As planned, we returned to Bun’s 24/7 Bakery, this time at 12AM on a summer t-shirt night. I brought with me three competent tasters, hungry for conversation. Sitting outside for a while we observed the late traffic of teenagers and shift workers getting their eat on. Some young kids peed onto the sidewall and even tipped over a table and milk sign creating a furniture sculpture, which remained in place throughout the 40 minutes, we were there.

 The Ferry/Moorehouse/Waltham crossroads of activity makes for an adventurous outing on a Saturday. There were quite a few wobbling zombies on their way somewhere. One old lady with a cane & wearing a sleeping gown asked us for a cigarette. Another man warned us to “watch out for the blacks”. In all, I counted 24 people making transactions at Bun’s.

This is a place that sells buckets of lollies, milk, & bread but can not be considered a convenient store because it’s mostly ready-to-eat takeaway food that they provide. Our hosts were a large male Indian man and a busy behind the scenes woman, also appearing to be of Indian heritage. She was kind enough to offer the use of her store toilet for me. This is where I snapped some sneaky shots of the bakery background.

The man was surprisingly open to our probing questions, like… How often do you rotate in fresh new pies? (every 8 hours) …and… What kind of late night trouble have you seen in your experience? Perhaps unwilling to share the truly sexy memories, he told the story of a couple Maori guys that actually have come in and cleaned out every bit of food in the case. No joke, they pointed to it all, had it packaged and paid to take home a mixture of breaded, fried, roasted and  cheesy meals… enough for…?

 So, the pies we ordered were:

The Steak Onion Cheese and Tomato, with a dark salty sauce and big chunks of beef.

The Chicken and Mushroom, which I had observed before, but this time having 2 experienced judges- one labeled it jelly, the other found it too salty and couldn’t finish.

& the Peppered Steak, being dry with big specks of cracked black pepper. A cheese sauce perhaps? Needing additional tomato sauce to balance acidity. Overall, standard to average.

 I noticed the receipt identified two of these were considered “gourmet” and cost me more than any other pie so far at $4.40

I heard, from the judges, talk about “structure”, and discovered the telling detail of a pie pastry that has slowly dried in the cabinet. This is seen in the cross section strata of the crust being light/next to dark. I learned that a new pie might possibly burst, while an older aged pie will show signs of fluffiness (not flake) and contain a denser filling.


 Sunny’s Discounter Dairy was a special find. It’s on Opawa road heading down to Brougham Street; next door to a liquor store and pub. Theye have a medium sized pie cupboard on display with the complete range of packaged pies. I haven’t seen a more confused selection than this.

I asked the kind Indian lady what was going on with the prices and flavours. She was very forthcoming about it all stating that they (husband and her) have appropriated the business 6 month back and are currently trialing different pie brands to see what’s the best seller. I got the sense that they want to target a low budget, mid-range pie and might possibly consider a fancy pie. 

Here I saw the cheapest choice so far… a Delta pie inserted in a paper bag for $1.20. Also they had “Classic” whatever that means. Big Ben and Sunny Day (fitting name) a subsidiary somehow of Goodtime were also on offer.


More striking was her answer to my question “do you have any more?” whereby she steps over to reveal dozens more pies in the fridge, yes fridge, behind the desk. I walked out of there with the riskiest option I could imagine. A mystery pie wrapped in plastic without a label. She didn’t even know what it was. I got excited. It was 2pm. A quiet but steady stream of customers kept rolling through while I sat outside with my cold pie, taking pictures. They were probably buying cigarettes.

No-name flavour: (over-toasted at home in the oven for 15 minutes) Cost-$2.50
Dark orange inside colour, oval in shape. Spicy gelatinous filling. Acceptable pastry tearability/stretchiness. Rich artificially enhanced sweetness. Greasy.

Curiosity got the better of me and I had to return to Z for the vegan pie.

This time I brought along another consultant… a vegetable expert.

The grumpy-turned-nice lady that was there last time was now replaced with an unresponsive long-haired boy wearing a cap. He didn’t seem to have the time for chit chat; almost ignoring our pie questions with a weird silence. Mind-you, there was a 1:30pm Tuesday queue of people behind us. His young female assistant kept a watchful eye from the left.

The mission was to grab a Gemma’s pie, which I now see has been repositioned in the case and perhaps rebranded? Maybe the year-long fame Gemma has received for her award winning pie has now expired? Either way, they’ve done away with first names and the sticker now announces that Z are (as they put it) “bringing Mexi back”. For four dollars.

Observation: nothing stands out more than a square pie; but not if it’s hiding behind a huge sticker.

The best part of this day was that I got the chance to share this pie with 3 professionals involved somehow in design. A healthy conversation sprang out of this pie tasting.

The kind of comments I heard were: “Oily, good pastry, salty, spicy, sweet, messy/mushy (tongs burst the crust), an 8 or 9 out of 10, worth $5-6”!

More interesting is the fact that 3 of the 6 “artitecture” people in the room decided to abstain from vegan pie-eating.

I thank my accomplice today, as I thank all of my collaborators, for willingly joining in on short notice. He must have felt quite nervous, dropping his coins at the store, then again dropping his pie piece on the rug at home.

What's in a pie?

New today was the Challenge service station on Opawa Road. We walked into the shop poised for the usual covert operation when lo and behold, a friend recognizes us. She had just flown into town. I’m sorry “Chylie” if we seemed awkward ...I think you even asked what we were up to and I had some kind of dumb answer for you; not wanting to blow our cover. I’ll make it up to you.

[I should mention here now, if it’s not already obvious from the title of the page, that yes, these investigations are carried out under cover.]

Either way, the hunt seemed headed for a dead end when we realize the target pie was not in stock. A very eager attendant offered to help by pulling some frozen choices from out back. This is the same tall lady we had seen pushing a stalled car up to the petrol pump minutes earlier. She was genuinely friendly & talkative. Her quiet post-teen coworker now seemed suspicious towards my phone (which shot off a couple flashes) and probably by our insistent questioning.

I’m reminded of a PSA video that pictures shopkeepers interacting with customer nonsense. Not that we were giggly, or stunned at all; I’m just reflecting on the fact that these merchants must deal with folks like that daily.

She held the door for us as we walked out.

Note: today was the 22nd of February, the fifth year anniversary of Christchurch’s devastating earthquake. If this had any bearing on people’s attitudes, then I can accept my observations are possibly not an accurate portrayal of their typical day.

I brought this pie home, thawing it for 5 hours before following the heating instructions the Challenge lady suggested… 1.5 minutes in microwave… 15 minutes in oven. The Pat’s Pantry brand Creamy Thai Chicken was a big hit with chunks of white meat in a mild yellow-green coconut curry. Costlier than the 10 neighboring Irvines pies; it was- $4.

Not exactly insignificant in the region is Inflatable World, which doubles as Action Indoor Sports during weekdays. I didn't buy and taste from their limited Mrs Mac's collection but thought an entry must be included here since they are a provider of pies within the 500m radius...just to a different demographic.

Finally made it to the Brougham Street Z station. Again with my trusty hired help (payment made in pies), we walked in and struck up a conversation with a, at first, cagey attendant, who after a few authentic compliments loosened up to reveal a kindred love affair with the pie language. 

20 pies sit in the cabinet. These, as I came to understand, are offered by Goodtime, and baked locally.
My expert/consultant went for the Mince and Cheese pie costing $3.80. Although, particularly attractive was Z's featured pie...a vegan Mexican variety apparently developed by someone named "Gemma".

The yellow pie eating woman and I had a long conversation about what makes for a great pie. Who's to seek out, and what time of day. We talked about the emotional and historical sides of pies too.

And when it was time to rip into this Mince & Cheese, here's how it went:
An oval pie, messy brittle pastry texture that broke- spilling its insides, "possible older". Savoury, with a good amount of mince. Liquid cheese... not just melted... liquid. Light in colour, buttery and ...enjoyable. The flavour, she said, was worth more than $3.80.