Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Tyneside Special

Hidden away in the depths of Tyneside, an anonymous row of shops on an anonymous street harbours a secret. The local residents are in on it, but I doubt the news has spread much further than Wallsend. It's not a touristy part of town, Howdon. The secret is this: here be a GREGGS BAKERY OUTLET.

I thought such a thing only existed in my teenage dreams. I was a bit partial to Greggs in my youth, you see. Or rather to Thurston's as it was called in West Yorkshire back in the day. My standard order was a jumbo sausage roll with a side order of cheese and onion pasty, and if I was in the mood for dessert a jam doughnut or devon iced split for afters. Yum.

The idea of a discount pasty emporium would have been music to my ears, or at least a surfeit of fat, salt and sugar to my lips. I really would have been in dreamland. My Greggs addiction has faded over the years, I pay them a visit perhaps once every couple of months, usually when hungover, when only the salty pink-ish filth of a Greggs sausage roll will do the job. In spite of this I couldn't help but get a little twinge of excitement when I spotted the Greggs bakery outlet.

I imagined a regular Greggs, but with everything misshapen in some way or other. Colossal mutant pasties with pastry protruding at odd angles, or maybe double jammed doughnuts that would delight like a double yolked egg.

The reality wasn't quite so much fun. Lots of cold pre-packaged stuff, presumably manufacturing seconds, but indistinguishable from the usual product. Not much in the way of choice either, most of the stock seemingly comprising stottie cakes, chicken bakes and battered millionaire's shortbread offcuts.

My heart was set on a pasty, so it had to be the chicken bake (2 for £1). If only this was 1994 the excitement would have sustained, but in the cold, harsh reality of 2012 it was all a bit rubbish. Slightly limp pastry, wobbly sauce-based filling holding the odd chunk of protein, presumably chicken. An overriding taste of salt and disappointment. Not sure why it was an outlet offering, it was just the same as the full price quality controlled version as far as I could tell. Ho hum.

Further along the same row of shops you'll find the Chapel Bakery, purveyor of a true North-eastern classic, the ham and pease pudding stottie.

For those not in the know, pease pudding is made from boiling the crap out of yellow split peas forever (ideally with some ham stock or a ham bone), or at least until they form a uniform mush, which is then seasoned with salt and white pepper. Think of it as Geordie hummus.

This is then stuffed in a stottie, a large soft breadcake, like a huge oven bottom muffin, with slices of ham. In theory it's a splendid idea for a sandwich, but in practice this one was a bit overbearing. As with the pasty it was the salt that did for me. The ham was good quality but very salty, the pease pudding was whacked on in big chunks and was also very salty, and the bread was perfect for the task but I doubt it was lacking in the salt stakes either. I couldn't eat more than half of it before I was spitting feathers, and sadly the rest went in the bin.

There's loads of good food to be had in the North-east, but probably not so much of it in Howdon. Or in Greggs.

Greggs Bakery Outlet
Tynemouth Road

Chapel Bakery
Tynemouth Road

1) Greggs is Greggs as opposed to Gregg's because that's how Greggs themselves write it. Blame them not me.
2) I have just discovered a new Greggs product: the chip shop chicken curry bake. My faith is restored.
3) Bring back Thurston's!
4) They should also bring back the 'got to get to Greggs' marketing campaign with the stoned chap on the posters. I liked that.
5) For more informative Greggs reviews, check out the (now sadly defunct by the look of it) Greggs Adventure: http://greggsadventure.com/.

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