The North East is famous for many reasons: dubious-tasting ale, football fanaticism, Cheryl Cole-nee-Tweedy and, latterly, Raoul Moats. What few recognise Newcastle as, however, is the rightful home and birthplace of Greggs, a nationwide bakery and high-street staple to be proud of. People south of Watford just haven’t realised this yet.
In Newcastle’s compact city centre there are 12 Greggs bakeries. One of them is open until 4am. Despite this ample littering of iconic blue and orange pastry-houses, customers invariably have to queue before dishing out small change for their lunch. In this way, Greggs is Newcastle’s answer to London’s ever-present Pret or Eat stores. However, there are two Pret outlets within short distance of each other in the Toon, and yet they fail to compete with the mighty Greggs. This is why:
It’s hard to find a sandwich with a heritage these days. Pret pretends to originate from a late 90s pseudo-French Manhattan, although it’s owned by McDonalds. Eat has some nicely-named owners who apparently like quality. But Gregg’s hometown fanbase is as strong as that for the Magpies. Greggs has become as much a subject of Geordie cultural narrative as mining and Get Carter, as local boy Rick Fury proves in this rap. [
] In case you were still unsure of the origin of your Greggs goods, slang like “Benwell Dummy” (referring to a suburb of Newcastle, infants and Greggs 54p Jumbo Sausage Rolls) will help you out.
Celebratory Replaces Seasonal
Eating by the seasons is wholesome and can be environmentally beneficial. But when a £3.99 winter vegetable soup is chucked in alongside a pomegranate juice drink, wasabi peas or other food-mile high products, the point is somewhat removed. Instead, Greggs takes you through the seasons with a range of commercial and religious-holiday themed baked goods. Pink cupcakes? It must be mid-February! How else would you expect Mother’s Day were it not for a new range of sharing Mum-cakes? Easter and Halloween also see their own celebratory sweet ranges. But it’s Christmas when things get really exciting: all hail the Festive Bake. It comes but once a year, and its absence is almost definitely solely responsible for Blue Monday.
Relocated Geordies will claim that Greggs just doesn’t taste the same outside of Newcastle, but Greggs have tried well to compensate by showering other areas of Britain with baked goods reflective of their local culinary tradition. It is therefore possible to navigate your way around the country with nothing but a store finder and regional baked good knowledge. While London and the South East sees such glorious oddities as Tottenham Cake and crusty roll sandwiches, South West England receives the delights of Welsh Cake. North Eastern Greggs are the only place home to Stotties and that lovable pork paste, pease pudding, and Yorkshire bakes Derby Scones and Yorkshire Curd Tart. However, Scotland’s truly got to win this one: Bridies, Scotch Pies and, amazingly, Macaroni Cheese Pies. There has never been a better excuse for a road trip.
Greggs’ staff may have to wear tabards, but they’re being paid above the national minimum wage for it. Furthermore, they have a number of beneficial schemes in place, such as Breakfast Clubs, which have been providing disadvantaged kids with cereal, fruit and other morning essentials for 10 years. The Greggs Foundation has been running twice as long and raises over £1 million for needy causes in the North East and charities throughout the country. And they don’t even make a song and dance about it – while you can read a short history of a happy avocado on the back of a sandwich packet at a certain establishment. Meanwhile, Greggs are just quietly turning back the tide of Thatcherism one sandwich at a time.
Easy Lunchtime Decisions
Finally, celebrating what Greggs does best: food provision. The rate of confusion in Pret/Eat/M&S will be comparably higher than that in Greggs, guaranteed. This is for three key reasons: 1) the tabarded staff expect you to know your order and how many sugars you’d like in your tea and announce it loudly and clearly, because the Greggs queue takes no prisoners. 2) With most products costing under a pound, if in doubt, pick them all up. It will still be cheaper than an average three bean wrap. 3) Greggs menus are beautifully simple. Steak bake – steak in pastry. Ham salad baguette – it’s ham and some leaves in a long roll. The most challenging option on there is the notion of Cheese Savoury (it’s like cheese coleslaw, for the uninitiated). You will never have to think about how spicy harissa paste is, be guilted into pole-caught tuna or decide between berry compote or acacia honey on an empty stomach in Greggs.
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