles. Like the Aldi red box if it had been glassed round the back of the head during a back street distillery tour. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
You get the impression the Holly Lane team is only a better brandy and a bigger spoon away from turning out a real contender. Sadly we're not here to judge what might be. 15
Second Opinion - Brighty, Bolton Marks out of 25
A little luxury is always welcome, and this Holly Lane pie promises oodles. Its proportions are generous and the golden-domed roof with snowflake motif keeps expectations high. A first bite is not overwhelming, but there is a pleasing hint of booze and sweetness to encourage further tongue-probing. A bigger bite yields plenty of sweetness and a bit of crunch - are they nuts or just the graininess of 'sundried' fruit? Plenty of lemon and orange zest and a shot of glace cherry add to this pie cocktail, which claims to have sourced its constituent parts from all over the globe - not very eco-minded. Despite French brandy and spice attempting to tango, the end result is more Dell'Olio and Du Beke than Harry and Aliona - the flavours seem to be there but they don't synchronise in the way you want. This is not a bad pie, it's just not luxury. 16
Total Marks 78
Any Other Business The seasonally-scorned Which? report this year informs us that consumers favour mince pies "with a twist". Naturally, this heathenism was met with derision in the corridors of power here at Pie Club. However, one prominent member recently caused quite a stir by extolling the virtues of a Terry's Chocolate Orange ganache in place of the traditional pastry lid.
Date Added 28th Nov 2011

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Apologies for our failure to update the site these last few days. We've been busy with stuff, see. But we're back now. I'm not sure there was too much breath bated in anticipation of Aldi's return to the fray, but here they are anyway.
 Holly Lane Deep Fill  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Holly Lane Deep Fill Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Aldi Holly Lane Deep Fill 20th Nov 2011 £0.99 6
Container Style
We may as well do away with this section of the review if the no frills approach to boxing becomes any more en vogue. This one is red, with two and and two thirds pies and some stars. Carry on.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Not the prettiest, with well done edges and clumsy crimping encircling a bulbous dome topped with a scruffy holly motif. The north face of the pie appears to have borne the brunt of some heavy sugaring. 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
A fair bit better than it looks, which, admittedly, isn't saying much. It's short and sweet, though, and the unpleasant aftertaste often associated with low end bogstandardness never materialises. A pleasant surprise. 17
Filling Marks out of 25
Filling' is a bit of a misnomer here, unfortunately. I don't think I've ever seen such cavity in a pie. There's enough citrus kick packed into this measly portion for a whole box, mind. Sultanas and peel chunks bob about in the insistent orange swell, while coriander and clove shout loudest of the spices. The box says there's fennel and turmeric in here, too, which all but makes it a grape curry. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
A decent pastry raises expectations for Aldi's Specially Selected entry, but the absence of both quality and quantity on the inside means their Deep Fill will almost certainly be nearer bottom than top come the final reckoning. 13
Second Opinion - Hugh Harrison & David Parker, Warrington Office Marks out of 25
We think that this mornings mince pies have good pastry (nice Christmas decoration on top), were tasty and well-filled. 20
Total Marks 76
Any Other Business Thanks for that insight, Hugh and David. In other news, our sources inform us that Walkers Shortbread perused the site last week. Patience, laddies, your time will come soon enough (if you put your pies somewhere we can find them).
Date Added 22nd Nov 2011

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Despite the continued patronage of Jamie Oliver, Sainsbury's Deep have slipped down the Pie Club pecking order since they went all out for a European place five years ago. We know he probably doesn't make the pies, but we like to pretend he does. Contributing in no way whatsoever to his smug air makes us all warm inside, even if it is only make-believe.
 Sainsbury's Deep  NEW BOX! NEW BOX!
Sainsbury's Deep NEW BOX! NEW BOX!
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Sainsbury's Deep 11th Nov 2011 £1 6
Container Style
Sainsbury's sprang a surprise before Pie Club even opened this year, unveiling their first red box change in five years at the end of September. Not that there's anything to get excited about, mind. It's a red box and there are some pies on it. That's it.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Small, with scruffy cogged edges, blighted pastry walls and a two-pronged holly motif that looks like a crab buried in sand. The epitome of "not all that". 14
Pastry Marks out of 25
Quite sweet and pretty short, with the merest hint of butter and, most pleasingly, only a slight suggestion of cloy. A pretty good red box casing and certainly an improvement on the respiratory disaster of previous years. 16
Filling Marks out of 25
Packed to the rafters with vine fruits. Excitement at quantity is swiftly quashed by lack of quality, however. Disappointingly low key, with spicing so minimal I begin to wonder if I 'd forgotten to clean my teeth after sampling yesterday's contestant. 14
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Very much a pie of two halves. Sainsbury's have made great strides in the pastry department, but their filling was only a couple of notches up from the apple sauce you'd be bunging on your Boxing Day pork. Frustratingly, the pros and cons were the other way round last year. That's pies for you. 14
Second Opinion - Hugh Harrison, Wiggin Marks out of 25
The pastry was soft and crumbly and the filling was lovely and moist. 22
Total Marks 80
Any Other Business A man of few words, our Hughie. Far be it for me to argue with a Wiganer on the subject of pies, but really? 22?
Date Added 18th Nov 2011

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Things were going from bad to worse on the Kipling front. Morrisons initially priced them up at a fairly prohibitive 1.79, before Sainsbury's went all two-for-one on our ass to really put the willies up right thinking pie enthusiasts the world over. Then Tesco ramped up the horror still further with a frankly terrifying 'buy one get TWO free' deal. We were considering hiding behind the couch until January at that point, but Morrisons saw sense and put them out at 89p a box, saving the day, and quite possibly the world, with a brandishing of the price gun. The box promises a "now even tastier" entrant, however, so perhaps our concerns were unfounded all along.
 Pie felt like he was being watched  Mr Kipling's little box of horrors
Pie felt like he was being watched Mr Kipling's little box of horrors
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Mr Kipling 11th Nov 2011 £0.89 6
Container Style
Despite legal proceedings from Lapland forcing the withdrawal of the unlikely "Santa's favourite" claim, the big man nevertheless returns to the box front, albeit cleverly disguised as Wordsworth from Jamie and the Magic Torch, lunging in from the top right corner to take a chunk out of the show pie.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Despite the much-vaunted taste improvement, these don't look too different from last year. More shiny, perhaps, and with a soggier bottom. They don't look dreadful, but they don't look especially real either. 13
Pastry Marks out of 25
The phrase "butter enriched pastry" strikes fear into the stoutest of Pie Club hearts. I imagine Kipling in the kitchen, knocking up batch after batch of the dullest pastry imaginable before adding a meagre drop of butter oil and chuckling heartily at his subterfuge. 10
Filling Marks out of 25
Ah, herein lie the improvements. Kiplings of Christmas past have tended towards enamel-worrying sweetness but this is much improved. The vine fruits haven't been rendered to an indistinguishable goo and the spicing is more balanced and warming. There's still a long way to go, but this is at least a step in the right direction. 15
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
No matter how good the filling, it's a simple fact of Pie Club that substandard pastry work will always hold you back. And the filling is hardly championship standard anyway. Stick to cherry bakewells. 12
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
Truly devoted soap lovers may recall the airing of Channel Five's now-defunct Sunset Beach back in the 90s. For hours now I've been trying to work out what connection this Mr Kipling pie has with this piece of TV history, with its shaky scenery and ridiculous, yet somehow compelling plotlines. This morning, like a grotesque Christmas vision, it came to me. This pie is exactly like Tim, a bronzed, completely hairless (one of this pie's few positives) character who looked like he had been carved out of wax. And it tastes a bit like it too. The first bite of pastry was so off-putting it stopped me in my tracks. For the sake of Pie Club I found the will to push on, and discovered a not unpleasant inner sanctum of vine fruits complemented with a dash of spice and a hint of zest. Meanwhile the pastry settled down to take on the flavours of a more agreeable bake. But before I get too carried away, this pie would still be last on my list. It just doesn't live up to its 'exceedingly merry' tagline, and ultimately, almost every other pie you try will taste better. I know you are an institution, Mr Kipling, but maybe your mince pies should be made defunct, too. 13
Total Marks 63
Any Other Business Other Mr Kiplings include British author and poet Rudyard, his dad John, and a zombie with a big gun and a love of Earl Grey by the name of Harry.
Date Added 16th Nov 2011

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With Heston on the pay roll, Waitrose have brought out the big guns in search of Pie Club glory this year. However, with the exec yet to cast judgement on the validity of their entry, they may yet be left to rely on their more traditional pie combatants. First up for the home counties raiders are their red boxers.
 I am Kurious Oranj  Waitrose Shortcrust Mince Pies
I am Kurious Oranj Waitrose Shortcrust Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Waitrose 2nd Nov 2011 £1.49 6
Container Style
Much the same box as last year, but with 2010's pies ushered off stage right to make way for 2011's 'new improved recipe'. The Korova Milk Bar dcor and crystal glassware stay the same, while a sense of festive fun remains very much absent.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Lightly golden with gentle cogging around a sparsely sugared, adornment-free lid, Waitrose's latest no-holes-bared appearance owes much to golden era M&S Classic. Seepage remains an issue despite the new look. 18
Pastry Marks out of 25
An initial overhang nibble fails to yield clues, while a full-on chomp comes with only the slightest hint of sweetness. The base is unnecessarily thick, which won't do it any favours if the early suggestion of cloy goes nuclear. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
How can something so resolutely orange be so universally brown? My god, it's almost fizzy in here. Spicing is kept to a minimum, with only cinnamon and ginger taking any real interest, while multiple candied peel hunks at least serve to break up the vista, even if they do little to reduce the overbearingly sweet citrus hit. 12
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
While the swanky new image promised much, the interior unfortunately proved a massive let down. Like Katona in a stretch limo. Necking can after can of Tango. And eating satsumas. 12
Second Opinion - Brighty, Bolton Marks out of 25
This is a perfect pie: to all appearances. But they say never judge a book by its cover and so I have come to learn the same is true of mince pies. This pleasing bulbous, golden crusted and sugar- tipped pie with deftly crimped edges looked so authentic my mouth watered up at the very prospect of its delicious festive goodness. The pastry was not unpleasant but certainly not as melt-in-the-mouth as the 'butter enriched' formula promises. But, still not completely derailed from its enthusiastic quest, my mouth next met with some indiscernible fruits held together in pureed goo not dissimilar to wallpaper paste. A ghostly waft of cinnamon was insufficient spice to make my heart sing with Christmas cheer, nor was a last second cameo from a couple of suspect citrus characters enough to rescue this pie from the desire to consign it to Christmas Past. All show no substance. 13
Total Marks 69
Any Other Business You may be pleased to hear we've received our first Readers' Pies of the season. You may be less surprised to discover they sprung from the creative loins of our illustrious leader, PC. There's plenty more Tarantino where that came from, so think on.
Date Added 15th Nov 2011

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Asda's red box is the Monster Raving Loony Party of Pie Club, spreading its own special brand of mirth and merriment without any hope whatsoever of seeing its deposit again.
 Family Pies  Asda Mince Pies
Family Pies Asda Mince Pies
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Asda 8th Nov 2011 £1 6
Container Style
A new crumbshot suggests Asda have finally mastered the flash setting on their camera. The cover stars aren't so laughably statuesque as they were last year, but the fruits spilling forth from the cleaved pie in the foreground still appear closer than they actually are. No sign of Ringo Starr this year.
Appearance Marks out of 25
A bit like Michael J Fox back in the day - they've been small and endearing for a number of years but they're starting to get annoying now. Grow up, for crying out loud. 12
Pastry Marks out of 25
A short and reasonably sweet stab at innard containment, engendering neither awe nor indigestion. Functional rather than ostentatious, but certainly not unpleasant. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
More jam than mincemeat, with only the odd sultana remnant or glimmer of glace cherry betraying a sense of occasion. It's orangy insistence has a certain charm but there isn't really enough substance to call it a chew. 14
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
There are no delusions of grandeur, here. Nobody expects them to win Pie Club. And they won't. but they're quite enjoyable nonetheless. Rochdale won't win the FA Cup but their fans probably still look forward to Saturday afternoons at Spotland. 14
Second Opinion - Chris Towers, Lancs Marks out of 25
Visual appearance was enhanced by an attractive eastern star motif decorating the top of the pie, although it was disappointing to see several gaps between the pastry lid and casing. The pastry itself was slightly soft and sadly, lacked any real bite or crumble factor. Nevertheless, the mincemeat was moist and pleasantly sweet. Drivers and children need have no concerns as there is no discernable alcoholic content. A good all round mid-range family pie. 15
Total Marks 69
Any Other Business Every year, someone comes to Pie Club via a Google search for Lyon's Mince Pies. We can only assume it's someone from Lyon's Mince Pies seeking reassurance.

You probably won't find it here.
Date Added 11th Nov 2011

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Despite being in the bottom three for the last two seasons, the Co-op has seen fit to build a swanky new head office in Manchester rather than ploughing funds into a much-needed bakery revamp. Will their muddled sense of priority see them suffer further Pie Club pain in 2011?
 Murky brown, texture like sludge...  Co-op Deep Filled
Murky brown, texture like sludge... Co-op Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Co-op Deep Filled 4th Nov 2011 £1.49 6
Container Style
The same dull as dishwater design as last year, which doesn't bode at all well for this box's contents. As all six pies in the crumbshot remain intact, one can only assume the photographer has tried them before too. Not to pre-judge or anything, obviously.
Appearance Marks out of 25
Much like the Father Christmas they celebrate, these pies have been rocking the same look for as long as I can remember. For the uninitiated or short memoried amongst you, they're bulky, wan, amateurish efforts festooned with a cartoon star. 13
Pastry Marks out of 25
Like big Audley, this pie's chunky appearance belies a catastrophic fragility. Pastry walls offer little resistance to the bite and cloy kicks in almost before chew commences. Plentiful sugaring lends a residual sweetness to this war of attrition. 10
Filling Marks out of 25
The colour scheme suggests sultanas but the innards have been reduced to brown mush so it's hard to be sure of any of its constituent parts. Cinnamon doesn't have to work too hard to stand out from the crowd, and clove puts in a brief appearance before presumably deciding the whole affair is beneath him. A dull chew shot through with an unwelcome aftertaste. 11
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Rubbish box, arguably the worst pastry in the game and with a filling that defies classification, the Co-op needs a long overdue re-think next Christmas. Not to labour the point, but Somerfield knew. 10
Second Opinion - John Lau, Bury Marks out of 25
Stodgy and bland tasting pastry only lifted with the dusting of sugar on its star topping. The filling surprised with its well balanced flavours but could have done with a little more mincemeat but, overall a capable pie. 16
Total Marks 60
Any Other Business I know celebrating Father Christmas could be construed as direct contravention of the Ten Commandments, but he brings presents and he avoids moving in mysterious ways by arriving in a reindeer-drawn sleigh the same night each year.
Date Added 9th Nov 2011

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Pie Club die-hards will doubtless be disappointed to find we missed our traditional post-Bonfire Night kick off. However, Sunday was a designated day of rest long before Pie Clubs conception, so we put Pie Zero back a day and went to the football instead. Apologies if the extra days wait pushed anyone over the edge.


Anyway, this is Pie Club.


First up for 2011 are Morrisons, whose perennially mid-table red box offering should prove a decent yardstick for pies to come. If truth be told, we wanted to get Mr Kipling out of the way first but couldnt find them at a price we didnt begrudge. Two-for-one offers are no use to anyone. Theyll keep.
 Mr Average  Morrisons Deep Filled
Mr Average Morrisons Deep Filled
Pie Name Date of Test Price No. in Pack
Morrisons Deep Filled 28th Oct 2011 £1.29 6
Container Style
After several years of purple box buffoonery, its good to see Morrisons sticking with industry standard red for a second successive year. Inclusionists will be pleased to see all vestiges of Christmas symbolism removed, with last years star, tree and holly sprig jettisoned in favour of the universally inoffensive white dish. Bagless red plastic inner.
Appearance Marks out of 25
No sign of meddling inside the box. The familiar wavy lid and Christmas tree adornment remain intact atop a sturdy-looking base, while the sugar drifts add a pleasing twinkle to the tan backdrop. Pie design has been edging towards minimalism in recent years, though, and these are starting to look a bit kitsch compared to their peers. 16
Pastry Marks out of 25
Nothing like as robust as they look. Feather light and quick to crumble, you could probably inhale your way to their inner sanctum if youre knocking on a bit and have somehow misplaced your teeth amid the revelry. 14
Filling Marks out of 25
Candied peel glimmers amid a pretty impressive red box gathering dominated by some bulky sultanas, while pleasing festive spices pervade a delightfully insistent orange tang. A pleasant chew, varied some by raisins and the odd apple chunk. 17
Pie Factor (the whole experience) Marks out of 25
Pie Clubs palate dictates that something remarkable (or some sneaky repackaging) would have to happen for a red boxer to break into the upper echelons. While theres certainly nothing along those lines going on here, these are decent standard issue fare nonetheless. 16
Second Opinion - Michelle Allbright, Bolton Marks out of 25
As I scrutinise the first pie with a beady, practised eye I feel a little weary. Its all a bit familiar isnt it? Mozzers standard pie has foregone a new Christmas frock in favour of last years costume, which was all a bit fake tan and sparkle; not to mention the gaudy Christmas tree broach pinned to the top. Still, in these hard times you cant argue with a positive recycling ethos and anyway, vintage is meant to be all the rage. Maybe there is another reason not to mess with this unpretentious cheery pie. It works. Albeit underwhelming pastry yields to sweet goo, which turns out to be well, pretty sweet. A very pleasant texture and a chorus of zingy vine and citrus fruits are chiefly responsible and, while theres not a hint of the spirit of Christmas, these pies dont profess to be boozy. These are perfect for office bashes, or serving up at the panto preview. Whats more, in a Christmas miracle they appear to have heeded last years lament about a lack of spice clove notes ding-dong on my palate and I know that the season of goodwill to all men and women, or at least pie lovers, has arrived. 16
Total Marks 79
Any Other Business Bizarrely, much of the early interest in Pie Club this year has come from the good people at the Vietnam Post and Telecom Corporation in Ho Chi Minh City.


Xin cho v hoan nghnh.
Date Added 7th Nov 2011

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