Pie Thief:  2020 and 2021
297 Barkly St Footscray 
Opening Hours: 10am – 3pm Daily
Approximate Price Point: $7.50 per pie

I started exploring Footscray in early December 2020 as a Melbourne southerner, Footscray is not my natural habitat.
I admire the suburb as it is full of contradictions not readily found in my usual haunts. The most indelible difference lies in the traffic, both the mechanical and in the humankind.
Footscray is more than flecked with main roads, laden with industrial vehicles there is a constancy of semitrailers studded with shipping containers that punctuate the roads in and out of Footscray with heavy determination.
In the streets that constitute the main shopping precinct there are plenty of Asian food suppliers and many Asian businesses with Vietnamese names.  From Footscray Market on Barkly St to Geelong Road and then in the main shopping precinct Ethiopian and a number of African shops and restaurants appear with a frequency greater than any other suburb in Melbourne I have visited.
There are African hairdressers to women’s clothing and food stores including a bakery near the Footscray Station. I have noticed in my forty visits to Footscray the African coffee shops are frequented with men, it appears to be always men; never women drinking coffee, the men sit for hours talking and laughing, smoking and drinking.  
In Footscray you see old fashioned tattoos of the type and time when it was unfashionable to have tattoo. You also come across the self - conscious set, declaring their individuality in ubiquitous uniforms of tattoos, beanies and eighties cut tops and pants. When I see these outfits, I feel as if I have been dropped into the 1980’s arthouse movie The River’s Edge.
Together, white professionals, the proud working class, Muslim women in their flowing robes and Southeast Asians walk towards bakeries, food suppliers, coffee shops and restaurants.
In Footscray you come across restaurants and suppliers serving Vietnamese and Chinese dishes and goods not apparent in my immediate world such as a dish of chicken’s feet bathed in a glossy fragrant shimmer of a glaze. There is produce available to buy such as pig’s tongues as well as a wide variety of offal from both pig’s and cows.
Amongst the offerings and opportunities to eat, drink and shop for food in Footscray stands Pie Thief. Pie Thief stands on the main thoroughfare closer to Princess Highway than Footscray Market, Pie Thief is a small shop front with a fun logo that echoes with influences of the fantastic cartoon series Adventure Time.
Pie Thief’s capacity to serve and seat people has benefited from the State government’s post Covid recovery policy where outdoor seating has been generated from former car parking spaces. 
This outdoor area is coloured green with fake grass, a wooden barrier with an integrated planter makes it a pleasant area to sit and enjoy the Pie Thief produce. 
I just read the owner’s book this afternoon, it was a pleasant read, a story of their experiences in creating and running the store thus far. They are thankful, creative, resourceful and determined business owners with a clear love of pies and pie making. 
I first went to Pie Thief in December 2020 by the time I had ordered and was outside waiting for my food a queue of 10 or more had sprung up. It is clear people enjoy and desire their offerings.
The women – running the shop front were friendly and generous, one of the women explained how the Burger pie had referenced a Big Mac and as a consequence Mc Donald’s had threatened them with legal action. 
I was laughing as I know another Bakery which references Mc Donald’s in pie form; more blatantly and without reprimand – Mc Donald’s homages in pastry; illustrates the power of the Mc Donald’s brand and how it is has etched itself into a quintessential element in our cultural vernacular of food taste. 
So, I think it is odd that they would ‘threaten’ small a producer. Insecurity perhaps from the giant multinational? This action by Mc Donald’s now makes a clear talking and sales point about the identity of Pie Thief as a business; not only with the renamed pie but also as a brand – as the little guys versus the global goliath; a terrific way to coalesce loyalty and embolden the anarchic sentiment.  I think they should hang the ‘cease and desist’ letter on the wall for their clients to read.
I was delighted by the staff on my first visit one woman was particularly friendly and garrulous. Because of Covid rules I waited outside for my order and I received a cardboard box with two of their staple products the Fennel and Pork Sausage Roll and the Steak and Cheese pie. I wanted to try the fundamentals, the ‘classic’s’. 
The packaging was environmentally responsible and logical much better than a paper bag pies usually come in. I had also ordered a chocolate milkshake which in turn comes in environmentally friendly packaging and with a paper straw covered in a fun design. 
I fell in love with the chocolate milkshake, the chocolate syrup they used had a complexity to it that surpassed all milkshakes I have ever had, it was cold, rich and delicious, my taste buds feel in love. I knew I had to have another one, I had a new product to crave. 
The Pork and Fennel sausage roll is a lovely size, substantial and of a quality rarely found in the landscape of sausage rolls. They do not use breadcrumbs to plump out the meat, the pastry is buttery and there is clear flavour and quality to this sausage offering, it is satisfying in body and scale.
Yet, I did not like the texture of the pork filing I found the filing mealy in texture. The well - constructed pastry in combination with the pork and fennel I find too buttery for my taste. This is a personal preference, and I am sure many others would disagree with my point of view.
The pastry at Pie Thief is clearly well made, natural, buttery and golden it reminds me of Fleisher’s Pastry in Glenferrie Rd Malvern. Pastry is technically difficult to perfect it takes great skill to make pastry that has both structural integrity and is deliciously thin. I think Pie Thief does a great job. I admire pastry that is firm to touch and is thin in depth. A pie needs the pastry to both support the filing and provide a contrast to the textures of the filing. If the pastry is buttery and flaky as well it stands out in quality. 
The Steak and Cheese pie is again a substantial form, admirable in construction, in weight and in its generosity of filling and flavour. However, I did not enjoy it, there is an intensity of flavour, perhaps sweetness that does not suit my palate.
Even though I was and remain critical of the flavour of Pie Thief’s fillings I admire the effort Pie Thief makes - a dialectical experience – I knew, I would return, I wanted to know more and to share in their endeavour.
Today, I returned on a very, very quiet Melbourne Sunday due to the long weekend that marks the end of January and Australian’s return to reality after the holiday season. I was the only customer. The outside seating area was empty of customers matching the streetscape itself and I was excited to have another hit of their decidedly memorable chocolate milk shake.
I ordered a Jalapeno and Short Rib pie and of course the afore mentioned Chocolate Milkshake. I wanted to test my first opinion of the pastry the soft and buttery pastry that on paper I should enjoy. 
Today, I was deeply disappointed and frustrated – I will go to Pie Thief again – that would only be fair, however the experience did cause me to reflect upon the idiom that consistency is the bane of small business, the essential element to scalability that afflicts all producers. 
Consistency in the construction and flavour of pies is not a problem for Pie Thief, the substantial and generous elements to their work are present, quantity and quality control appears to have been clearly solved. The elements of invention and playfulness are also well at hand. Where it became problematic for me was in the flavour and texture of the Jalapeño and Short Rib pie. 
Again, I found the filing sweet and the gravy overwhelmingly intense. I have no problem with plastic cheese – I find it irreverent and the texture pleasurable when it is melted. A gooey centre of plastic cheese punctuates this pie. Yet in the JASR pie I did not like the ratio of meat to gravy nor the texture of the short rib pieces themselves and in relation to the gravy. I understand it is a rarity to find discernible meat pieces in a pie and that in itself is worthy project to have really substantial pieces of meat in a pie. 
The JASR pie was just not my thing; a strong idea that needs tweaking for a truly successful reiteration of a Californian hybrid. For some reason I think they would be more successful riffing on a Burrito, or a Carne Taco comes to mind with the relief of crunchy lettuce or the refreshing tang of fresh tomato pieces and the crunch and aroma of onion pieces green or otherwise. 
My greatest disappointment came in the form of my truly coveted Chocolate milkshake, it looked the same however this time it was not cold – a hard mistake to make I believe. I do not know how that happened. I was truly saddened, I wanted that cold, rich, complex sweetness I encountered on my first visit.
Pie Thief is an interesting effort, I will return, I want them to do well, I want to enjoy the work they do, I want to support their endeavour, I want them to have long term success as it is great when people are passionate and believe in quality and do it with a sense of humour and honesty.
March 2021.
Yesterday, I returned to Pie Thief on a Friday afternoon around 1.30pm. It is reassuring to see customers weaving their way to the store, in Footscray, Pie Thief is the destination for a pie fix for that restorative pastry container, buttery, with a warm flavoursome oozy filling. 
There is something simply satisfying about pie, possibly it lies in the fact that pies are succinct – portable and flavourful. I returned with anticipation wondering if my previous experience would be congealed and curious as to what tasty concoctions the crew at Pie Thief had dreamed up?
I had looked through their website at the Lasagne pie, looked at the Jackfruit pie, and the Mushroom pie, and I ended up trying the Mushroom Pie, I enjoyed the pastry and all. I enjoyed the pastry crust in combination with the density of the mushroom pieces which were clearly discernible – in fact they were meaty and substantial. 
The roux or bechamel sauce was full of complex and rich flavour. I could taste the herbaceous notes in the sauce. In my view the pastry in this pie complemented the filling.There is something to behold when pastry is structurally sound yet thin enough to be considered light and flaky.
The thin buttery pastry encased the contents mushroom pie without being soggy or cloying instead providing textural contrast to both the sauce and the mushrooms themselves. At $8.50 the Mushroom pie sits amongst many lunch products at a similar price point. This product stands out for flavour and construction therefore I would recommend trying it.
I heard another customer ordering the Steak and Cheese pie with a condiment of Chipotle Ketchup or Chutney, so Pie Thief is on point with flavour trends. I wonder what the next flavour riff will be? I am looking forward to trying it with a chocolate milkshake. I wish them the best.  
May 2021
I returned to Pie Thief at about 1pm last Saturday with a friend who loves pies, our visit occurred on a beautiful Autumn day. Eating their food outside in their outside area was pleasant. Customers come and go with a simple ease. I think they should add a rubbish bin to the seating area for customers to place their packaging waste.
My friend wolfed down a pie and sausage roll enjoying the generosity of the products. I had the mushroom pie and felt the same welcoming notes of pleasure from the filing of the pie the meatiness of the mushrooms the herbs and the pleasure of the form of the pie itself.
Sadly, the pastry at the bottom of the pie was undercooked and mushy so I peeled away most of the base and sides of the pie and ate the yummy filing with the flaky top.   
I hope that Pie Thief can iron out some of these simple ‘supply’ issues and obtain greater consistency in their product delivery as you do not want all that hard work, good intention and skill to both be remembered and measured by sloppiness.
I look forward to my next visit.
The Living Consulate 
Rusalka Maria




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