I’m one of those people who rolls their eyes at Christmas decorations appearing before Halloween has been and gone. Bordering on the Bah Humbug, any murmur of Christmas Lists or Advent Calendars from the kids are met with a swift “no talking about 25th December until November!!” from me. The poor deprived children.
This year it’s slightly different, however. I’m hosting our family Christmas this year (there’ll be 8 of us!), and I’m getting ever so slightly excited about it. I booked my Waitrose delivery slot back in early October, for goodness sake, and have ordered the kids three advent calendars between them (LEGO and chocolate!) as well as one each for my parents. I even – and please don’t repeat this lest I lose my Scrooge status – texted my best friend this week to ask if I was allowed to watch Love, Actually yet (she said yes!).
I don’t even know who I am any more. Ho ho ho!!!
On Monday I did the ultimate in Christmas indulgence and enjoyed my very first festive feast. I was in London with my friends from Waitrose to sample their just-released Christmas products, and my word was it enjoyable (and incredibly delicious) to be surrounded so many lovely people.
This year Waitrose’s Christmas message is focussing on #ChristmasTogether: the absolute joy of spending the festive season with the people you love the most. Mine will certainly reflect this as the children and I will be joined by my boyfriend, my parents, my brother and his lovely wife. I can’t wait to spend an entire day eating beautiful food, drinking great wines and trading presents with such a wonderful group of people – it’s going to be the best.
Waitrose’s Christmas ad reflects that. Filmed at the Tan Hill pub, the highest pub in Britain, it follows a group of people who get snowed in on Christmas day and have to club together to create an awesome Christmas meal between them.
This week the snowed-in situation was re-created at the Great Bull and Last in Kentish Town, a pub slightly closer to sea level, and festooned with the most festive of decorations it felt incredibly celebratory.
Waitrose is always such a special place for me at Christmas time. Back in the day when the children were babies I used to treat myself to one shop here a year in December: it’s a place I now genuinely feel lucky to shop at every week and my boyfriend always laughs that my main professional life goal is to continue to be successful enough that can shop here. It’s simply a pleasure to shop here – as food is such an important thing in our lives it gives me immense happiness for my family to eat what I feel is the best, and that’s Waitrose!
We were greeted at the pub with glasses of fizz from Waitrose’s Leckford Estate. The canapés that accompanied this were incredible – I was genuinely surprised to hear from Rupert, Waitrose’s brilliant Head of Marketing, that these were all pre-prepared and would be ready to buy the next day. ON IT.
(Sidenote: isn’t one of the best things about Christmas the discount that happens on party food starting January 1st? I always have at least one meal over the festive season consisting only of vol-au-vonts and mini quiches).
While sipping our fizz we munched on filled Christmas tree puff pastries, brie and cranberry bites, arancini, Thai pork snowballs, Lobster thermidor and, my absolute pick of the evening, mini brunch croissants with a Bloody Mary sauce. SO GOOD.
Next up was the traditional Waitrose cocktail masterclass, this year featuring a drink I’d never had before… a gingerbread martini. This was so good and something I’m going to re-create at my own Christmas feast as a post-dinner treat: vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, gingerbread syrup, crushed ginger biscuits and lightly whipped cream. So incredibly sweet, Christmassy and moreish, it got an all-round thumbs up.
It was soon time to sit down to dinner, and I was the filling in a veritable Bake-Off sandwich with absolutely lovely Martha Collinson (who is also Waitrose’s baking columnist) to my right and Edd Kimber and John Whaite to my left. I was also lucky to sit near brilliant chef Anna Barnett, whose delicious brunch I once ate with Eastpak, and the ever-entertaining Hugo Davies.
And what a feast we were served!
A turkey crown with gingerbread and apricot stuffing was THE most delicious and covered in incredibly salty crispy pancetta, and salmon with clementine and cranberry was beautifully flavoured. But my pick of the lot – and something that’s going to be in the running for our own Christmas dinner – was the French-trimmed black forest venison rack topped with a cocoa nib, chestnut and sourdough crumb accompanied by a rich cherry condiment sauce scented with orange and port. I mean, my mouth is watering remember how good this tasted. It was bloody incredible.
Another OMG-YES moment for me came from the humble roastie. I initially thought these were Goose fat-basted as they were SO crispy, but we were soon told their beautiful bite came from a coating of maple syrup. They were seriously the best roast potatoes I’ve ever had and I’m going to be re-creating them imminently.
By this point we were all stuffed but it was time for pudding! Never one to refuse (even when my eyes are bigger than my stomach) I plumped for the delicious Mocha Cheesecake, though I loved the look of the Salted Caramel Profiterole tart (we will be trying this at home, just for quality checking you understand).
All booze at the pub was cleared out in favour of Waitrose’s own wines, a range that I’m most familiar with. I buy from their own label blueprint selection and was really happy to see them pairing their Romanian Pinot Noir – my favourite ever since Philip Schofield recommended it to me in December 2015 – with dinner (I can also recommend their Beujolais Villages and Marlborough. Top notch).
We rolled out of the door of the Bull and Last clutching stockings chock full of cheeseboard goodies, which Elfie and Hux were really excited to unwrap the next day until they discovered the jars of chutney and packets of charcoal biscuits ;)
Huge thanks once again to Waitrose for, as ever, being the absolute best festive hosts. Their Christmas offering truly gets better and better every year and I was all-over so delighted to celebrate with them again.
I can’t wait to feast on their goodies throughout December at home!
From now until Christmas, Waitrose are going to be hosting competitions across their social channels giving people the chance to win prizes like Kitchen Aid Mixers, Laurent-Perrier Champagne, fresh Christmas trees with John Lewis decorations and luxury Waitrose Christmas Hampers. Amazing!