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The legendary Adelaide “pie floater” – hot meat pie with tomato sauce in a bowl of hot green pea soup!


Some first time diners swear by these local delights; others swear at them!



updated 24th October 2014


The Floater - aka Pie Floater:


A Brief Description:  The pie floater is an Australian dish particularly common in Adelaide and, to a lesser degree, Sydney. It commonly consists of a traditional Australian-style meat pie, usually sitting, but sometimes submerged (sometimes upside down) in a bowl of thick green pea soup. It is usually garnished with tomato sauce, and the consumer may also add mint sauce, salt, pepper and /or malt vinegar to personal preference.  The pie floater is usually purchased in the street from pie-carts as a late evening meal.  


In more detail:    In 2003, The South Australian National Trust has traced the history of the pie floater: an impressive history tracing back 130+ years. 

Early records in South Australia state that the pie floater was reputedly born in Port Pirie, South Australia, conceived by one Ern "Shorty" Bradley in 1890's - but, no one really knows how.  Did he inadvertently drop a pie into a bowl of soup? Or maybe what a lot of people are stating today, it could have been because the bottom of the pie is softer and easier to tuck in with a spoon and it maybe because it stops the pie from slipping around the plate. Or though pea soup with meat has long been part of English culinary history, with honourable mentions in the 19th Century, including Yorkshire "pea and pie supper", "pea soup with eel", "suet dumplings or saveloys", (Dumplings in soup were known as "Floaters").  Maybe, it developed from those dishes, which are useful when you have a lot of people to feed on a budget: for example at a cricket match, or at harvest time or even at the footy.  

The pie floater is a meal available in Australia, which consists of the traditional meat pie sitting, unusually inverted (upside-down), in a plate of thick green pea soup.  It is traditionally served and covered with tomato sauce and, although subject to the taste of the individual consumer, mint sauce and salt and pepper are the also traditionally added to complement the dish.  Another popular condiment is vinegar and / or even Worcestershire sauce.

The addition of the pea soup provides extra flavour and dietary fibre, and extends what otherwise may be considered a snack to a full meal.  High profile fans of the pie floater are:  Anthony Bourdain, Joe Cocker, Billy Connolly, Nigel Mansell, Shane Warne, Angus Young and Hugh Jackman.  Also, Adelaide's high profile fans are: Bob Francis, Peter Goes (I hope to add more names soon). 

While the dish has appeared in other Australian locations – 1950's Brisbane and in the 1930's notably in 
well known version of the pie floater in Sydney is sold from Harry's Cafe de Wheels situated in Woolloomooloo, New South Wales, with a similarly recognisable neon sign.  Harry's Cafe de Wheels is listed on the National Trust Register as an historic icon. Originally set near the graving docks (now Australian Naval Dockyards known as 'Garden Island Naval Base' Woolloomooloo), east of the Sydney Opera House, the current Cafe de Wheels has been permanently fixed on a masonry base for some years. Other Harry's Cafe de Wheels operate in the Sydney city and metropolitan area, and in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales.Sydney at Harry's Cafe de Wheels – it has made its biggest mark in South Australia.

In 2003, the pie floater was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of Australia. 

Pie floaters are typically purchased in the street from pie-carts, as a late evening meal. Pie-carts are typically a form of caravan / trailer / cart, (originally horse-drawn or food vending trolleys), with an elongated "window" along one or both sides where customers stand to eat their purchases. 

I have been advised by an expert on pie floaters they were always referred to as "Floaters" not pie floaters as we call them today!


updated 24th October 2014 


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