A PERFECTLY flaky, buttery crust and a hot, hearty filling: it's hard to resist the allure of the humble pie.
Whether it's the more traditional steak and Guinness pie sitting proudly atop mashed potato, mushy peas and drizzled with gravy or a pork pie with tray-baked granny smith apples or a vegetarian-favourite feta and spinach, Taste Gourmet Pies in Hamilton South is sure to tempt any pie lover.
The shop opened just over four months ago as an offshoot of Taste @ Kahibah Sports Club and Taste @ Edgeworth Sports Club.
After the runaway success of the pies served in the restaurants and customers asking where they could buy the pies to enjoy at home, the Hamilton South site was chosen as a production hub.
Soon they were producing up to 150 to 200 pies a day from scratch with just two staff, Nikki Cooper and Jo New, and they were selling the pies hot with mashed potato, mushy peas and gravy, and cold ready to reheat at home (just 15 or 20 minutes in a 130°C oven and dinner is done).
Coffee and a cold drink selection (with sandwiches, cakes and jacket potatoes in the pipeline) complete the Taste Gourmet Pies offering.
Nikki - dubbed the "pie lady" by fans of her baked creations - explained the unexpected growth of the pie business.
"We were baking the pies fresh at our restaurant in Kahibah and were running out of room so we took on this site as a place just to bake," she said.
"But then we realised we had a coffee machine and pies ready to go here, so why not open up and sell them? Also, people were always asking at the restaurant where to buy our pies to eat at home so it's a place for them to come too."
That they have. Punters come from all over Newcastle for their pie fix. Fans from the restaurants come to buy in bulk (one customer picked up a dozen steak and Guinness pies and six mince and onion in one go recently) while schools and businesses are also putting in their orders.
With the footy season in full swing, Taste has also been pumping out pies for State of Origin parties and Friday night footy too.
If you're keen to order a large number of pies, call through your order or go on Facebook to contact the Taste team.
It's important to call ahead because there's no factory or machines making Taste's pies: it's simply Nikki and Jo doing everything from chopping all the meat and vegetables for the pie filling to peeling the potatoes for the mashed potatoes.
It might be a time-consuming approach, but starting with the best fresh ingredients is key to Taste's pies. And it pays off: they are simply delicious.
"It is really important to us to use fresh ingredients and make our fillings from scratch. It is how we produce our food, everything has to be fresh to make pies which are hearty and full of flavour. You just can't beat the flavour of a freshly made pie," Nikki said.
"Everything is fresh, from the meat in the pies to the herbs. We use local suppliers for our meat and vegetables.
"The aim at the restaurants and here is to serve home-cooked meals that are hearty, filling meals. You can spend just $5.50 and you'll be full and satisfied."
Biting into a Taste Gourmet Pie, you can tell love and care have gone into selecting and preparing the ingredients and baking the pie, right down to the alluring shine of the egg wash on top.
"When you cut a pie open like our chicken and mushroom, you will see the sliced chicken breast and the portobello mushrooms. When you cut into the steak and Guinness you'll see beautiful big pieces of chuck steak which have been slow cooked for three to four hours," Nikki said.
"In the turkey, cranberry and brie pie, you'll see the turkey breast, cranberries and then the chunks of brie: we add them to the turkey filling at the last minute, then cool it down so when you bite into the pie you get oozing cheese. We do the same with the feta in our feta and spinach pie.
"The pork and apple pie is made using baked granny smith apples added to the pork filling just before it goes into the pies, so you get chunks of apple."
Taste Gourmet Pies is at shop 1/4 Hassall Street, Hamilton South. It is open from 8am to 3pm Monday to Friday. Find them at Taste Gourmet Pie Shop on Facebook.