Brays Cottage Pies
November 07, 2022

Brays Cottage Pies

What’s your story? How did your business start?

I started making the pies sixteen years ago.  I’d always been fascinated by food, I’d moved to a cottage in North Norfolk from Norwich and I wanted to work where I lived, rather than commute to the city – or London.  So, having always thought I might have a business in me, I decided to start Brays Cottage Pork Pies.

There was a niche for really interesting and tasty pork pies, most were super traditional or very cheap and sold in petrol stations.  I wanted to make pork pies using interesting flavours and really good local ingredients.  Food to be celebrated.

How many people are in your team?

There are eight of us at Pie HQ, ranging from working one day a week, to full time.  Plus the office dog, Juno, who is a very sociable Tibetan Terrier.  Juno is on meet and greet and staff welfare duties.

Where are you based?

We are very lucky to have Pie HQ on the glacial ridge that runs along the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Beauty.  So we look down to the sea and salt marshes at Blakeney and Cley.  It’s glorious, and very quiet, just us and the swallows and geese.  We are based in a brick and flint Victorian barn on the Bayfield Estate, which we turned into a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen, with our big bread oven and lots of stainless steel tables.

I’m sure the peace and sea breezes help make the pork pies so special.

What makes Brays Cottage a cool place to work?

 We have a lovely team and a family atmosphere.  Everyone has their own tasks and organises themselves.  But we all step in and help each other as needed, so everyone is able to do at least some of everyone else’s job.  Within the needs of the pies, everyone has established a working week and hours that work for them.

The building is airy and spacious, with lots of natural light and has two staff kitchens – which was a big help when we secretly prepared an afternoon tea under the trees when Rhiannon got married.

And everyone loves Juno cuddles at the end of a busy day!

What makes your products unique?

I grew up in the rural Midlands, so pork pies were a regular feature of life, so when I started making them I knew what I liked about traditional pork pies and what I didn’t.  Our pastry is thinner than a lot of pies, so has a lovely biscuity quality – and that leaves room for more meat!  The pork is from a farm near Burnham Market where they raise beautiful outdoor pigs.  The pies have quite a complex seasoning, using my secret blend of herbs and spices, you won’t find another pork pie that tastes quite like Bray’s Cottage pork pies – we have fans worldwide (including people you’ll have definitely heard of!)

We are well known for including gorgeous and interesting flavours: in the Spring I pick wild garlic locally and our most popular pork pie has onion marmalade mixed through – the sweetness of the onion is unbeatable with the fresh pork.  We also make chilli, chorizo, black pudding, and piccalilli pork pies – as well as a plain one which goes stunningly with pickles or mustard.  My favourite combination for the plain pork pie is serving it with Kimchi – the hot, salty sourness is sensational with the pie.

Because the pies are made and baked by hand in a kitchen rather than a factory, every mouthful will be subtly different, rather than uniform and bland, which I like to think gives the pies life and energy.  You could easily do everything we do, at home – but we’ve just got really good at it!

Inspiration behind Brays Cottage Pork Pies?

 The North Norfolk countryside is a huge inspiration, we try to use local ingredients where possible.  Our suppliers (and customers) become friends and part of the team, which is great.

And I grew up with a mum who was an amazing cook and we used to experiment in the kitchen, so I had the start of an inbuilt confidence and sense of flavours, which was a big help.

Best business moment?

 We’ve been making pies for sixteen years now so it’s hard to pick a single one, but whenever a customer says “that’s the best pork pie I’ve ever eaten”, that really makes my heart sing.

A valuable lesson you have learnt?

 Keep a steady hand on the tiller but resist micromanaging once everything has its rhythm and tasks have their expert owner.  The ideal thing is to have everyone become more skilled than me at everything (and I’ve done all the jobs at HQ!). 

What’s your favourite pork pie flavour? Do you pair it with anything special?

 I love our winter one, which is fig and orange zest.  It was inspired by those medieval flavours of great winter feasts.  It doesn’t really need any accompaniment – except possibly a roaring fire and a baronial hall!

How many products do you make?

 We just make the two – pork pies and our ever increasingly popular sausage rolls.  The sausage rolls were originally made as a one-off favour for a Sussex deli but became very much part of our HQ life.

What’s your inspiration?

 I just love feeding people really good food and making them happy.

What’s next for your business?

 I always say “more of the same”,

Name one thing you couldn’t live without.

My other half, Derek.  We’ve been together for about thirty years.  He used to work in the independent music business but kindly joined me in the independent food business ten years ago.  We make a good team.

Favourite song and why?

 I’ve got loads and the list changes daily, so I asked Derek what he thought my favourite song was and he said “In The Groove Again” by Out of My Hair.

What’s your best joke?

 A Roman Legionnaire walks into a bar, holds up two fingers and says “five beers please”.

You can find more information about Brays Cottage Pork Pies on their website below.