It was a venison, red wine and portobello pie. Matti Fallon was at Fergbaker in Queenstown, New Zealand taking a break from the construction gig he’d picked up after closing down Scandinavian upscale eatery duNord, where he was head chef and part-owner.
If Fallon’s honest, he was feeling a bit burned out. The thought of working in another high-end kitchen didn’t appeal, and he was still in debt. But that pie: it spoke to him.
“Ah, man – total life changer,” the New Zealand native says with a sigh. “I thought pies were Australian, but it's one of those things that Kiwis can claim as well. Any town you go to, every one has a really good bakery, and you can tell that everything's cooked properly, with decent ingredients. And with Kiwis, you can tell there's a bit of extra love.”
Fallon decided he’d bring some of that love back home to Melbourne with Princes Pies – his take on an old-school pie shop.
The idea of an upscale pie isn’t a new one. Fallon is quick to give credit to Matt Wilkinson’s The Pie Shop and Raymond Capaldi, of Wonder Pies, for giving the dog’s eye a fresh look. Nevertheless Fallon believes locals are still criminally underserved when it comes to quality.
“The lack of good pies in suburban Melbourne is horrendous,” Fallon says. “I’ve smashed a thousand different servo pies and never really thought of where the meat's coming from. And then you start to think about it, and think: ‘Shit, that's not the best thing to be having.”
At Princes, Fallon and his small team make everything on-site, slow-cooking beef and lamb from Little Creek Farm in Coldstream. Each day he roasts the bones and makes a jus from the reduction. Herbs are from Fallon’s mum’s garden.
The pies range from classic – mince and cheese, pepper steak, lamb and potato – to boutique: lamb, truffle and goat’s cheese. There’s also a borderline-obscene take on the sausage roll: pork, apple and fennel wrapped in prosciutto.
Pie cases at Princes have a high butter content, giving them an old-fashioned, homemade taste and iconic Four’n Twenty look. Together with Tom Jacobson of Changz, Fallon has made an all-natural tomato sauce, called Dead Horse.
Using ethical, antibiotic- and hormone-free meat was of paramount importance, too. “When I spoke to the farmers the first time they said, ‘Look, we believe that all animals can only have one bad day’. It’s something we really believe in, so that was the deciding factor,” he says.
Much of the fit-out in the 22-square-metre shopfront is handmade by Fallon. This isn’t surprising given his experience in construction. What is surprising is his addiction to Pinterest, which he put to use when decorating the shop. There’s vintage crockery, two-up sets, a huge black mirror and some ’70s wooden stools. “They're borderline disgusting, but they're awesome,” Fallon says, laughing.
While there’s just one Prince at present, pie carts loom on the horizon. “If we can get some more demand in Melbourne, we'll definitely take off in other suburban areas as well,” says Fallon.
Until then, he’s happy to be making pies with his own two hands and serving them over the small counter in the shop. “It's a dreamy sort of lifestyle compared to smashing out 14-hour days, drinking like a sailor and feeling like crap all the time,” Fallon says. “I just like the lack of fuss.”
10 Howey Place, Melbourne
Mon to Fri 8am–4pm