It has been about 10 years since I was in London. I still vividly remember my trip, especially the battle that ensued over my accomodations at a Hilton near Hyde Park. Even before the trip, however, I remember something else quite vividly: people telling me to eat only ethnic food in London.
Most of this stemmed from the fact that Engish food has never been known as premier in terms of creativity or flavor. One person told me that British cooking only involves four ingredients: flour, suet, salt and sugar. So, I was told all about the curry houses and the Turkish restaurants and the like.
However, as I made my way through London, and with money getting tight, I turned to the pubs for food and ale. I remember the Shepherd's Pie, the Bangers and Mash, the Chicken and Chestnut Pie and the Ploughman's Lunch. During several cold November days, those lunch plates sure tasted good.
So, it was a fairly chilly weekend (by Phoenix standards) and I asked Dave the roommate if he would like to try out the Cornish Pasty Co. in Tempe. Dave is a big fan of British pub grub and had no problems accepting my invitation. So, we hopped into the car and drove to Tempe.
The Cornish Pasty Co. sits in a non-descript strip mall on the northeast corner of University & Hardy in Tempe, just down the road from ASU. The shop faces Hardy, and at first I missed it, but doubled back, pulled into the lot and parked.
Dave and I walked in and I was rather surprised at how dark the shop was inside. The lighting was low and the interior is predominately black in color. The place is also quite narrow, with a bar for ales on one side and tables for two against the other wall. (There are a couple of tables for four in the back.) Additionally, the place was piping in the classic rock station from the Sirius satellite network. The interior struck me as a bit to quirky for my tastes.
We took a table about half way back and waited a few minutes before our server arrived with water. We ordered drinks and reviewed the menu.
With the exception of salads and drinks, the menu contains a couple dozen Pasties (pronounced PASS-tees). Pasties are oven-baked pastry pockets containing a variety of ingredients from meat to vegetables and anything in between. There were so many options to choose, Dave and I took several minutes to decided.
It took our server a long time to return with our drinks, which was quite odd considering that there were only two tables occupied in the place. She placed our Lemonades on the table and took our orders. Dave opted for the Shepherd's Pie Pasty ($5.50) and I decided that The Porky Pasty ($5.50) was calling my name. Dave and I also ordered side salads ($2.75 each), but Dave went for the Pesto dressing and I selected the Ranch.
As we waited, I watched the operation in action as the server went into a walk-in cooler, returned with two pasties on a baking sheet and placed them into a professional oven. She then began to prepare our salads.
When our salads arrived at the table, we each received a plate of fresh greens tossed with cucumber slices, sliced red onion and teardrop tomatoes. I tried my salad and it was excellent. The Ranch dressing was fresh and garlicky. The onions and tomatoes were both sweet and it make the salad a very nice first course. Dave really enjoyed the Pesto dressing on his salad. I had a taste of the dressing and like it very much.
We then fell into another round of the disappearing server and we had to ask for refills on our drinks and for the salad dishes to be cleared. While we did get refills, our salad plates were not cleared until our pasties arrived.
About 20 minutes had passed and our pasties did arrive. Each was wrapped in heavy butcher paper and sealed with an adhesive strip touting the Cornish Pasty Co.'s name. Accompanying our pasties were small plastic cups of Red Wine Gravy.
Dave and I tore into the heavy packages and the scent of the pastry hit me first. It was wonderful. You could smell the buttery nature of the pastry and I was excited to taste the inside. I cut mine in half because the pasty was huge and heavy. You do get a knife and fork, but I was going to enjoy this like a sandwich.
My Porky Pasty was the pastry pocket filled with ground pork, sage, onions, apple and potatoes. I took my first bite and my tongue got hit with the sage very quickly. The pork was tender and tasty as were the onions and pototes. The only complaint I had was that the apples seemed to get lost in the mix. My guess was that they used Golden Delicious apples instead of Granny Smith, which I think would have been a better choice.
I doused my pasty with the Red Wine Gravy and the pasty was heavenly. The gravy was a big hit with Dave and me and we wish we had ordered much more of it. Dave loved his Shepherd's Pie Pasty as well, and said the pastry holding the meat and potatoes was perfect. Yes, it was. Browned on the outside, flaky, buttery, salty, and delicious. Dave stated that his filling was very good, but he wished they had used a bit less onion in the mix.
We had planned on having a dessert pasty, but when we finished our individual meals, Dave and I were stuffed. While we waited for our server to return, Dave and I talked about the meal. We enjoyed the food greatly, but felt the pasty fillings could be a bit more seasoned, which was a minor complaint. The gravy was a big winner as were two fillings.
The other thing we also liked was the fact that you can take the pasties home and cook them there. That was an option that would be great for people on the go.
For us, it would become a necessity because we fell back into the absent server. I motioned two her twice for our bill and she acknowledged me but then did nothing. What confused me about the situation was that there were four staff members working and only a couple of tables and it was taking 15-20 minutes to get our bill. Part of the problem was that three of the staff were creating pasties and were not helping with the clientel. After 20 minutes, I vocally asked the server to give us our bill. Truly, the service was abysmal and only made worse by the three cooks who entertained the customers by talking about their past drug use.
We finally did get our bill and paid. The total was $22.30 including tax. We thought the prices were fair and the food was delicious. Nevertheless, the service was truly awful.
Still, Dave and I would have no problems getting pasties from this restaurant again and even talked about the next "flavor" we would try. However, we would probably opt to take them home and bake them ourselves.
Considering my dislike of the dark interior and the bad service, that would be a much better choice.
Cornish Pasty Co.
960 West University
Tempe, AZ 85281
Notes: Pasties can be taken home and baked.