Best Breakfast in Swindon?

So, on my Jack Jones I’ve time to kill this morning in that great western railway  megatropolis (least it is to us bumpkins, hanging onto a thread of Tory promise a train might one day stop in our backwaters.)

While I’m familiar with an antique Swindon of twenty-five years gone, and pockets of it remain surpringly unchanged, I’m alien to the contemporary choice of cafes and such. Still the objective is stomach-governed; get a decent breakie in me.

Thank heavens for the internet, innit tho? Gone is a time when a stranger would need swan around, hunting for a place to eat. One doesn’t recommend appearing like a tourist in Gorse Hill, I left my green wellies and Barbour jacket back at argh farmhouse. But tis where my intellectually far superior phone instructed me to head towards upon searching “best breakfast in Swindon.”

So, is The Butcher’s Cafe on Cricklade Road in that hill of gorse, the best breakfast in town? How the hell should I know, unless I trek the entire urban landscape stopping at each and every eatery? ….it’s a thought though. Something I’d be quite capable and motivated to attempt…let’s change the subject shall we? What the heck is a “gorse” anyway?

Away with such trivia and progessing to the nitty gritty. No doubt, The Butcher’s Cafe could justifiably call claim to hold the crown for best breakfast in Swindon, but it didn’t boast. It is, in it’s very essence, a no-frills, affordable home-cooked gaff, an ethos which wins my approval. I don’t need my baked beans served in a heart-shaped side-bowl and my cup of rosey on a doily. I need an English breakfast to be substantial, tasty and served with only a smile and ketchup. And that’s how it was.

Ticked nearly all my fussy boxes, yes sirey. As the name suggests it’s situated neighbouring a butchers, ergo sourcing those darn tasty sausages and bacon should come as no surprise, but the remaining ingredients were also cooked to perfection. It was in a word, scrumptious.

Where the egg would’ve fitted, if I’d wanted one, I’ve no idea!

Okay, nit-picking; I favour fresh tomatoes as apposed to tinned, and accept a slice of black pudding is reserved for north of the Watford gap and swanky folk in the south. Other than this, and that my no egg request wasn’t offered an alternative, a personal benchmark of greatness, it was a decent dish of quality and quantity; making the Butcher’s Cafe a very worthy gaff indeed.

It serves home cooked lunches and snacks, and it’s certainly not going to break the bank. Three quid for a smaller breakie, but you know me, large was £6.25 inclusive of what you don’t see in the photo was the perfectly toasted toast which arrived a split second later, and a mug of tea.

All round a nice, simple cafe with great service. Plucked out of the top ratings on TripAdvisor, there’s one who decided an autication over usage of the toilet, when they claimed staff mumbled their breath about customers using “their” facilities, was worthily of losing a whole four stars over. I figured I’d test the water, needed to point Percy at the porcelain anyways. Was courteously guided to the little boy’s room without issue; you can’t believe everything you read; amateurs, probably own a cafe up the road!

For the record, they knew not of my intended appraisal, so to treat me like royalty, but they was aware I was no regular, and still service was spot on. Also, a gorse is a yellow-flowered shrub of the pea family, the leaves of which are modified to form spines, native to western Europe and North Africa. See? My smarty-pants phone told me that, I’m not David Bellamy but I know a gorgeous breakfast when I see one!


Eat Out to Help Out, Locally, Independently

I am listing local restaurants, cafes and pubs who are participating in the “eat out to help out,” scheme and encourage owners in the Wiltshire area to contact Devizine, to be listed freely. Although you know me, have to have a little rant beforehand, so scroll past my waffling if you wish to get direct to the list! Note the list will be updated, so check back in August.

For information on how to apply for the scheme, see here. Note the scheme comes with restrictions. Only available on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the 3rd to 31st August 2020, and offers a 50% discount, up to a maximum of £10 per person, for food or non-alcoholic drinks to eat or drink in.

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“I believe I dust my broom.” Robert Johnson sung that, the bluesman who sold his soul to the devil at the Mississippi Delta crossroads, in exchange for faultless musical flair, so he must know what he’s on about. Although, to dust your broom actually means to make change, derived from the expression “get up and dust,” or get out of town fast. I didn’t need to do that, just get out of B&Q!

Had my old outdoor broom for decades, but timeworn, it finally gave up the ghost. Sunday, I nipped into B&Q and returned home proud owner of a new broom with a screw-on handle. Too loose, one swipe and the head fell off, tighten it and it passes the thread and…. the head falls off. Time passed and my patience caved by numerous attempts to secure the handle on the head. I came to the forgone conclusion, it’s either fate; star alignment’s fault, since NASA claims I’ve moved from Pieces to Aquarius, or, more likely, it’s mass-produced shite.

After hand sanitising, queuing and following the one-way circuit around the entire store, I returned it, swung into town, parked dead outside Mainleys and picked up a far cheaper, better broom. By very design, glued and stapled, it’s old-fashioned, but a coupling method which has worked for centuries. If it’s not broke…. A lesson learned, then; should’ve shopped local.

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Make no mistake, I consider this soundbite “eat out to help out” nauseatingly haughty, coming from a government who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide basic meals for school children. Guaranteed, this is yet another move to line the pockets of big business, the mass-producing restaurant chains.

Never forget Boris’s bum-chum, Tim Martin and how he refused to close during lockdown, refused to pay his staff and suppliers. If a Frankie & Benny branch sadly closes, the staff will be the only ones to suffer; that’s sorrowful reality, I’m afraid. Note the variety you think you’re getting with a parade of Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquitito, et all, is false, they’re all the same company and will subside each other; different sauce, same old chicken, pal. If the government are going to open taxpayer’s wallets, I urge the small business and independent eateries, who would otherwise close, lock, stock and barrel, to dip in before the fat cats.

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Unfortunately, I’ve experienced the rubber chicken which bounced off the floor of Wetherspoons first hand, lost teeth on Hungry Horse waffles, and felt famished twenty seconds after eating an air-pumped big mac. Like my broom experience, I’m at my tether’s end; best to shop local.

Not that I’m trying to persuade you, the choice to eat out is your prerogative and risk; many pubs and restaurants are continuing to provide takeaway services, many established takeaways are delivering and continuing to provide an excellent service too. Sometimes though, it’s nice to be able to eat out, remember your mask. If you can, here’s a list, then, of local places participating in the 50% off “eat out to help out” scheme; let’s support them.


If you missed my social media requests for participating places to be included, do not worry, I can update this if you twist my arm with some love…. and remember the best way to a man’s heart! Ah, insert laughing emoji here; only kidding, cheeky blagger that I am. Just message me and I’ll get your café or restaurant added! Do take heed though, while we’re here, overflowing with banter, our foodie reviews are the most popular articles, and we’d love to do one for you.

You can find more participating eateries via postcode search on the Gov site here.  


Devizes

Massimo’s Ristorante

For twenty-seven years Francos was the finest Italian restaurant in Devizes, but with the departure of Sicilian chef, Massimo Pipitone things were never quite the same. Two years ago, Massimo returned to Old Swan Yard to recapture the restaurant’s reputation and with a name change, has succeeded in putting it back on top. Still operating the takeaway service, it begun during lockdown, they’ve now reopened the restaurant, excellently observing social distancing regulations. They serve traditional Italian and Sicilian cuisine, and the pizzas are awesome!

Take it from me, one who loves his tucker, you will not find better service, quality and tastier food this side of Roma!  Booking at weekends is essential. 

The Pelican:

Splendid inn situated at the Market Place, known best for its roast dinners, which can be takeaway too. The Pelican have various cuisine events and has a scrumptious bar menu. An example from this weekend’s roast option:  Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb. Chicken is always an alternative every week with a beautiful Home-Made Vegetarian Option. Vegan or Gluten Free diets also catered for with advance booking. £8.95 per person, £5.95 per child, £4.50 per Home Made Dessert. Please telephone 01380 723909 to book.

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New Society:

Sitting somewhere between glorious pub grub and restaurant, New Society in the Market Place was quickly established as one of our best eateries. Our review last September has always been one of our highest hitting articles, and they were glad to announce reopening on 3rd July. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, or perhaps a coffee stop, New Society is a comfortable setting and serves a large selection.  Operating usual daytime opening hours, but currently evenings are restricted to Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is advisable to pre-book for these nights (01380 722288).

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1Spice

One of the newer establishments, it did not take long for 1 Spice in Maryport Street to earn the jewel in the crown of Indian restaurants in Devizes, and rightly so. It’s my chosen place for a knees-under, and is often cited top of majorities’ list. Conventionally, Indian restaurants convey an aptitude of exceptional customer service and etiquette, and 1Spice is of no exception. Expect to be welcomed, but what is more, expect a wide and gorgeous selection, mixing the flavours and spices of India with the finest seasonal ingredients the West Country can offer. It’s driving my appetite for a Ruby just typing this, and I’ve had my dinner already!

The Hourglass:

Tucked away at Devizes Marina, the Hourglass is a perfect location and serves a high-quality pub menu. Options have been restricted since reopening on 4th July, but expanding now, and takeaway service is available. Booking is advisable for food. Subject to change, opening hours are 11am-9pm every day, with food served between 5-8pm, Thursdays through to Sundays. Book online here.

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Tea Inc

A cup of Rosy-Lee for me, I’m not a coffee guy. Still, I’ve not been in Tea Inc in the Ginnel (just off the Market Place) and now in Marlborough, sovereign of tearoom towns. This must change, I’m coming for you guys, ensure you have some custard creams! This humble teashop throws off the doily and delicate fingertip-cup-hold stereotype of tea rooms and prides itself with an eclectic, quirky environment they affectionately call “The Shoppe.”

Serving crumpets (fnarr, yurkk, yurkk) sandwiches, salads and soup, this could just be the essential shopping stop-off for tea drinkers; get away from me with your X-L vanilla Nespresso dripping down your MacBook!

Times Square

Central to Devizes Market Place, Times Square is simply the perfect little coffee shop for a light lunch. Cakes and ice cream, say no more. As the name suggests it may have started by being inspired by American cuisine, yet only in the best possible taste. Times Square is no stranger to hosting the odd event, and is a welcomed shopping stop off.

  Brogans Café

Brogans Café in the Brittox is one I confess I’ve yet to try. Outside space, ice cream, cakes and milkshakes and smoothies, Brogans prides itself on its vegan options. “Vegan Jaffa Cake style cake” as pictured below, might just twist my arm!

Bengal Bite

Throughout my years here in Devizes, Bengal Bite in Sheep Street has always been the tandoori kitchen of choice. The Bengal Bite offers contemporary Indian and Bangladeshi food. It’s comfy and hospitable, a romantic place to woe a prospective love with a mild Korma, or equally a place for you and the lads to blow your pants off with a blistering Vindaloo! The Bengal Bite has been voted the best restaurant in Wiltshire by the readers of the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, and 2014 finalist for Small Business of the Year in the Wiltshire Business Awards.

The Fox & Hound

A little out of town but worth the trek down Nursteed Road, The Fox & Hound is an inviting family pub, offering romantic carriage rides followed by lunch or candle-lit dinner, and successful horse-drawn ghost and historical tours of Devizes start and finish at the Fox.

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The most down-to-earth café you’ll find in Devizes, this is Monday Market Street’s gem; great service, gorgeous homecooked breakfasts and lunches at affordable prices, never had a bad fry-up there yet!

The Bell on the Green

Always a favourite for the location in its title, The Bell has reopened with times and obvious restrictions. Here’s their menu….

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Coffee Etc:

Marvellous little coffee shop in Lamb Yard, just off Kingston Road, serving hot and cold beverages, breakfast, lunch and afternoon teas with great homemade cakes, and vinyl records too. Comfy hideaway this place, perfect for a stop-off when strolling town. I reviewed it a long time ago for Index:Wiltshire, but the site has been taken down now, so you’ll have to take my word for it! Facebook page here.

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Brownie Dad in the Ring!

Yay, happy Father’s Day, Dads, we are number one, so why try harder?!

Received a photo-card from my son of my good self proudly showing off my moobs, and my daughter got me a fit-watch thingy to measure my steps, heart rate and all of that malarkey; a smidgen suspicious they’re trying to tell me something. Yet, by way of a complete turnaround, I’ve also bagged myself a box of brownies from the Gourmet Brownie Kitchen in Poulshot and now I’m staring at my fit-watch, eagerly awaiting brownie o’clock to come….

…. hold on…. Yeah, oh, mmmm, nice, yeah baby; these are the kiddy! I rest my case. Take this as my specialised technical food review; who do I look like, Mary Berry?

Now the deed is done. Amazingly, I did twenty-six steps going to the kitchen to get the brownies! It was worth the effort though, probably worth it if my kitchen was located on top of Mount Etna. Cos, like, cakes have trends, don’t they? A year or so ago it was all cup cakes this and cup cakes that; all in the icing and fancy decoration. Don’t get me wrong, nothing against the cup cake, but brownies are the new top dog, all the fancy ornamental stuff and icing begone, simple, stodgy little blessings they are, those brownies. Though, there was a variety in the box, particularly standing out visually was the fudge one with marshmallows and covered in white chocolate. I couldn’t single any out though, for all their subtle differences, I loved them all with impartiality and equality!

I tried my hand at baking them once upon a time, bought a tray especially, but they came out like squares of chocolate sponge a six-year old might make.

What’s the secret in making those beauties stodgy and so utterly gorgeous? I don’t know, put a book on them like pressed flowers? Ah, I don’t need Google, I don’t need to know, really. Jodie Perkins knows, might well be her secret, and that’s good enough; leave the brownie-making to the experts. I’m only professional in the eating part and telling you, because I know a good brownie when I taste a good brownie, and the brownies at The Gourmet Brownie Kitchen are somewhere between a brownie paradise and brownie heaven; about halfway.

Jodie founded the business in 2013 and in June last year she opened her shop at the Poulshot Lodge, which is a double-whammy as I picked myself up some wicked ribeye steaks while I was there! Now she’s shipping these beauties out nationally. Jodie makes cakes for celebrations, she offers vegan and gluten-free options, and she has a website for orders, you don’t need to wait for the next Father’s Day; any day should be a brownie day.

Rural Wiltshire’s Sensational Soul Food with Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen

When you live in a market town such as Devizes it’s inevitable when driving through any city to become overwhelmed and perhaps a smidgen envious at the variety of cuisine on offer; look, Nepalese dal-bhat-tarkari street food, outside a lacto-vegetarian Mongolian bistro, next door to a vegan Venezuelan arepas snack bar! You name it, a metropolitan milieu will probably have it. Here, while it’s hailed as some of the best; Italian, Chinese and Indian are about our limitations, unless you chance a kebab.

So nice then, that Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen has gifted us an addition, if variety is the spice of life, it’s high time we had a taste of the Caribbean. Sporadically shacked up in the Shambles prior to the lockdown, Pauline and the team has never been busier since introducing a drop box delivery service; perhaps she doesn’t need me to hype it up as word travels fast; this is an authentically tasty treat.

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Through my love of reggae, I’m rivetted by all things Caribbean, the easy-going culture, the colours and sweetness of those exotic islands in the sun, the sounds, linguistics, the art, and of course the food. And that’s before I even went there! The only member of my family lucky enough to have taken the once-in-a-lifetime trip, I wondered if Sujay could return my taste-buds to the West Indies in the same way as a jouvert jam would for my ears, but I was unsure if the family would take to the idea. Surprised then I was when the better-half suggested we ordered, arm twisted, and before I could recite a verse of Three Little Birds our drop box was ordered for Saturday afternoon.

Caribbean food is not customarily a Michelin star a-la-carte affair, rather the traditional roots rest in amazing street food and home cooking, therefore styles and recipes can vary, and this is precisely what you get. You should note I’m no Jay Rayner, I’ll hoof the loot without coming up for air, and if it’s tasty I’m going to tell you, and if it’s not I believe honest criticism is virtuous; it’s all unpretentious evaluation rather than vernacular condemnation. This though, arrived at our door on time with a smile, and was everything it’s been rated as being.

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So good I didn’t contemplate taking a photo for use here, sorry, but I simply didn’t have the will power to resist getting stuck straight in!

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Me, I went for the goat curry as I’ve never tried it. Sticking to custom it is as it should be, a quite humble green paste curry, spices, with chunks of goat. But served with traditional rice and peas (peas being a black bean rather than European green peas) the simpler formula is often the preferred and I loved every bite, as did the wife. I added a side dish of plantains, imagine a fried banana that thinks it’s a potato and you’re somewhere near the mark.

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For the daughter, and of course with portions so generous some of it naturally found its way onto my plate, the classic jerk chicken with a side of chicken wings, and another colossal portion of rice and peas. Perhaps no other dish so popular varies from handed down home recipe as much as this one in Caribbean food, but I’ve tasted a variety. If Levi Roots has marketed a certain blistering style and tailored his own methods, Sujay’s is closer to what I’ve tried in Barbados. Much more subtle with the hotness, but nice on the spice. I also reserve at Caribbean street chicken disguising cheap meat with a high dosage of hot paste but this is not the case here, the untainted wings would’ve revealed, but these too were exceptionally scrumptious and clear that the quality of the ingredients were not skipped on.

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If Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen doesn’t deserve enough kudos with you for providing fifty meals earlier this week for the NHS staff with the organisation of Tailor-Made Events, or serving brown stew chicken and stew pork with rice and peas to the homeless and vulnerable on the streets of Swindon this evening, maybe its time you sampled some of their sensational soul food yourself?

Tams off to Sujay’s then, the perfect meal with a difference for our rurally repressed palate. Irie, as they say in the JA, gurt lush as we might say here! I’m not ganderflanking yer mucker, this is the soul food of Wiltshire and will whisk your taste buds to a tropical paradise faster than Beenie Man can wax lyrical a monostich; pass the rum punch!

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© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.

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Devizes Food & Drink Festival opens with the Street Food & Artisan Market

Parking in the Market Place today yes I did, parked my butt on a Muck & Dunder Chair and took in a great Devizes Food & Drink Festival Street Food & Artisan Market, thank you!

Yo-ho-ho, an unpredictable drizzle didnâ stop th’ Devizes Food & Drink Festival settin’ thar grand Street Food & Artisan Market sail today, launchin’ into a chockful week o’ various foody events. ‘Twas me first attendance last year, and not for want, I’ve nah other grub festival t’ compare it to. Nevertheless, thought ’twas great, ‘n I’d been lookin’ fore t’ saunterin’ th’ Market Place once more, landlubber, testin’ ‘n tastin’ th’ wide variety o’ grub ‘n drinks, even tried t’ starve meself beforehand!

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This isn’t the Sun tabloid, usually don’t fib here, I did say “try;” truth be told, I loaded up on a cooked breakfast earlier; still, I’m a bottomless pit. They say that though, don’t they? Don’t go to a supermarket on an empty stomach or you’ll end up overspending, guess the same applies to a food fest. That’s the excuse I’m sticking with. With all homemade or small business enterprises, the stalls here aren’t Lidl-cheap, but you know your taste buds are in for a treat. The reason for the pirate-translated opening paragraph? Between all these great stands, our beloved Muck & Dunder Rum Bar stole my show……cos, they like, sell rum, see?!

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Perhaps to their advantage, they were located by a seating area and the music marquee, this year supplied by Wadworth. All it takes is a little reggae during the band’s breaks to entice me, and many others, over. They really know their rum, better than Uncle Albert, and if this review is slightly jiggered, blame them! Not entirely though, I also sampled Majorcan gin, from Gin Eva, which I liked despite gin not being mi ting, mon. Back to suspiciously loiter the square where Shelly from the abovementioned Muck & Dunder swung around with a trayful of pina colada, and Frome’s eclectic-influenced folk four-piece, The Decades entertained the masticating crowd.

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I butted in to introduce myself, as although this was the only band booked, they were more than apt. With a pleasant folk angle and generous banter their style was offbeat, comical and proficient. Covers such as Pulp’s Common People and the finale of The Fun Boy Three’s Lunatics Have Taken over the Asylum particularly adroit and amusing. Vaunted our humble Southgate in hope they’ll pass our way again, and much to my delight Deborah and Dave magically appeared like Mr Ben’s shopkeeper and exchanged contacts.

Spoiled for choice when it came to a street food lunch; The Notorious Pig, Cantina El Burrito, Japanese food with a Filipino fusion from De la cuisine, Bath’s varied White Heat, Dorset’s Fanny Annie grilled cheese butties, Salisbury’s The Tasty Tapas, vegan Firmly Planted, Greek-inspired Cosy Kitchen, and the Gourmet Goat Farmer with everything goat, even soap, which I guess is to wash your goat, or goatie beard, or even, possibly, soap made from goat’s milk; didn’t like to investigate further. No, I went to Take a Bao, it was new to me, and lush, like Asiany stuffed dumpling balls.

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For washing your goat

Here’s the thing though, the portions are served quite large, I mean, I like large, don’t get me wrong, but with so much to choose from, a little half-size, half-priced dish would enable a little more experimentation from the punters, rather than having to select one for lunch. Opposite is the scale of the event, due to the powers of perspective a passer-by may wrongly perceive the event as quite petite, but once among it, there’s a copious amount to take in. And that copious was excellent, a variety of splendour; can we do it again next week?

If you’re stuffed there’s stuff to take home too, and it was abundant; both Harry’s and Rutt’s Lane Cider, The Incredible Brewing Company, Plenty Pies, The Leafy Tea Company, Glastonbury Cheeses, Olives ‘n’ Stuff, Stainswick Farm Oil, those wicked chutneys from The Cherry Tree and Calne’s own Waitey’s, with their exclusive range of Chilli Jam, ah, I could go on. My arm was twisted into trying Blood Orange Liqueur from The Wiltshire Liqueur Company Ltd, and Harry’s Mango & Lime cider.

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I mean, cripes, I haven’t even mentioned pudding; Purbeck Ice Cream, may’ve won a slightly warmer day, the variety of vintage sweeties from The Sherbet Piglet was overwhelming, my arm near twisted by the stupendous brownies of the Welsh Ridiculously Rich by Alana, but I ended up back on the bus with a doggy bag of Malteser brownies from the wonderful Gourmet Brownie Kitchen based over at Poulshot Lodge. Word on our streets are these are the best brownies around, and even as a connoisseur of the brownie, I was not disappointed.

Award for the most novel though, goes to Butternut Box. Without a show of samples, without much of an ascetically pleasing display, this innovative company freshly prepare and deliver homemade dog food. Now, I’m not a dog owner, just thought it different, that here’s some dog food which looks edible for human consumption, and if it wasn’t for all these brilliant and wonderful food stalls, given perhaps a few more rum samples, yeah, I reckoned I’d have tucked in!

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A delightful opening to this year’s Food Festival then, and with a new thing, the World Food Lunch at The Corn Exchange tomorrow, (Sunday 29th September from 12.30) where admission is free, and taster portions allowing you to explore the globe on a plate, are just 50p, it just gets better.


© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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The New Society of Devizes

If you drop into the old Tourist Information centre in the Market Place these days, you’ll get much more than a leaflet on the Caen Hill Locks.

The owner, Steve, greeted the better half and I by the stairs, outgoing but with a shattered expression. The word on the street is out, in an unmissable location, cafe-lounge-bar New Society puts the old building to exceptional good use. It talked the talk, receiving rave posts on social media, and as passing by I witnessed it bustling on Saturday night, I’d be fool not to give it a lunchtime stab and see if walks the walk.

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Anything new in Devizes attracts initial attention, the issue is maintaining interest. Staff at New Society have been working tirelessly for the past fortnight to ensure it lives up to first impressions, yet they show no sign of tetchiness when it comes to serving you. Combine this family-styled friendliness with an extensive menu, reasonable prices and this beautiful bespoke setting, New Society is everything they say it is, and more.

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It sits somewhere between high-end restaurant and archetypal pub, matching the restaurants for quality but the latter for worth, but does so enthusiastically and cordially. It’s also extremely diverse; tapas on the menu, and coffee bubbling, there’s an element of Mediterranean in ethos, but open for a cooked breakfast, decor decidedly quaint pub, plus the bar resembles a wine bar running through to the evening, it’s fundamentally local too.

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Vegan Breakfast

Yet you’ll see no noses in the air, or sawdust under a ragged pool table, it’s as if New Society has melded the pros of all these types of establishments and scrapped the cons.

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I could’ve randomly stuck a pin in the menu, between said tapas, burger menu and omelette bar, it consists largely of every pub grub classic you could hope for, but refined; sandwiches and toasties, fish n chips, ribeye steaks, mac & cheese, Caesar salad, etc. Coupled with a similar desert selection, and from beers, ciders, cocktails and wine to tea, coffee and milkshakes, there’s something for all, including vegans and children. Mrs Devizine is often impatient to my lengthy menu browsing, and worried I’d spend an eon or three interrogating this varied one, I opted for a pub classic, chicken tikka masala, post-haste. She went for an omelette.

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This was our hoard, the other photos I’ve just borrowed, didn’t eat them all, but I could’ve!

But where the menu isn’t exactly exotic, hot dang (can I say hot dang in a serious food review; who cares?) if it didn’t taste far beyond that of standard pub grub. The tucker was presented nicely, to match the surroundings, and tasted equally as mouth-watering. Ingredients of excellent quality, my curry served with pilau rice was simply gorgeous, fresh pulled chicken, spiced beautifully and with a naan toasted to perfection. Home-cooked, these guys don’t know what a microwave is. The wife agreed, her omelette was fluffy, and chips to die for. To take two rather standard pub grub dishes and make them something rather special makes this alone the perfect lunch location.

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Not to mention we were sat next to a brilliant stained-glass window depicting the Devizes crest; the advantages of taking over the tourist information centre, I guess, but without the need to go in there, I’d never seen it before, had to take a snap! There’s a selection of comfy sofa seated areas, and traditional tables spread over a ground floor and two smaller rooms upstairs, all exceptionally welcoming and easy-going, just like the atmosphere. There was a sense in the air that New Society is excitingly innovative, interestingly middle-ground, and will become a standard for others to aspire to. It’s quickly become a hub in town, now I know why.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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Taste of Wiltshire Food Fest is full, you can help empty it!

Taste of Wiltshire Food Fest is full, you can help empty it! Yes, applications for stalls at the Farm Cookery School at Netherstreet, Bromham is full. Sunday 8th September is the date you need to save, 10am-4pm; start fasting now! This is a FREE foodie gig, with lots going on, examples:

THE WILTSHIRE BEEKEEPER: Fred is a jolly Bee Keeper who spends his days travelling around the Wiltshire countryside looking after his bees, collecting swarms, giving talks and selling honey products.

THE LITTLE BAKEHOUSE: He’ll be bringing some of his fantastic Pork Pies as well as lots of other goodies.

GASTRO NICKS: Nick and Jane, the masterminds behind this fabulous Wiltshire Deli in Collingbourne Ducis. They are purveyors of fine foods, wines, Champagne, sparkling wines, hampers and gifts and it is all utterly delicious.

MUCK & DUNDER RUM BAR: Yes, a Bar dedicated to Rum, how exciting is that?! Shelly & Stu are the masterminds behind this fabulous business. Devizine favourites these guys, arm twisted!

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TRAYCAKE: Nicola from Traycake has just told us she is setting up a MONTHLY CAKE CLUB – what an awesome idea!! She also sources ingredients from the surrounding areas wherever possible which is what we love to hear.

BROTHERHOOD BREWERY: Friday Night is Beer ‘O’clock at TW HQ! What better way to start the weekend than with the deliciousness that is the Brotherhood Brewery Beer?

NINJO NOODLES: Ninjō Noodle Bar is a Pan-Asian, plant based mobile street food Bar and their mission is to provide freshly prepared, health conscious meals that satisfy the heart, soul and stomach. Their purpose-built prep kitchen is used to prepare their food where they carefully choose ingredients and complimentary products that are plant based, free from artificial additives and MSG.

COFFEE TO GO: You can’t have a Festival without an awesome Coffee Stall and these guys went down a storm last year.
THE OLD CHEESEHOUSE: Cheese, cheese, cheese!

FLUFFY PUFFIN: Chris Woodridge is Mr Fluffy Puffin. A Cordon Bleu Chef, he has built an impressive resume in the restaurant and catering world, including time with Gordon Ramsay and Angela Hartnett. Luckily for us he developed a passion for Ice Cream and Sorbet and has developed the most AMAZING flavours! The luckiest people though are the ones that Chris creates a Bespoke Flavour for…… imagine that – your own Ice Cream Flavour!!

HOLLYCHOCS: Holly, Chocolatier, Chocolate Engineer and Chocolate Lover is on a journey to make delicious, ethically sourced chocolates and teach through fun science lessons and hands-on chocolate workshops. Holly has recently created her very own Chocolate Workshop in Poulshot and her chocolate concoctions are already legendary – she also just won a Great Taste Award.

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I may well have missed some, apologies if so, I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!


 

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Food Fight!

On the eve of The Devizes Food Festival announcing their schedule, I contemplate what attributes taste, be it class, culture or trends…..

 

You know, we chat and cover a lot of musical genres here, some are picky about what they like, but I think food is even more subjective. After all these years, for example, I just discovered the better half favours apricot jam tarts in an assortment box. That’s just weird, everyone knows the blackcurrant ones are the best and raspberry a close second.

More Facebook group members have fallen out over the great pineapple on pizza debate than Brexit. Forget fights over Oasis or Blur when you throw in a tin of Quality Street and ask them to arrange from best to worst. The other day, right, I took a shark-sized bite from a doughnut only to discover to my absolute horror, some compete psychopath had put custard in rather than jam. What kind of sicko even contemplates that?

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Pure Evil, at Asda

While many children will only eat a thing if it’s endorsed by Spongebob or their favourite superhero, (I appreciate this; love Peppa Pig, especially lying on a bread bed smothered in ketchup,) the affluent will consume any old entrails provided the name of it has been swanked up. Give it a Mediterranean namesake and they’ll pay triple the price-tag. I’m not buying it; crème Anglaise? Custard, mate. Jus, don’t give me jus, it’s watery gravy; stick another oxo cube in it for crying out loud. Fromage et jambon panini, yeah right, it’s a cheese and ham toastie, pal.

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Whether it’s pondering if peas should have a home in a pasty, or if gherkins belong in a Big Mac, what divides us all is our taste buds. They don’t rely on gender, race or religion, they just randomly respond to some things better than others, or do they? I mean, tastes can attribute to class; The Queen chomps on swans by the dozen, but I only get penguin biscuits. You can tell my working-class background by the stench of Iceland’s hotdog pizza on my breath. Yet when I spotted in their fridges a chicken tikka lasagne, even I considered it a trailer-trash step too far.

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Tastes also fluctuate depending on trends. Have you noticed, no one slices pork now? It’s got to be “pulled.” Pulled pork meant something entirely different when I was a teenager! My gran would slap us if she saw us buy a premade sandwich, yet delis sell them by the truckload. They sell grated cheese in bags, we buy it; have cheese grater, left abandoned, crying in the cupboard.

It also attributes to culture, yet exploited by soundbites like delicacy or gourmet. What may be considered an exotic delicacy here, is actually staple diet elsewhere, because it’s cheap and in abundance. Take maple syrup, so pricey for a drizzle, yet lucky Canadian’s have it running from a third tap!

Maple Syrup Weekend

Rice, couscous and noodles are popular in Asia because they are obtainable and economical, treated like potato and bread here. Yet we lap these things up. There’s posh pubs in East London who sell tourists plates of pie with eel liquor as if it’s a local delicacy, a word usually meaning rare, luxurious food, sophisticated. EastEnders ate ‘pie n mash’ because of poverty, eels were leftovers at the port, just as lobsters were too in North America until the mid-19th century.

By Dickens, how far are you willing to take it, gruel? Japanese Fugu, or bird’s nest stew? Flamingo tongue, a prized dish in ancient Rome. Escamoles in Mexico, that’s ant’s larvae to you and me. Half a million dogs are slaughtered annually for meat in the Philippines; teatime kids! I know we must convert to vegan, but think “bacon” and it’s an ecological step too far for me. I can and will eat vegetarian food, so long as there’s a chicken on the side.

If it’s not the ingredients it the presentation, honestly, I don’t care if it’s slopped on a plate like a car crash, dribbling over the edges, provided it tastes nice. I don’t need to be waiting an extra ten minutes for you to “plate-up,” carefully aligning each faultlessly equilateral chip atop of my cod, delicately garnished with a smudged splash of ketchup and pea puree. That’s if it’s served on a plate at all. Masterchef, right, seems the strength of the “dish” is based upon purposely not being on a dish at all. What’s wrong with a plate? Spaghetti Carbonara served in an old go-kart tyre, beef wellington in an actual welly. Duck-a-l’orange in a paddling pool, minted lamb kebabs on a pavement slab, that kind of thing; nobody order the coq-a-vin.

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If I contemplate it’s all a bit much, I digest the Devizes Food Festival have launched this year’s events on a new website, by a new committee. 28th September to 6th October, sets the dates, time enough for you get over my rant about habits in the Philippines. They’ve adopted the pineapple as their logo, but why, you may ask. Interestingly, you can grow pineapples in the UK with use of a polytunnel; who knew and why didn’t they tell me? Because I’d go scrumping no doubt; blinkin’ love pineapple, me.

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Partly because the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality and friendship, the connection is Adam Taylor’s ‘A Gardener near Devizes.’ Published in 1769, there’s a treatise on how to grow a pineapple. No polytunnel needed to heat it, he used a horse manure pit, probably for the first time too. This pineapple hothouse meant smaller estates could afford to serve pineapple, but did Adam order it as a topping from Dominoes, I ask you?!

For the duration of the festival you can pick up a Pineapple Trail Sheet (for a small contribution) from Devizes Books or Wiltshire Museum during the Festival, and hunt for Princess Pineapple, and her eleven friends, peeking out from shop windows throughout Devizes. The Museum will also hold a display on the Pineapple, both in the treatise, and local architecture; yeah, you seen it too, just can’t think where!

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The Devizes Food Festival has a varied range of events. Devizes Mayor Judy Rose will be officially opening the Festival at the Corn Exchange for a FREE World Food Lunch on Sunday 29th September from 12.30. There you can explore the globe on a plate. With a handful of 50p vouchers to exchange, local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland, from the cuisines of Poland, New Zealand, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Fiji, the USA, Scotland, France and plenty more nations of the world. I asked if I could rustle up my Essex-stylee beans on toast speciality without response; what? It’s got Maldon sea salt on it.

Many other events seem to be about eating in strange places; Town Hall lock-up, Kennet Furniture Refurbiz, the bell tower at St Mary’s and even Erlestoke prison; porridge anyone? There are the usual food quiz and Come Dine With Us events, visits to Wadworth, a’Becketts Vineyard in Littleton Panell, East Farm at Winterbourne Monkton and a pumpkin prowl at VP Collins, Bromham. Oh, and it’s pizza time at Vaughan’s Cookery School. Peter, please divulge your opinion on pineapple on pizza.

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Check the website for details, of course the grandest moment in the Festival is the marvellous market, on the 28th September at the Market Place. I had a feast there last year, enough me to stop fussing about apricot jam tarts, custard doughnuts, Escamoles and why pork has to be pulled rather than sliced these days. Guess I’m obsolete, pass the prawn cocktail and switch on the teasmade.

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Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market was Indeed Grand

One small stall holder selling their own brew of beer at the Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market yesterday told me he was hassled by a woman claiming to be from a nearby Wadworth pub. According to him, the lady in question yelled, “we don’t want your beer around here!”

 

Wherever she intended to rhyme or not is beside the point; shameless. This small-business guy trekking from Bristol only to be bullied by the town’s big boys; any truth in this, I pondered, and if so I wished I hadn’t heard it at all. Other than this bizarre claim though, the day went with full swing, and a great time was had by all.

 

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While Wadworth sponsor the Food Festival, it’s presence at the Market was minimal, the real heroes of the alcohol variety was surely the recently changed Stealth Brew Co, formerly The Kennet & Avon Brewery, as in promoting their new brands, bought the music of local Jamie R Hawkins and the brilliant Rob Lear from Wales.

 
As their acoustic vibes bought ambience to the event, preventing punters from wandering off, Cellar Bar event organiser Mirko was swinging around handing out flyers for the highly anticipated Saddleback Festival. He updated his Facebook status claiming “this is the best food festival yet!” I was still hauling my ass out of bed with all best intentions of checking it out. But I also spotted a video posted, it scanned the event from a birds-eye view, or an overlooking window view at the least; certain randy pigeons didn’t shoot the film. For a “festival” it looked kinda petite, taking up a fraction of the Market Place.

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Now admittedly, I’m a Devizes Food Festival virgin, so no previous years to compare it, but upon sauntering the stalls I contemplated, actually it’s not a festival, rather the market section of a larger event spanning the fortnight. Admittedly, while this was the only free occasion and the others came with a hefty price-tag, for a market it was lively, colourful with fine aromas reaching beyond its boundaries. In fact, when amidst the little stalls of independent cuisine companies, it was plentiful.

 
With my new Stealth brew in hand I blagged an organic apple from Riverford Organic Farmers in Devon, making my beer preferably cider-like, yeah, I dipped it! Worked until I met Harry of Harry’s Cider from Long Sutton, or Harry’s employee at the very least, who gave me some gorgeous samples of raspberry and blackcurrant, and sweet, but the mango and lime flavour was to die for!

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Booze-wise, for I figure it best to cover them first, Devizes Bubble Bar was in attendance, teasing me with filthy-named cocktails; catch up with them at the Caen Hill Flight Festival. I also sampled wines from Pieroth, and a few homemade brandies made me happy I chose to take shanks pony.

 
So I sauntered, dipping crackers or bread into fine chilli rapeseed oils from Stanswick Farm in Shrivenham, or awesome relishes from Rosie’s, based in Chippenham and garlic meshes from the Garlic Growers.

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Ewe Tree Tarts looked appetising, a Black Dog fish stall too. Street food supplied by Cantina El Burrito, and fine sausage rolls from Little Jack Horners, but it was the novel idea of Ravi Ollie and his mate, I was impressed with the most; unusual to see this refined ravioli as street food, I usually just have the squidgy-concoction of a budget tin variety. (You know it mate, hangover munchy classic, on white toast, with a grate of cheddar; can’t beat it, you don’t even need the effort of chewing, just suck.)

 
Sweets were also in abundance, with the most beautiful cupcakes of NestCake from Shepton Mallet, Jacqui’s colourful display of homemade sweets from Broughton Gifford, and Chock-Stock polished it all off, Marshfield Ice Cream goes needs no enlightenment, its reputation precedes.

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All in all, this was food heaven, with only Face Painting and Clare’s Circus as entertainment for the kids, I could imagine your little treasures would be bored after a while, unless sugared-up, and there was plenty of options available here, so yes, family-(ish) fun, but more so for adults, the Devizes Food Festival’s Grand Market was indeed grand, and fulfilling; hats off to all involved; maybe even one of those nacho sombreros which Homer Simpson wore. Do they really have nacho sombreros in America? I suspect they do!

 

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