1. Economics
March 26, 2018

The New Statesman’s special correspondent reviews every branch of Greggs he’s ever been to

By Stephen Bush

Westminster Underground now has a Greggs, so to the mark the occasion I have ranked every Greggs I have been to.

Greggs, Globe Town

I don’t know if this branch in Bethnal Green is the first I ever went to, but it is certainly the first I remember: a rare forage for the chain into a part of the world that was at the time still almost entirely dominated by Percy Ingle, a small chain of bakeries that covered the entirety of the known world when I was growing up (that is, the stretch of north-east London running from Bow to Hackney).

I have a particular affection for this Greggs because in the last two years of secondary school, we were given two freedoms. The first was that we no longer had to wear blazers, an opportunity I declined; the second was that we were able to leave school during our lunch hours, an opportunity I joyfully accepted.
Greggs was one of the nearest and the nicest of the eating opportunities – it must have been a minute’s walk at most from secondary school. I grew up in the kind of household where my intake of E numbers and sugars were closely regulated – even now the word “Carob” makes me feel uneasy and disgusted – so the taste of stripy Greggs donuts will always be the taste of freedom to me.

Rating: 9.5/10

Greggs, Newcastle (various)

When I was in my early teens, my mum went to Durham University to study theology. I regarded Durham a small and essentially dull town masquerading as a city, and Newcastle, a real city which was only a short train ride away, was a vital pressure valve.

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At the time, I saw a trip to the Greggs opposite Newcastle train station as a taste of London. It took me another 15 years to understand why this sentiment was so funny to everyone else.

Now, whenever I visit Newcastle – food on British trains being surprisingly and uniformly awful – that Greggs is the first opportunity to eat anything good since leaving Kings Cross. To me, the taste of a Greggs sausage roll will always be one of relief.

Rating: 9.8/10

Greggs, Templar Square

One of the exciting things about going to university was that I could go to McDonalds whenever I liked and no-one could say shit about it. But the sad thing about going to university is that the centre of Oxford had no Greggs.

The Templar Square shopping mall in Blackbird Leys did, though, and as it happened my mother moved there for work shortly after I got into university. This meant that, whenever I felt overwhelmed or tired, I would hop on the bus to the Leys to hide from the world. To me, the taste of a Greggs Yum-Yum will always be one of comfort.

Rating: 9.7/10 

Greggs, Ludgate Hill

I don’t often work from the New Statesman office but when I do, I use this Greggs. When I am at the New Statesman office, it is either for a meeting, for a podcast, or because the MPs are away for the summer holidays, which encourages me to experiment with my Greggs order. So the taste of the Greggs chicken goujons will always be one of listlessness.

Rating: 9/10 

Greggs Strutton Ground

The area immediately around Westminster already has two Greggs: this one is better from a culinary perspective. As someone who used to work in a coffee shop where I rarely, if ever, cleaned out the machine, I know how much of a difference that makes – and the coffee here has the taste of somewhere that keeps their equipment in great shape.

I am not sure if it is an upside or a downside that you will rarely, if ever, meet someone work-related from this Greggs. But it means that the taste of a Greggs bread pudding will always be one of isolation.

Rating: 9.3/10

Greggs Victoria Street

This Greggs is comically close to the Strutton Ground one – perhaps a minute away – on the other side of Victoria Street, but it was a lot closer to the old Labour HQ, so you could get good intel about Labour under Miliband here. The taste of a Greggs steak bake will always be one of indiscretion. 

Rating: 9.5/10

Greggs, Brazennose Street, Manchester

It took me a long time to discover that Greggs originates from outside London, but it shouldn’t have. It’s a matter of fact that, on average, Greggs are better in the North (and, bizarrely, in Wales) than they are outside of it.

Why? The answer is “butter”: the merest hint of butter on a bacon roll, which elevates an already great breakfast to the heights.

Conference season is always an odd time for political journalists, and I at least am always struck down by immense sadness at one of them, usually the Conservative one. That’s not because of the people who attend or the policies they announce there, although that doesn’t help, but because, by that point, I have been away from home for the best part of a month: my face feels fixed in a polite smile, and I miss London and everyone I care about.  

Anyway, last year, I would comfort myself with a bacon roll at the Greggs by the conference centre each morning. And one day, one of the women who worked there asked if I was alright, which made me feel a lot better. So the taste of a Greggs bacon roll with butter will always be one of comfort. 

Rating: 9.9/10 

Greggs, Birmingham Grand Central

“Is the Midlands in the North or not”, the greatest debate in the history of forums, locked by a moderator after 12,239 pages of heated debate, finally settled by this Greggs. There was no butter on my bacon roll at Conservative Party conference in 2016, ergo, Birmingham is not in the North. The taste of a Greggs unbuttered bacon roll will always be one of certainty.

Rating: 9.6/10 

Greggs Swansea

During the general election, I visited the Welsh marginal seat of Gower, the most vulnerable Conservative seat, and I went over my notes over a chicken tikka baguette in the Greggs nearest the train station. It was then that I started to realize that Jeremy Corbyn’s poll surge wasn’t just a polling error but a real phenomenon – and that the dementia tax had done Theresa May real damage. So the taste of a chicken tikka baguette will always be one of epiphany.

Rating: 9.2/10 

Greggs Finsbury Park

There is a light that never goes out, and it is this Greggs. (Actually, they close at five o’clock but still.)

I write my free morning briefing from home, and the prospect of Greggs’ excellent breakfast deal – just £3 for a bacon baguette and a coffee – keeps me going without food as I read the morning’s papers from around the world. This Greggs has given me a lot: the reusable coffee cup I bought from here, and also an increased risk of heart disease. It is one of my favourite places in the whole world.

The one problem is that the people who work here are too friendly, to the point that, when I took a day off. they noticed I hadn’t come in for my daily baguette, and asked where I’d been the next day. So the taste of a Greggs bacon baguette will forever be one of shame. Delicious shame.  

Rating: 10/10

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at our parent title, the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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