Tiger Pie- Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Sydney.

Don’t ask me how I’ve managed to live in Sydney most of my life and yet I’ve never had a pie at iconic Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.After all, I’m a Sydney local and yet Colonel Sanders, Elton John, Jerry Lewis and other overseas celebs have somehow managed to not only find Harry’s and sample his Tiger Pie but have also had their photo taken and slapped onto the walls of the cart. Yes, the walls of Harry’s cart read as one hell of a hall of fame…a veritable who’s who.

The Wall of Fame at Harry's Cafe de Wheels.

The Wall of Fame at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels.

Yet, isn’t that way when you’ve lived in a place most of your life. You become complacent. Go elsewhere on your holidays and immerse yourself in the absolute experience and yet you only skim over the surface at home.

On the other hand, Sydney is a huge city dissected by it’s glamorous Harbour and has its pockets. You’d be spreading yourself pretty thin to really get to know all of our fabulous city and it’s environs.

We ended up at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels after visiting the Garden Island Naval Base to tour HMAS Toowoomba, which was opened up as a charity fundraiser for Kids in Need , which includes Muscular Dysdtrophy NSW, which also supports my neuromuscular disease, dermatomyositis.

Eating my Tiger Pie. Give me a few minutes and then you're going to hear me roar!

Eating my Tiger Pie. Give me a few minutes and then you’re going to hear me roar!

As our taste buds wrapped around the iconic Tiger Pie, which is basically adding mashed potato and mushy peas to a variety of basic pies…chicken, beef, cheese and bacon. The pies are also served up with a pond of tasty gravy on top and a fork.  We also ordered some hot chips which had to be among the very best hot chips we’ve ever eaten…crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Tiger Pie

Tiger Pie

Sign for Harry's inimitabl Tiger Pie.

Sign for Harry’s inimitabl Tiger Pie.

Although “Tiger” was a nickname the original Harry picked up while he was serving in the Middle East during WWII, it truly did feel like trying to devour a tiger of a pie as we wrestled with all that potato, peas and gravy armed only with a humble plastic fork and hoping and praying that the lot wouldn’t end up splat on ourr laps. The Tiger eaters amopng us, therefore, decided to sit at the tables provided on the side of the cart rather than joining Mister sitting by the water. I really loved my pie but found it very salty…possibly due to the gravy.

Miss showed no respect for her pie eating the topping and the middle, leaving behind the pastry. Mister ate that in a flash.

Miss showed no respect for her pie eating the topping and the middle, leaving behind the pastry. Mister ate that in a flash.

However, the pie is only part of the whole Harry’s experience. There’s also the history which is etched into its walls.

The original Harry’s Cafe de Wheels is on display at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and they offer a quick historic tour:

The Original Harry’s Cafe de Wheels now parked permanently at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.

In 1938 Harry ‘Tiger’ Edwards first opened a food cart at the corner of Macleay St and Cowper Wharf Road in Woolloomooloo. When war broke out he joined the army, serving with the 2/2nd Machine Gun Battalion in the Middle East. He was wounded and discharged in November 1942 suffering from severe asthma. Edwards was said to be ‘quite a character’, a gambler and a man who liked to be his own boss. He drove a taxi and a fruit truck before rigging up an old army ambulance as a mobile canteen which he operated at rugby league matches and other sporting events. In 1945 he swapped the ambulance for a makeshift caravan – the one in the Museum’s collection — and parked it outside the Garden Island Naval Dockyard.

Geoff ordering our pies.

Geoff ordering our pies.

When the police told Edwards to move his van as it was disrupting traffic, a thief mysteriously stole the wheels. This was in 1945 and for years, Harry’s Cafe de Wheels had no wheels at all. The Maritime Services Board and Defence officials who controlled the Dockyard negotiated a permanent spot for Harry’s Cafe outside the naval base. ‘Besides, in 1945, people did not like to see bureaucrats pushing around wounded veterans who were trying to make an honest quid for themselves’ (Jefferson Penberthy, ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, 11 July 1981).

Despite harrassment by the Council, State and Commonwealth Police, Harry’s nocturnal eatery remained, although it was shifted up and down Cowper Wharf Road a number of times.

It was perhaps Harry’s finest moment in 1978, when Rear Admiral David Martin – over a pie and glass of Champagne – commissioned the caravan as “HMAS Harry’s”.

In 1974, chicken king, Colonel Sanders, stopped at Harry’s and enjoyed the food so much that he ate three ‘pies and peas’ while leaning on his walking stick in front of the caravan.

The Kids Seated behind Harry's and looking at Cowper Bay Wharf, Wooloomooloo.

The Kids Seated behind Harry’s and looking at Cowper Bay Wharf, Wooloomooloo.

So after such an impressive cast of patrons, in 2015 we turned up.

Have you ever been to Harry’s Cafe de Wheels? Do you have any thoughts about getting to know your own backyard?

xx Rowena

PS I wonder if Katy Perry has tried the Tiger and that’s what made her roar? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8

Murals on Harry's Cafe de Wheels

Murals on Harry’s Cafe de Wheels

24 thoughts on “Tiger Pie- Harry’s Cafe de Wheels, Sydney.

  1. vanbytheriver

    Such a lovely piece. I have to admit, though, that I was thinking about those dastardly meat pies in “Sweeney Todd”, with a very different protein. ☺ Van

  2. New Journey

    Your pies looked interesting….and my husband has lived in the Napa Valley for over 30 years and never went anywhere besides to Lake Tahoe and Reno…so I am having the pleasure of showing my husband what good ole California, Oregon and Washington has to offer, he was amazed….I love adventuring out and around our home area….we are heading up Feather River north of Sacramento for about a week in just a couple days…my husband didn’t even know about the river and its only 3 hours from our home…so I am looking forward to seeing his reaction to all the beauty I am going to immerse him into…we love traveling and the USA has plenty of beauty for us to find…wish there was abridge we could drive over to get to Australia…LOL.

  3. merrildsmith

    I love reading about these places you find and explore in Sydney. I doubt if I’ll ever get there to see them myself. I don’t eat meat, so I wouldn’t eat that Tiger Pie, but I bet my husband would. The chips though–hard to resist freshly made! There are many cool places in the Philadelphia area (and NJ, too) that we’ve never been to. And lots of local, iconic food places, too. My husband and I keep saying we should make a list.

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Laurie. It is an incredibly quirky, irresistible kind of place. Woolloomoolloo is not far from Sydney’s notorious King’s Cross and as it was open very late, it would have attracted a few characters over the years in addition to the celebs! xx Rowena

  5. roweeee Post author

    You should. I would love to hear about them. I’m trying to give my blog an Australian feel. It is a great place and not easy to access (or travel out of either!!) and it is swuch a part of me. I did my honours thesis on Australian cultural history looking at the arrival of modernism in Australia and how that threatened our national identity which was very entrenched in images of the Australian bush, even though we have always been a highly urbanised society.
    I think we’re due for another trip to Chinatown and we have a little Italy as well in Leichhardt. That’s a great visit. I don’t know whether you have Masterchef on over there but it’s a cooking show here and it’s really whetting my appetite for great food! xx Ro

  6. roweeee Post author

    They’re not the best pies I’ve had and they certainly don’t feature any of the best pie awards which our local pie shop does up here. I much admit that Flaming Ron’s pies are hard to beat. He makes what is known as the hottest pie in the world and I really should interview him for my blog. He’s quite a character. His website is down at the moment but here’s a link to his FB page:https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Flaming-RON/195993313797440 xx Ro

  7. roweeee Post author

    I wish there was too! It’s been 14 years since I last went overseas and I really do love travel and immersing myself in other cultures. That said, Sydney is very multicultural so for the time being, I’ll have to head down there to dip my toe in. I also do enjoy the cultural interchange through blogging. It’s been fabulous.
    Sounds like you are stretching your husband well. Opposites so often attract and can really take each other to new dimensions xx Rowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    I’ll check it out.
    We actually have an award-winning pie maker down the road here. He makes the hottest pies in the world. I’ll have to interview him for the blog soon. His web site is down at the moment but here’s a link t his FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages
    /The-Flaming-RON/195993313797440
    Yes, you will have to come out for a visit! xx Rowena

  9. roweeee Post author

    Thanks! Just checked that out and while my dogs would heartily approve, I’ll stick to more conventional fillings. That was a hilarious read though xx Rowena

  10. Midwestern Plant Girl

    Mmmm! Miss sure missed the best part of the pie! These look de-lish!
    I agree about getting around your ‘local’ area. Many times we camp less than an hour away from home, but feel like it’s a state away.

  11. roweeee Post author

    I haven’t been camping for many years and now that the kids are in scouts, I’m going to have to revisit that. I do like that sense of freedom wandering off and pitching a tent when you feel like stopping. That’s if you can find somewhere.
    When we stayed at Palm Beach, that’s only 30 minutes by ferry although we tended to make the much longer drive. It made a world of difference getting out of the house although tht said, I am getting the house a lot more sorted now that we’re staying put. Boring I know but I’m hoping we can maintain it once it’s done …Ha! Dreamer!

  12. merrildsmith

    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He was based on a real person, I believe, but it’s a musical by Stephen Sondheim. The pies were made from his victims.

  13. Minuscule Moments

    Rowena all I can say is YUMO! Every year in the summer festivals it was out tradition to go to either Symphony Under the Stars or Opera in the park and YES we would all take that trip down to Harry’s for the best pie ever. The Tiger pie. Im salivating reading this post. We use to create our own pies with mushy peas when we moved away from Sydney but you can’t beat Harry’s. Long time since I have been there and one day I will return with my kids. Not that they would eat a pie with mushy peas on it. Don’t know what you are missing, I would say.

  14. roweeee Post author

    I used to go to Symphony UNder the Stars and Opera in the Park and all of those events when I was younger. I’d meet up with friends and there would be some kind soul who’d gone in early to mind our spot. I have great memories of those events too, althugh without the pies.
    On the kis and pea front, I do get the kids to eat there’s and I even eat mine. Frozen peas are such an easy way for us to get our greens. I have to be a bit conscious about that. Being green is something like applies to the environ ment from my perspective! xx Rowena

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