Pie floater

The pie floater is an Australian dish particularly common in Adelaide. It consists of a meat pie in a thick pea soup, typically with the addition of tomato sauce. Believed to have been first created in the 1890s, the pie floater gained popularity as a meal sold by South Australian pie carts. In 2003, it was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon.

Pie floater
TypeStreet food
Place of originSouth Australia
Main ingredientsAustralian meat pie, pea soup


Pea soup with meat has long been part of English culinary history, with mentions in the 19th century, including the "pea and pie supper" (in Yorkshire), "pea soup with eel", and suet dumplings or saveloys. (Dumplings in soup were known as "floaters".) It may have developed from those dishes, which are useful for feeding groups of people on a budget: for example at a sports match or at harvest time.[1] A pie floater commonly consists of a traditional Australian-style meat pie, usually sitting, but sometimes submerged (traditionally upside down) in a bowl of thick pea soup made from blue boiler peas.[2][3] It is often self-garnished with tomato sauce,[4] and the consumer may also add a combination of mint sauce, salt, pepper, or malt vinegar according to personal preference.

Early records in South Australia state that the pie floater was reputedly born in Port Pirie conceived by one Ern "Shorty" Bradley in 1890s, but it remains unknown if he did and how it came about.[5][6][7][8][9]

Pie carts

Pie floaters were typically purchased in the street from pie-carts, as a late evening meal.[10] Pie-carts are typically a form of caravan/trailer/cart, (originally horse-drawn), with an elongated "window" along one or both sides where customers sit or (more usually) stand to eat their purchases. The pie-cart was typically moved into position at lunch time and in the evening. As traffic became busier and on-street car-parking in demand, the carts evolved to have one window on "the footpath side", and were moved into position after afternoon peak-hour traffic had ebbed. They do business until late-evening or early-morning, after which they were returned to their daytime storage locations.

South Australia has had pie carts in the Adelaide metropolitan area since the 1870s. In the evenings, the Norwood pie-cart was located on The Parade adjacent to the Norwood Town Hall. It was also the only place where members of the public could buy draft Hall's "Stonie" ginger beer directly from the keg. In the Adelaide city centre in the 1880s, there were 13 pie-carts operating in King William Street and North Terrace. By 1915 there were nine pie-carts in operation. By 1958 this had reduced to two: Balfour's pie-cart on North Terrace outside the Adelaide railway station, and Cowley's in Victoria Square outside the Adelaide General Post Office. In 2007, the Glenelg tram line was extended from Victoria Square along King William Street and North Terrace past Adelaide railway station, and the Balfour's pie-cart was forced to close.[11]

In 2003, the South Australian National Trust traced the history of the pie floater: an impressive history tracing back 130+ years. The pie floater was recognised as a South Australian Heritage Icon by the National Trust of South Australia,[12] although it is now available at very few locations, among them are the Café de Vilis, Enjoy Bakery on Norwood Parade,[13] The Kings Head Pub on King William Street [14] and the Upper Sturt General Store.

See also

  • List of legume dishes


  1. Rina. "The Pie Cart". www.thepiecart.com.au. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  2. The glorious meat pie and humble pie floater Archived 22 September 2012 at the Wayback Machine abc.net.au/sa Retrieved 2010-11-27
  3. "Blue boiler peas" are whole dried green field peas, not carlin peas, maple peas or black peas, as are used for "mushy peas" in England.
  4. Australian tomato sauce is not ketchup: ketchup is made with vinegar, and is therefore a pickle sauce; Australian tomato sauce is made without vinegar.
  5. "The Pie Cart".
  6. "Pie floater invented in Port Pirie - Australian food history timeline". 31 August 1890.
  7. "Pirie 'floats' an idea". 30 November 2016.
  8. "Advertising". Port Pirie Recorder and North Western Mail. 16 May 1914.
  9. "South Australian pie carts". 9 July 2008.
  10. samemory.sa.gov.au Retrieved 2010-11-27
  11. Peter Goers (19 May 2007). "Floaters sink as station pie cart gets the push". Sunday Mail. News Corp Australia. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  12. Pie Floater entry at the National Trust of South Australia Archived 17 December 2003 at the Wayback Machine
  13. "Enjoy Bakery - Caffe. 24 Hour Bakery on The Parade, Norwood SA". www.enjoybakery.com.au. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  14. "Kings Head Menu" (PDF). kingsheadpub.com.au. Retrieved 1 September 2020.
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