Saturday is Reeve’s day for us here in Wiltshire. That is, our weekly visit to Reeve The Baker. While I sorely miss not being able to swing by a Taco Bell for a seven layer burrito, finding Reeve’s was an unexpected treasure when we moved here eight years ago. If you’re heading by to see Stonehenge (don’t forget to see my Stonehenge tour tips), my favorite Reeve’s is only about a mile away. Make the short detour. You won’t be sorry.
About two years ago, Salisbury decided it needed to have its own specialty food dish, giving birth to the “Salisbury Sausage.” It doesn’t appear to have caught on, as far as I can see. Good. That’s because if Salisbury wanted to get behind any particular local food dish, it should have been the Wiltshire Pasty (say it pahh-sty, not pay-sty as my mind always wants to) that Reeve’s makes.
If you’re struggling among the many great things Reeve’s sells, go for the Wiltshire Pasty. It’s a great blend of potatoes and meat and carrots all baked within a bread crust. Served warm, it also stays warm if you take it to go for a picnic elsewhere. Hands-down, it’s the best thing Reeve’s has, in my view.
Other favorites. They make great sandwiches. You’ll find a number of prepackaged sandwiches made fresh, and those are all fine if you want to grab and go. Got a few minutes to spare? Many of the Reeve’s (Amesbury, Warmister, Devizes) will make up a custom sandwich, if you want. I’m a turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato fan, myself.
Remember North Americans — unless you say no, you’re likely to end up with butter as your dressing. Mayo’s an option, if you want an alternative. I usually get mine dry and add some French’s mustard at home. If you like American-style mustard like French’s, don’t ask for mustard at Reeve’s. They either won’t have it or you’ll end up with British mustard, a completely different creature.
The pizza slices are nice, especially the pepperoni and most especially when they’ve come out of the oven. My youngest son likes sausage rolls, which I find kind of bland. But if you find yourself in Salisbury and want a safe alternative to the Happy Meal, sausage rolls are the way to go. I’ve yet to see a small child not like them.
There are a variety of other baked meat products, so go nuts if you see something that looks good. It almost certainly will be.
How about dessert? Heaven. The kids like the gingerbread men, so that’s a nice, safe choice. These are usually available in the glass display cases. I love the carrot cake, though the double-chocolate cake is wonderful, too. Big sugar rush from that! Cakes are often in plastic containers in refrigerated cases. My wife goes for the Belgian buns and custard slices.
Donuts? Yep, I love donuts. And Reeve’s used to have great chocolate ones. I’m not talking Tim Horton or Dunkin Donuts quality, but definitely above average. Then they changed to cappuccino flavored ones and lost me, as I don’t like the taste of coffee. I wish they’d bring back good old plain chocolate. The rainbow ring donuts are a hit with my kids, and the ordinary glazed — when availalbe — are a nice alternative. There’s also a number of filled ones, a bit too heavy for me, but others might like.
If available, try the glazed cinnamon rolls. These are more flat than thick, and they won’t knock your socks off compared to the type of cinnamon rolls you might get in a place like Bend, Oregon. But they’re still pretty tasty.
What else? What else! The lemon cake, if available. The cranberry apple cake, if available. American chocolate brownies or chocolate brownie cake, if you’ve got serious munchies. Hot-cross buns, definitely, when offered. Buy several packs. By the way, I keep saying “if available” because they run out of some things quickly and other things are seasonal, not offered year-round.
Ordinary sultana scones are also another favorite. Eat them fast, because they only stay soft for about a day. They’re a bit heavier than an American-style biscuit — but they taste great with some butter, or butter and strawberry jam is even better.
Reeve’s also sells a variety of breads — and if you need a loaf but want it sliced, just ask. It only takes a second for them to do.
Reeve’s has several stores as listed on its web site. Amesbury is the closest to us, and my favorite. Around lunchtime, don’t be afraid of the line that comes out the door a bit. It moves pretty fast. I like Amesbury because the staff’s nice and friendly and they have the best selection of any of the Reeve’s.
Two caveats to the above. First, I struggle with always wanting to get everything when I go in. So I end up having a big, giant order. And this being Britain, the staff won’t be saying to you “what else would you like” in a chirpy manner, as might happen in an American store where you learn perky suggestive selling from birth. Instead, you’ll likely hear “anything else” or “will that be all” with a tone that might make you feel like you should stop. Don’t be put off. The staff really is friendly and will get all you want. That leads to the second caveat. As the day progresses, Reeve’s starts to run out of things. Show up around 11:45am to 1:00pm for the best selection.
In Salisbury, there’s a big shop on Butcher Row, right next to the visitors center. There’s a big queue to actually eat in the shop, plus there will likely be two different lines to order food at either end of the store. My advice is to eye up both lines and use the shortest one — that’s usually the one coming in from the market square. Next, get your food and drinks as take away and walk over to Salisbury Cathedral. The warm food will stay warm for the 10 minute walk, and the view and setting is much better than eating in the grotty market square.
I’m not overly fond of the Warminster store — selection tends to be less than the others. Devizes, on the other hand, is great. Not quite as plentiful as with Amesbury, but you’ll find plenty to choose from. Then you can take you meal and walk along the canal. It’s about 20 minutes to Caen Hill Locks by foot, one of my favorite places in Wiltshire, so the warm food will have cooled a bit. But you can stop earlier at any grassy place along the locks, on the way. Here’s a route map.
That’s it. In any of these towns, you’ll see places appealing to tourists, from fish & chips shops to McDonald’s. Reeve’s is where locals go — and you’ll do right by doing the same.