The Great Pie Competition…the Search is on for Ballarat’s Best

Published on May 10 2018.

Only in Australia can pie making (and eating!) be turned into a competitive sport. As part of the inaugural Plate Up Ballarat in May – and continuing into the last week of July – 20 pies are going crust to crust in a bid to be named Ballarat’s best. The winner will be announced live at the Western Bulldogs v Port Adelaide match on Sunday 29 July. You can have your say by heading out to this food loving region, grabbing your ‘pie chart’ – a map to guide you on your quest for the ultimate pie – and voting online for your favourite.


But a pie competition begs the question – what makes a truly great pie? That is up for debate. But in this race, there are some criteria to be considered:

  1. Each pie must feature three ingredients sourced locally in Ballarat
  2. They must be true to type, and served as a plated meal
  3. And for licensed venues, the pies must be paired with a local cider or beer from Red Duck Beer, Cubby Haus, Athletic Club Brewery or 321 Cider.

Outside of that, it’s anyone’s game. We’ve seen the list of competitors slugging it out to the top and it’s going to be a tough one.

Ballarat is just over an hour west of Melbourne, and with plenty on during Plate Up Ballarat, there’s plenty on to make it an easy autumn getaway. You can check out the full program here.


Here’s our guide to some of the weird and the wonderful, but don’t let us sway your decision. The only way to pick your winner is to try them!

The not-so-little piggy
Pork & Cider Pie by Café Sidra, 321 High St, Learmouth

Cider brewed with heritage apples grown just 3km away, and local Learmouth spuds and Nelson Springs pork from just 5km away make this a hyper-local and seriously delicious contender. Slow cooked with a gorgeous grave and fluffy puff pastry lid, this one is satisfyingly simple.

Cider match: 321 Cider Traditional Still

The Insta-worthy
Mushroom & Leek Pithivier Pie by Craig’s Royal Hotel, 10 Lydiard St, Ballarat

Local produce at its finest from Ballarat Mushroom Farm, Mount Prospect Produce and creamy Holy Goats Cheese. Tastes as good as it looks and is sure to be filling Insta feeds everywhere.

Beer match: Red Duck Beer Kolsch Bright Ale  

The Nanna Norma
Moroccan Lamb Shank Pie by The Forge Pizzeria, 14 Armstrong St, Ballarat

Nanna Norma knows her way around a good pie. Her recipe combines slow-cooked Victorian lamb shank, Meredith Goat Cheese and local baby spinach in a traditional crust. Hand cut beetroot chips and a little feta make a plate that echoes the Mediterranean. Thanks Nanna!

Beer match: Red Duck Beer Amber Ale

The rib-sticker
Cheesy Brisket Mac & Cheese Deluxe Pie by Freight Bar & Restaurant, 49 Mair St East, Ballarat

Not for the faint of heart, the motto for this pie seems to be ‘go big, or go home’. Slow-braised brisket is smoked and combined with local mushrooms and topped off with a mac ‘n’ cheese lid made with Inglenook Dairy Milk and Goldfields Farmhouse Cheeses. You’ll probably want a nap after this one.

Beer match: Athletic Club Brewery Amber Ale

The vego
The Local Comfort Pie by the Local, 313 Lydiard St, Ballarat

We love a veggie option that doesn’t make us feel like we’re missing out. Perfect shortcrust pastry is filled with sweet and sticky caponata and white bean with local olives. All the flavour and heft of its meaty counterparts, this one will be a hit with the most dedicated carnivores.

The sweet one
Pear, Blackberry & Rosewater Pie buy The Lane @ the George Hotel, 27 Lydiard St North, Ballarat

Local fruit is encased in a sweet citrus shortcrust pastry and served alongside Inglenook Dairy clotted cream and Il Piccolo gelato vanilla bean ice cream.

The bird
Confit Duck & Mushroom Pie by RACV Goldfields Resort, 1500 Midland Hwy, Creswick

Local Ballarat mushies and duck from Nhill are topped with a smooth truffled mash in a bold little package that will keep pace with even the richest of beef pies. A smoky tomato relish made from local Yendon Gourmet Tomatoes cuts the richness of the pie perfectly.  

Beer match: Red Duck Beer 1851

The classic
Lamb & Rosemary Pie by the Western Hotel, 1221 Sturt St, Ballarat

Fall-apart tender Waubra lamb, creamy mash and mushy peas: a classic done right. Nuf said.

Beer match: Cubby Haus Brewing, ESB – Extra Special Bitter

The outsider
‘Banh U’ Pie by Saigon Allee, 30 Armstrong St North, Ballarat

This might be the dark horse in the race, but its unusual appearance and flavours might just make it a surprise winner. This Vietnamese pie is made from glutinous rice, roast almond, shredded coconut and mung bean. Wood ear mushrooms are the hero here. Everything is then wrapped in bamboo leaves and cooked for four hours. You might not recognise its unusual shape but it’s warm, hearty and filling, just like any good pie.

Beer match: Athletic Club Brewery Pale Ale