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.

Jeffersons

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….

Bradford-on-Avon

 

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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Rock Hopping in the Free Rowde

When apathetic to galivant to a gig, and not for want of staying in my village, there’s always the Cross Keys in Rowde. Hum, been a while, historically had its ups and downs. Last report I did here things were looking up; food-wise, a few craft fairs and various goings-on. But it’s changed hands again, and the one thing it lacked other than the sporadic Splat of the Rat, live music, has returned to the agenda by the new landlord.

Arm twisted, I’m back in the watering hole where I had my wedding reception and the kid’s christening parties. Little visually has changed, punters included. No bad thing, village hub. The landlord tells me they’ll be renovating the restaurant area, but if it isn’t broken. For the functional the main pub is perfect, aesthetically it’s apt. Although the change for the evening is the pool table area, where guitars and drums swim amidst wires and foot pedals. Devizes band Rockhoppaz are due to kick off a season of performances here. This is good, heard of but not seen these guys yet.

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Holding a preconceived idea, largely based upon the name, I was mistaken to assume I’d be knocked over by rock verging on metal, which though not my cuppa, I’ll endure to support live music in my village for sure. Pleasantly surprised then to hear this matured four-piece’s repertories, though while varied, were largely based on rock and punk-mod classics.

Tuning teaser being Johnny B Goode, the age range of songs went from contemporary back to rock n roll. Commencing with the Kaiser Chiefs, we heard Dandy Warhols and Primal Scream covers, we were cast rearward to Buzzcocks and The Jam, and plopped into a pinnacle of Rolling Stones and Kinks. It was this era where I thought the band reigned, with an awesome Brown Sugar. Yet the range was achieved in its entirety with equal passion and skill, but when lead singer, Jim Smith rolled out an adroit version of Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World, I changed my mind.

I questioned this namesake preconceived idea to the band during their beer-break, pointing out drummer, Ian “Tef” Martin’s AC/DC tee-shirt. Oh yes, I was told, they’ll be playing an AC/DC cover in the second half. What ensued was a potentially everlasting musical trivia conversation, indicting their passion was their motivation, and herein lies the spirit of Rockhoppaz, I feel.

They’re not the next big thing, just a bunch of guys satisfying an appetite on the pub circuit, but as far that notion travels, lead Jim Smith, aforementioned drummer Ian Martin, guitarist Chris Downing and “Big” Ben Robinson bassist pull to its bumper, and would do your function a huge favour, for their thirst and talent rubs off on the audience; punching above the average pub circuit band’s weight.

In various incarnations they’ve been around for a while, previous band names being more profane, they say, causing me to think they once had a punk vibe about them. They’ve played the Opportunity Centre charity fundraiser at Wadworth Brewery, The Yeoman, The George in Frome, Melksham’s Pig & Whistle and our trusty Southgate, they’ve gigged the Midlands, Windsor and Bath. The Cavalier, Devizes has them on November 2nd, their next local gig.

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As for the Cross Keys, I hope it’s the first of many, and with the great pub-grub and Sunday roast menu retained, I wish them all the best. The landlord calls for more, monthly, with local mod-rockers, Cover Up appearing next. I’d like to see some local heroes with some original acoustic booked too, happy to recommend the usual suspects. There is a notion cover bands will undoubtedly satisfy the regulars at The Cross Keys, but said originals will bring others in. It’s not a long walk from Devizes, I do it the other way many weekends, and that’s uphill, pal! That said though, getting a bit autumny innit, so nice to know live music has extended out to Rowde.


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Rowdies Going Down the Pub

I’ve been thinking recently about how good the sitcom Cheers was back in its heyday, it broke the perception that going down the boozer was something typically English and in the US you don’t get the same community spirit. Similar with Moe’s bar in the Simpsons, the US has a parallel ethos, your local watering hole is a fundamental asset in modern life, a community hub; social media just doesn’t compare I’m afraid. Fair to presume it’s the same whatever part of the world you are, sometimes you want to go “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Steady, it must be called  Rowde for a reason!

 

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From the moment I moved here I’ve loved the Cross Keys, standing on the site of the original timber-framed, thatched pub which burnt down in 1938, it’s a spacious tavern which was bulging with punters when I first stepped in, the 2006 World Cup being broadcast from Germany and plates of sausages and of chips were shared.

 
“We’re doing a lot for the World Cup this year,” Kelly tells me as I prop up the bar. Her name’s been above the door for the past couple of years, and she and her team are thoroughly dedicated to amend any chequered reputation it once may have had. Winner of Wadworth’s Best Neighbourhood Pub contest last year, and a runner up in Claire Perry’s quest to find the best local pub, it’s easy to see why.

 

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There’s a varied timetable of events and happenings, the August bank holiday sees the return of the popular Splat the Rat, but Kelly, in contrast is holding a “Ladies Night,” on the 29th June, where a DJ, a Drag Queen and something called “Hunks in Trunks” do, erm, whatever it is they do. Not for me I’m afraid, but that’s our point; a village pub needs to be for all, and that’s exactly what the Cross Keys is achieving, for it’s villagers, and it’s well worth the mere couple of miles travel for those in Devizes; come on over, we don’t bite.

 
On the subject of biting, the Cross Key’s grub is most alluring for visitors, and it’s spot on for a fair price. Continuing from the previous owners rep for an awesome carvery, the Sunday carvery is still popular. It’s the everyday menu of homecooked, locally sourced (G&W Butchers, Poulshot Lodge and Fine Food Company) pub classics which Kelly is most pleased with, adding the attention to wider vegetation and glutton-free options.

 

 

“We had a build-a-burger night, which was popular,” she told me, planning on returning the occasion. That said, checking out the skyscraper styled burgers already on the menu, I wonder if there’s need!

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Once you’ve had your fill, it’s good to know the pub also runs a fitness class (!), and here’s exactly what I mean about being the hub of village life. While it’s one thing for a town pub to put on great live music, a village or community pub needs to be so much more. Kelly, still open to music events, with free hire of the function room, but from aforementioned fitness classes, to the cup cake night and from the popular craft fayres and workshops with wonderful crafters Twiggy Owl Designs and others, to bingo and quiz nights, notwithstanding a fine gin menu, the Cross Keys has everything you could want from a village pub, and continues to strive to impress.

 

 
Bringing the community in is what it’s all about, such as the amazing idea of “Dementia Friends,” on 2nd July, which will be a fun, hour session learning more about the condition and what how to make life ‘friendlier’ for those affected by it. You can’t knock that, just welcoming the elders of Rowde for tea or coffee is brilliant in itself.

 

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We held our wedding reception there back in ermmm, whenever it was again, and the kid’s christenings, so I’m overjoyed to see it still running efficiently in these hard times. Hats off to Kelly then, for maintaining our hub; I wish her all the best and hope there’s many more happy years with her name above the door.

 
Check out the Cross Keys website, book for the carvery. Like them on Facebook.

 

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