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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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