Louth became the ‘Pie Capital of the World’ - for a few hours at least - as hundreds of people flocked to the town centre for the first ever Louth Pie Day.
Pie shops said they sold three normal weeks’ worth during the one-day festival on Wednesday (April 3) - with more than 2,000 slices of pie being sold on the day.
Members of the public voted for their favourites from around 50 types of pies on offer across eight artisan pie shops, butchers, bakers, and cafés.
The People’s Choice Trophy, voted for by people following the Louth ‘pie trail’, was won by The Toadstool Café in Queen Street.
The Toadstool Café had the two top pies, each with an equal number of votes: St. Clements and Chicken and Leek.
The honourable runner-up was Meridian Meat’s Steak and Stout pie, which received the same number of votes as each of Toadstool’s two.
Shops geared up with extra staff, extra-long shifts and working through the night before Pie Day, as well as more baking throughout the day to meet demand. Despite this, the event drew so many visitors that some pie stocks were running low as early as 10.30am, just half an hour after the event started.
Several pie shops sold out of popular pies before 1pm, and three cafés had sold out completely by the end of the day.
The event drew is visitors of all ages, with a total of 31 children from Limes Play and Learn walking into town in three groups, exploring the town and pie shops to exchange their vouchers for slices of pie. They were invited behind the scenes at Meridian Meats on Eastgate find out how the jelly gets into the centre of a real pork pie.
• Queues ‘out of the door’
The overwhelming response to the first Louth Pie Day – from members of the public and from the businesses involved – was that it was a huge success.
Some pies were so much in demand that they ran out before everyone had a chance to try them. But, with queues stretching out of pie shops and along the streets at peak times, some traders in this small market town enjoyed the busiest and most enjoyable Wednesday market day for a long time.
Jim Sutcliffe from Meridian Meats said: “It was incredible day. It surpassed everything we thought it would, we were flat out all day long.
“We actually had people who bought pieces of pie for lunch with their pie vouchers, then came back later in the day to buy a whole one to take home because they enjoyed it so much.”
The town’s festive menu included sweet and savoury traditional pies, heritage pies, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free pies and pasties.
Participating shops were butchers Lakings of Louth, Meridian Meats, and Woolliss & Son; baker Pocklington’s Bakery; Smiths Pie & Mash Shop; cafés Tertulia; The Green Cottage Tearoom and The Toadstool Café.
Louth Pie Day tickets were on sale in all eight pie shops for just two and a half weeks before the event, and entitled the holder to five slices of pie.
Over 1,500 advance vouchers were exchanged for slices of pie, and more than 600 slices of pie were exchanged for vouchers bought on the day.
• Public support for Louth Pie Day
The initiative was conceived and organised by pie lover Kiat Huang, who adopted Louth as his home town two years ago. He wanted to highlight the town’s reputation for high-quality and independent food shops.
Kiat (and a small team of volunteer PR and event professionals from Louth) together with the participating pie shops, created a real buzz and sense of excitement on social media. Kiat said: “It was a real success. It was lovely to see the independent shops working together, and people going into shops that they had not visited before. Louth people and Louth businesses told me they would love to do it again,” said Kiat Huang, and said he thought the idea could be emulated by other small towns with their own speciality or something that they collectively do well, like arts or crafts or food.
Kiat continue: “From the seed of an idea and very positive feedback from a few businesses and friends grew the idea of a feasibility study amongst local pie-sellers. Then once a critical mass of early adopter businesses signed up, it was all systems go! We quickly developed a framework for the event, and set the wheels in motion. “There was already overwhelming interest in doing it again. It’s great that to know that an event like this can be successful with local businesses working together with a set of passionate volunteers with complementary skills.”
• Guest judges reveal their favourite pies
In addition to the People’s Choice Trophy which was up for the public vote, three guest judges followed the Louth pie trail to give their expert verdicts.
Each nominated their Judge’s Choice pie shop.
Woollis & Son on Mercer Row – and particularly their Lamb and Mint Pie – was the choice of Colin Young, antiques expert from BBC’s Bargain Hunt and MD of auction firm Golding Young Mawer.
Colin said: “It’s a strange word to use about a pie, but it was refreshing! It was a balanced taste and for me it was a stand-out pie.
“I’ll have to get some more the next time I’m in Louth because it sold out! I went back into Woolliss’ again after our tasting tour and they told me it was their most popular pie.”
Tertulia, a café and chocolatier on Eastgate, was the choice of author Nick Louth.
Nick said: “The entire selection of tiny slices of fruit flans and pastries was presented beautifully on a two-tier pate. Each and every morsel had clearly been carefully prepared and cooked. The result was delicious.” Nick added that he spoke to lots visitors on the streets who said they had never been to Louth before, and would definitely come back as a result of visiting on Louth Pie Day.
Smiths Pie and Mash on New Street was the choice of Ludensian, councillor and guest judge Margaret Ottaway MBE.
Margaret recognises a meltingly good pastry made in a cosy café when she tastes one, and Smith’s Pie and Mash restaurant on New Street won her approval.
“Louth is the most wonderful place to live,” she said. “The town is full of visitors today and it’s so alive!”