A tasty slice of New Zealand can now be found in Richmond.
Photo by Ken Penn
Husband-and-wife team Neil Smith and Nikki Price only opened Proper Pie Co. in November 2012, but Richmonders have been lining up to get their fill of sweet and savory pies since day one. The savory pies, hot and handheld, are a particular draw, because they’re unlike anything else in town. Maybe even in the hemisphere.
Smith grew up in Whangarei, New Zealand, where savory pies are plentiful. He spent 10 years touring the world catering for musicians—from David Bowie to Nine Inch Nails—but couldn’t find a “proper” pie anywhere. Now Richmonders can find them every day in Church Hill.
So what goes into these “proper” pies? “A lot of time. A lot of love. A lot of butter,” says Smith, who begins baking at 5 a.m. every morning. “Very simple ingredients really, because the emphasis is on the pastry. The fillings are really just a foil for the pastry, so they’re never overpowering.”
The Church Hill neighborhood shop is small, but Smith and Price have made that a virtue by placing the kitchen directly behind the counter, so customers can see today’s pastry being made fresh before their eyes. “One of the things Neil and I have always liked is to sit at the counter where you can watch people work,” says Price, “though we didn’t really think about how much flour was going to be everywhere!” For customers who brave the line and dodge the flour, the reward is a savory pie with fillings like chicken and kumara (the New Zealand term for sweet potato) or pork chili verde, or maybe a slice of something sweet like the ever-popular Banoffee pie—made from bananas, cream and toffee. “I always say we’re trying to marry the Southern hemisphere with a little bit of the American South,” says Price, who is originally from Yorktown and met Smith at a Nine Inch Nails show in Richmond. Long may their delicious union of flavors continue. Facebook.com/ProperPieCo