Complete the following analogy: United States is to burgers as Australia is to _______. If you said pies, advance to the next level. Just as you can be in any American city and be within five minutes walk from a burger joint, the same applies to pies in Australian cities. While Americans have managed to export the iconic burger to all corners of the earth and raised obesity rates wherever the golden arches appear, Australians have not had the same success with pies. Maybe a small vegan pie shop in Bondi Beach change that, minus the obesity.
Located just a few blocks from the beach, Funky Pies is a small, unassuming joint with a just a few tables and a simple menu. But don’t let that fool you. The savory delights that come out of the ovens at Funky Pies will have you coming back again and again for more. It’s probably only fair to admit that I’ve never had a traditional Australian meat pie, so there’s no basis for comparison. It’s also fair to say that none is needed. These pies stand on their own merit.
The Funky Chunky Pie, which according to chef Luke Giannotis is their best seller, is filled with minced shiitake mushrooms and mashed potatoes. Chef Giannotis has managed to cook and season the mushrooms in a way that has a substantial and dare I say “meaty” texture and flavor, without crossing the line of an over-processed meat substitute. What really elevates this, and all of the pies at Funky Pies is the crust: Crispy on top with a delightful flakiness that is too frequently missing in vegan Pies. Add to that a heaping side of creamy mashed potatoes with peas and gravy, and you’ve got one fantastic meal.
For those who prefer a lighter accompaniment to their pie, the side salad is a great alternative consisting of greens and potatoes with a tangy whole grain mustard dressing. What’s more, a pie with mash and gravy, or salad will only set you back $9.00, or $8.00 for takeaway. A single pie with no sides is a mere $6.00. As we soon found out, this qualifies as a bargain by Sydney standards. (Good luck finding lunch at any other vegetarian restaurant for under ten dollars.)
We were also impressed by the Spicy Thai Pie, a flavorful mix of veggie chicken chunks and vegetables, encased in that wonderfully flaky crust. The Rockin’ Roll was an equally impressive mix of veggies seasoned with rosemary rolled in that same crust, of course. All of this flavor does come with a price tag of another kind however, a look at the nutritional information on the Funky Pies website shows the fat and calorie count on these pies is astronomical. A crust like this is not achieved without large amounts of fat! (So much for fighting obesity.)
In the interest of providing a complete review, I forced myself to sample the desserts. OK, maybe there was no coercion and there were other motives besides this review, so I’ll get right to point. The brownie at Funky Pies is possibly the best brownie I’ve ever eaten. I have tried what seems like dozens of recipes in search of the perfect brownie; one that has the perfect balance between cakey and fudgey, and I’m still searching. (Millennium pastry chef Ann Baptiste has a recipe that comes really close and you can find it here.) The brownie at Funky Pies is that perfectly balanced brownie. Not overly dense, yet moist and fudgey with a rich chocolate flavor, this is the brownie I’ve been in search of for years. I’ll be working many hours in the kitchen to recreate this brownie.
The apple pie was bound to be something of a letdown after the brownie. As could be expected, the crust was flawless, but the filling was slightly mushy for my taste. The vanilla slice was also unexceptional. The custard lacked creaminess and the vanilla flavor was fairly weak. These minor shortcomings are easily overlooked based on the quality of the pies and brownies, as well as the reasonable prices. Add to this the fact that their takeaway packaging is bio-degradable, the drinks are organic and an overall philosophy of sustainability, Funky Pies is a winner.
Future plans include franchising, so all that’s needed now is some enterprising vegan entrepreneur to open a San Francisco Funky Pies franchise. I’ll be the first person in the line that’s sure to be out the door.