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Baking, gravy and ballet – behind the scenes at Clark’s Pies, a Bristol establishment

They begin every single day earlier than the remainder of Bristol is up – and the primary job at Clark’s Pies isn’t making the distinctive pastry or cooking up the trademark minced beef, it’s the potatoes.





However quickly after 6am, when the spuds for that day’s pasties are prepped, every part else kicks in because the 20 or so individuals who make up the workers of this Bristol establishment start to reach.

Their each day job is to make as many as 3,000 pies and pasties in only a few hours, prepared for the supply vans to start out pottering about throughout Bristol and past.

The strategies used are the identical, just about, as father and grandfather Clark did from this little bakery in the course of a terrace of outlets, cafés, bookies and bars on North Avenue.

The road out entrance could properly have modified past all recognition, however the pies and pasties have remained resolutely the identical – that very same distinctive thick crust pastry which suggests a standard Clark’s pie doesn’t even want a foil tray – you may maintain it and eat it with one hand and it’ll keep intact and in a single piece to the final scrumptious mouthful.

Clark’s Pies are a correct, old-school Bristol establishment – however remarkably have their origins in Cardiff.

Working class mum-of-nine Mary Clark labored as a housekeeper for a rich household however occasions have been laborious, so for further money, she began just a little pie enterprise on the aspect.

Legend has it the well-known thick crust took place as a result of her giant pie dish broke so she tailored the recipe to make particular person pies which didn’t want that assist.

Ninety years in the past, a type of 9, son Percy determined to department out, take the Clark’s Pies empire worldwide, and arrange a store in Previous Market in Bristol.

Extra retailers adopted, dotted across the metropolis, and in 1935, Percy was in search of a brand new base. He was in North Avenue in BS3, and noticed the hundreds of employees – primarily girls – come out for his or her lunchbreak on the tobacco factories of Ashton, and munch on home made sandwiches.

This is able to be the place to arrange, and Clark’s on North Avenue was an prompt hit.

They used to say the queue from the small counter contained in the door of the bakery would stretch down the top of the road and not far away into Raleigh Highway, because the lunchtime rush started.

Now, whereas that counter continues to be open from 8am every morning, the each day produce of round 1,400 of the standard Clark’s Pies and perhaps the identical once more variety of pasties and different pies is sort of totally delivered throughout Bristol – to chippies, to pubs, to comfort shops the place they’re stored heat for the lunchtime employees of the town.

Keith Prested met Daybreak Clark, Percy’s granddaughter, when the pair danced for the Scottish Ballet Firm within the Nineteen Nineties.

The corporate, coincidentally sufficient, started life in Clifton in Bristol, however moved north to Glasgow and took on Keith and Daybreak as dancers.

A ballet dancer’s profession is bodily gruelling and has the identical type of common retirement age as a footballer.

So, in 2001, after they had each retired from skilled dancing, Daybreak introduced Keith all the way down to her native West Nation, to Bristol and the world of pies.

Keith was taken on by his father-in-law, and now, on the age of 47, runs the household enterprise.

He was introduced on top of things with the corporate’s historical past on the coronary heart of South Bristol’s weight loss plan.

“It was within the Nineteen Fifties and 60s that they began delivering,” mentioned Keith.

“Issues have been starting to alter. Again within the day, we provided the little chippy down the aspect of the Hippodrome within the metropolis centre, as an example, and they might shift two dozen packing containers each evening, simply from everybody popping out of the theatre and getting a pie.

“There have been no different retailers then promoting sizzling meals like that – this was the time earlier than pizza, kebabs, Chinese language, there was the chippy and that was it.

“However we’re nonetheless making and promoting these pies with just about precisely the identical recipe as within the Thirties once we got here right here,” he added.

Actually, the standard, meaty, thick pastried Clark’s Pie has had one slight alteration. “Our older prospects typically complain that there isn’t the identical masses and a great deal of gravy in it like they keep in mind from years in the past.

“It’s the one change, actually,” mentioned Keith. “The pies was once filled with gravy and they might inform us it will run off and dribble all over the place and was pretty.

“However with trendy meals laws, we now have to make sure it’s baked correctly, on the proper excessive temperature, and which means we will’t have the identical stage of gravy in them, as a result of it will bubble over and nobody desires a pie with burnt gravy up on high,” he defined.

Again within the bakery, behind the little counter within the North Avenue store entrance, and issues have been shifting shortly.

With the potatoes prepped, the 7am pasty staff begin up, then at round 7.30am the pie machine begins

By 8am the entrance counter opens and the primary pies are leaving. 4 vans have been being full of sizzling pies and pasties, to go off as far south as Brean and Weston, as far north as Olveston and Yate, as far east as Saltford, with scores of outlets, pubs and chippies in between.

“Every van has received two routes, so eight routes in whole, and it’s all lined,” mentioned Keith.

The tobacco factories had lengthy closed down, and the queues of smoking girls had gone with them. “It was just about each different store was a charity store,” he remembered.

“This was earlier than George [Ferguson] opened up the Tobacco Manufacturing unit, then we had the Lounge was the primary, and it has modified a lot.

“I want I’d purchased a home in one of many streets right here then, taking a look at how a lot they’re price now!” he mentioned.

The adjustments of North Avenue, Southville throughout the highway and the BS3 postcode usually have introduced a brand new demographic – an prosperous, younger, city inhabitants mixing with the standard working class.

They are usually a client who values locally-sourced, sustainable, chemical-free meals – so Clark’s Pies must be ticking their packing containers.

“We supply every part as domestically as we will – the meat from Baker’s the butchers of Nailsea, flour from the Cotswolds, the ale from the steak and ale pies comes from down North Avenue on the Bristol Beer Manufacturing unit.

“The one factor we now have to supply from abroad is the lard – a pie can be double the worth if we had to purchase lard produced in England, which is a disgrace,” he defined.

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