An Australian Santa Claus from the North Pole (otherwise known as Whistler) has brought an early Christmas present for all the good girls and boys of Vancouver.
After an 11-month wait (thanks to a prolonged approval process from the city), Peaked Pies from Whistler has opened its first location in Metro Vancouver in the West End at 975 Denman Street.
Co-owners Kerri Jones (who hails from Newcastle, Australia) and Alex Relf (from Vancouver Island) opened the doors to their bright and breezy 1,000-square-foot shop with 22 seats (plus four outside) on December 11—to a full house.
Over a flat white at their new place, Jones says local Australians and New Zealand shared news about the opening on their Facebook pages, contributing to sold-out opening day.
Seems like they've got an instant hit on their hands. A lot of their customers, who live in Vancouver, had been begging them to open in Vancouver, she tells the Georgia Straight. Popularizing Australian pies in Canada has always been a dream of hers.
"Pies are such a big thing in Australia," she says. "They're everywhere, and we have such a similar culture, like our people are the same, our personalities are the same, our humour is the same, everything's the same except for the environment…and we both evolved originally from the English colonies and how come pies didn't make it over here? This is crazy and this is the perfect weather for it, too."
It's a natural fit, too, for the West End, where anything cheap, casual, and fast tends to work best.
Everything is handmade in house and is perfect for those seeking a grab-'n'-go bite. ("It's a good outside travelling thing," she says.)
The size of the pies (which are five-inches in diameter) can be "quite deceiving", she says, and may be more filling than some expect—there are no fillers so they won't leave your stomach growling later.
Choices include chunky pepper steak (in a cracked pepper sauce); beef curry (ground beef in a madras curry sauce with carrots and celery); chicken, mushroom, and leek (in a cream and oregano sauce); butter chicken (with a hint of cayenne pepper); vegetable medley (corn, carrots, leeks, celery, cauliflower, and yams in a coconut milk–based sauce); and more.
The most popular choices, she says, are the traditional Aussie (ground beef, onions, and gravy) and the one with everything that everyone loves: steak, bacon, and cheese (with a cheddar and mozzarella mix).
What piques a lot of interest—and curious questions—is the Hopper. It's made from ground free-range kangaroo with sage, thyme, and Whistler's Nonna Pia's cabernet merlot balsamic reduction. Jones says it started as a special but was added to the menu.
And yes, it really is made from kangaroo. (What else would it be made from?)
Savoury pie prices range from $6.95 to $7.95.
Want to peak your pies? You can choose to add gravy ($1), mushy green peas ($1.25), or mashed potatoes ($1.75), or get the full meal deal with all of that together ($3.25).
For mornings on the go, breakfast pies are easy to pick up for $6.50. There's the Ned Kelly (named after an infamous Aussie bushranger), featuring ground beef and ground bacon topped with a cracked egg and cheddar cheese), or the Rise and Shine, with scrambled eggs with bacon and green pepper topped with shredded potato and cheese.
For those seeking sweet options, there's the apple crumble pie ($5.95) and the mixed berry pie ($6.75).
But the menu also extends beyond pies.
There are also sausage rolls, chorizo breakfast rolls, and spinach ricotta rolls ($4.50). And a cheesymite puff—cheese and Australia's beloved vegemite in a puff pastry.
A range of desserts includes familiar favourites such as cinnamon buns and salted caramel tarts. But there are also Australian desserts, such as the lamington (an Australian sponge cake with chocolate sauce and coconut) and the ANZAC biscuit (a rolled oat biscuit associated with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).
What their Vancouver menu offers that their Whistler spot doesn't is thick toast. For $4.75, you can order two slices of chia white, country grain, or cinnamon, with spreads such as peanut butter, jam, honey, sugar, or the Aussie essential: vegemite.
And there's an espresso menu (using coffee from Milano coffee roasters) featuring everything from cappucinos and macchiatos to mochas.
There's also the short black (an Australian term for espresso) and the long black, an Australian style of coffee made by pouring a double-shot of espresso over hot water.
You can also be sure their flat white is also the real deal from Down Under rather than a North Americanized version.
"It's an eight-ounce cup so your coffee-to-milk ratio is much smaller so you get more coffee flavour in the steamed milk but it doesn't have the foam on top," Jones explains of what a true flat white is.
She says menu and hours may evolve in response to demand.
The spot, which opened next to the new Yeh! Frozen Yogurt, is poised to do booming business during West End events like the Celebration of Light and the Pride parade.
Although Jones finds the prospect of crowds mobbing her store (as they did on opening day) somewhat daunting, she says what pleases her most is bringing delight to customers.
"We opened this place because we love people enjoying [our pies]," she says with a laugh. "Everybody should be able to have a meat pie....I just want everyone to be able to have access to one."