The British are taking over! Well, the Berlin food scene anyway. It seems Berlin’s food compass has recently taken a swing westwards towards the Great British Isles, and when we’re not chomping our way through haggis, we’re eating bangers and mash and Scotch eggs and other ridiculously-named Anglo foodstuffs. But now, thankfully, it’s the turn of the pie as The Drunken Duck opens its doors every Monday night at Butterhandlung in Friedrichshain.
And it’s pretty hard to be humble about pies, because they’re so damn good. That buttery short-crust pastry base is the perfect vehicle for whatever you load into it. It’s the Pope-mobile, built to carry God’s own representative on Earth. Except there’s one main difference between the two: pies have taste. And man, what a taste.
The Drunken Duck’s range of pies span English classics such as steak and ale and chicken, bacon and tarragon, to flavours further afield like an Indian-inspired one with paneer cheese. But, and this is a key difference, they’re presented with all the accoutrements a proper pie deserves. Namely, mashed potato and a rich, thick gravy (and those first oh-so-sweet words we heard when our pies were lovingly placed before us – “Let me know if you need more gravy” – almost made me salute the Queen and vow to get our Empire back). You can also order extras like the English country garden classic mushy peas with mint and caramelised carrots.
And these are very good pies. Made in England, they won the Gold Award at The British Pie Awards 2016 and took Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards. These are serious pie credentials. And, if you have any room left inside yourselves afterwards, The Drunken Duck offers awesome, just-like-mother-used-to-defrost desserts like apple crumble with real(!) custard and sticky toffee pudding. They truly are a sensation.
We spoke to David Wolstencroft, The Drunken Duck proprietor, about all things pie-related.
What is one thing that makes the perfect pie for you?
It’s the whole presentation, from the imported blue-rimmed enamel bowls to the quality of ingredients and the pie filling itself. The pies we import from the South of England use only the finest free-range products and this is undeniably proven in the great taste! We create fresh mashed potato and red wine onion gravy every Monday accompanied with minty mushy peas, imported from the British isle.
Single Crust or Top-and-Bottom Crust – what’s better?
A pie to the British takes many forms. To me, a pie is generally baked and has a pastry top (generally puff pastry, but sometimes shortcrust). Ideally it will be fully encased in pastry, rather than just having a lid, but many pies just have the lid.
Pork pies, mince pies etc. tend to be fully enclosed in shortcrust and do not need a pie dish.
Pies can be sweet or savoury and can be eaten hot or cold. Occasionally pies have a mashed potato topping rather than pastry, for example shepherd’s pie, cottage pie and normally fish pie.
If there was a pie for Berlin, what would be in it and what would it be called?
Well from our successful run of pop-up events at Aunt Benny, where it all began, to our new weekly Monday event at Butterhandlung in Friedrichshain, it is without a doubt the ‘Deer Santa’ pie.
Packed with British venison, dry cured bacon, red wine and green lentils, this seems to be the Berliners’s pie of choice for now. I don’t blame them, it’s a favourite of mine too.
Can you name two other things that are as British as pies?
Ale is another passion of mine and something I intend to bring on draft to The Drunken Duck Berlin events in the future. There is nothing quite like a good pie and ale to round off the day, just like how red wine goes with cheese.
Also I have a sweet tooth and nothing says British gourmet pub fare more than sticky toffee pudding or apple crumble. These home-made treats by Butterhandlung help round off the meal in style. Salivating right now as I say it.
For me, sticky toffee pudding is a reason enough to go anywhere. How would you describe it to people who’ve never tried it?
It is another classic British staple, filled with warmth and a satisfying taste explosion. The hot moist cake surrounded by sticky sweet toffee sauce melts together leaving you content and ready for the next helping. I’ve yet to see someone take a spoon of the black stuff without closing their eyes and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
What’s your opinion on shepherd’s pie/Cumberland pie – are they real pies, or just pretenders?
My mother makes the best shepherd’s pie. I grew up having this with the family so I have fond memories. Although we use the word pie, shepherd’s pie is not to be confused with cottage pie, which contains beef rather than lamb (some fun pie trivia for you there), which is then smothered on top with mashed potato.
The pies served at The Drunken Duck are melt-in-your-mouth shortcrust encased pastry pies that use less butter. So it’s a win-win really!
Wigan recently sent the first pie into space. Where do you think is next for pies?
The sky is the limit, boom-tish! Pies can be enjoyed by all ages and we are seeing this at our weekly events, from families with two-year olds to the seasoned regulars who enjoy a hot savoury pie.
The British get a bad rep when it comes to food but I feel this is an outdated stereotype, as much as saying that the French walk around with a baguette under their arm. British produce is second to none when it comes to meat and poultry and those who have spent time in the UK leave with that opinion. I would like to take The Drunken Duck further around Berlin and the rest of Germany and who knows, even Europe, to show that British food can be delicious and satisfying.
British food has an undeservedly bad reputation abroad. What myths would you like to dispel about our cuisine?
Well for starters the United Kingdom has 134 Michelin star restaurants, so they must be doing something right. What the British do well is using simple free-range, seasonal ingredients and whether it’s lamb to pork sausages, there is nothing quite like eating local ingredients.
Most of the places I describe tend to be in the rural areas of the UK and the majority are gastro pubs across the isle. We are a people of vast culinary tastes and this is seen in our love for Indian cuisine to South East Asian cravings. We embrace new cultures and their food and are proud to say that a good old fashion curry is as British as the pies we serve. So, of course, we are proud to have the popular ‘Little India’ pie that comes with a spicy punch.
British food seems to be taking off in Berlin. Why do you think this is?
I believe we share a similar mind-set when it comes to dining. The Germans like great, local ingredients served with simplicity and this is how I would describe the culinary diners across rural England. I believe this is why we think the humble pie could become the next favourite dish amongst Berliners.
Well, there you have it. The Drunken Duck is at Butterhandlung every Monday and the pies are paired with live music courtesy of Bar Bobu (the adjoining blues bar) and each week a different DJ will be serenading you with smooth grooves as you eat.
Pies. Berlin Loves You.
The Drunken Duck @ Butterhandlung
Every Monday from 17:00Uhr
Berlin – Friedrichshain