Christmas sandwiches 2015: the good, the bad and the chocolate and cherry

We try loads of Christmas sandwiches so you don't have to. 

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No festive tradition is, in my opinion, as important as the Christmas sandwich. They're available for at least a whole month before the holiday itself, and, as well as offering you some at-desk cheer throughout December, they are a useful aid in weeding out the "it's too early!" variety of scrooge. (It saddens me to say that the New Statesman staff contains several.) 

To help you make the most of the sandwiches on offer, we have reviewed a range of options, almost all available from chain high street cafes and shops. We've scored each on two metrics: taste (is it a good sandwich?) and festive cheer (does it say "Christmas"?). This was mostly a one-woman festive odyssey, but I've marked out any contributions from other colleagues where they appear. Prices quoted are for outlets in central London - they might be cheaper where you are. 

The luxury one

Dinde de Noel, £4.50, Paul.

Pretentious French name aside (it translates as "turkey of Christmas") this was excellent, thanks to two risky innovations: cranberries embedded in the bread of the baguette, plus a condiment combination of cream cheese and horseradish sauce. Not one for purists, perhaps, but well worth a try if you're already bored of the classic turkey/cranberry/stuffing combo.

Taste: 5/5

Festive spirit: 3/5

The one with the haters

Cherry and chocolate sandwich, £1.80, Tesco.

 

Image: Tesco.

It’s quite an impressive feat for a Christmas sandwich to go viral for being crap, but such was the fate of Tesco’s chocolate and cherry sandwich, on sale for the first time this year. Branded "bizarre" by the Evening Standard and possibly the "weirdest sandwich ever" by the Sun, this sandwich is actually...fine. It's weird in the way that any chocolatey sandwich is a bit weird, but as a nation of Nutella-lovers, we should be able to cope. It's really just chocolate spread, jam and a bit of mascarpone.

Taste: 3/5

Festive spirit: 2/5 - cherry and chocolate aren't actually particularly Christmassy flavours.

The one that tried to be healthy

Christmas Lunch sandwich, £3.75, Crussh.

Image: Crussh.

This cold melange of Christmas leftovers from someone’s plate who ate all the good bits, with some optimistic avocado shoehorned in, left me longing for the festive season to be over. The meat was flavourless, the spinach chalky and the cranberry made it unpleasantly moist. It crusshed my Christmas spirit.

Taste: 2/5

Christmas spirit: 3/5. "Healthy" and "Christmas" don't really belong in the same sentence.

- Anoosh Chakelian

The one that didn't try to be healthy at all 

Festive Turkey, Bacon & Somerset Brie Toastie, £4.24, Crussh.

Image: Crussh.

If Crussh's Christmas lunch sandwich was a measly attempt to water down the indulgence of Christmas, this toastie ramped it up to never-before-seen levels. The ciabatta was filled with vast quantities of brie, under which lurked bits of turkey, bacon, and a slather of cranberry sauce. Even as a cheese lover, it was all a bit much - but top marks for decadence. 

Taste: 3/5

Festive spirit: 4/5

The one that tried to incorporate pigs in blankets 

Turkey & pigs in blankets, £3.50, Marks & Spencer.

M&S's food planners, back in 2013 or whenever they plan their Christmas 2015 range, had all the right intentions: "Pigs in blankets! Everyone's favourite Christmas dinner item! We'll put them in a sandwich!" However, it's clear they quickly realised that sausages rolled in bacon aren't objects which sit well within the sandwich architecture. As a result, the sandwich does include bacon and sausage, but the pigs in blankets (if the meats were ever conjoined as such) have been split up so they can lie flat. Delicious onion bread, though. 

Taste: 3/5

Festive spirit: 3/5 - a good idea, sadly thwarted. 

The Beef One

Aberdeen Angus Roast Beef & Blacksticks Blue, £3.90, Marks & Spencer.

M&S has gone very off-piste with this sandwich, which contains brightly coloured layers of spinach, beef, orange Blacksticks Blue cheese, and onion chutney. The strong flavours actually work really well together, but the overall effect is not particularly Christmassy – unless you count the cheese, which would make a lovely addition to your post-lunch cheeseboard. 

Taste: 4/5

Festive spirit: 2/5 

The ciabatta one

Benugo Christmas ciabatta, £5.95, Benugo. 

Image: Benugo.

Let’s start with the best bit: the bread. A lot of sandwich shops pad their margins by using fairly crummy bread, but Benugo does that with coffee instead so the bread (ciabatta, in this case) is A+++. Otherwise, it’s a fairly routine but well-done Christmas sandwich: turkey, bacon, stuffing and a smattering of cranberry.

If you wanted to pick holes, the cranberry is a bit anonymous, which for me means it’s not quite up there with the great Christmas sandwiches of all time.

Taste: 4/5

Festive spirit: 3/5  

- Stephen Bush

The one that isn’t a Christmas Sandwich

The Boris Bagel, £5.95 for two, H. Forman and Son. 

I received a press release from the good souls at Forman's, who claimed their “Boris Bagel” (so named because the mayor once said "There is nothing better than a Forman's salmon bagel. Absolutely delicious!") was “perfect for Christmas!” Game to try anything, I said I’d give it a go.

To give Boris his due, it was delicious: a chewy East End bagel filled with fresh smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives. But a true Christmas sandwich is essentially a Christmas dinner between two slices of carb - this was a Christmas breakfast sandwich at best. 

Taste: 4/5

Festive spirit: 2/5

The queen bee 

Pret's Christmas lunch, £3.60, Pret a Manger.

This is the reigning monarch of Christmas sandwiches, and Pret knows it – the company ran a Christmas sandwich countdown on its website this year, and invited a crowd to, um, unwrap one of their shops in celebration.

When you get down to it, though, this sandwich is, well, OK. It suffers from badly spread ingredients, and the bread isn’t thick enough to hold in the piles of turkey, stuffing and spinach it contains. (Why do so many Christmas sandwiches have spinach in them? A mystery for another day.) The crunchy fried onions are a personal favourite, though.

Taste: 3/5

Festive spirit: 4/5  -  50p of the sale price goes to homelessness, which seems pretty festive to me.  

The hot one

Festive Bake, £1.50, Greggs.

Ok, so this was not technically a sandwich. But, as a diehard Greggs fan, I felt it had to be included, as it is delicious. A festive bake essentially a pastry pocket filled with turkey, cranberry and an oddly floral blend of Christmas spices. Not the most aesthetically appealling lunch on the market, but look at the cool bag it comes in:

Greggs is the best. 

Taste: 4/5

Festive spirit: 4/5 (for the bag) 

The confusingly contradictory offerings at EAT

Festive full works baguette, £4.49, EAT.

It's a shame that I was too hungry to remember to take a photo of this sandwich, as the one above is slightly misleading - in reality, the sandwich was both lacking in fillings and, overall, horrible. The baguette was so dry it painfully scraped the roof of my mouth, and contained a single layer of sad, watery turkey and a startling amount of dry rocket. 

Taste: 2/5

Festive spirit: 2/5

Festive full works bloomer, £3.89, EAT.

The excellence of this sandwich was mystifying partly because it so dramatically outstrips its similarly compiled baguette relative (see above). Stuffing, thick granary bread, cranberry, ham and turkey balanced each other excellently. Proof that when it comes to sandwiches, the balance of ingredients (and texture of the bread) are key. 

Taste: 5/5

Festive spirit: 4/5 

The one that fell from grace 

Christmas wrap, £5.29, Leon. 

This sandwich was last year's top choice for me, but this year I was left sadly disappointed. The stuffing balls, turkey, ham and cranberry are all still there, but the whole thing feels too bready and the filling too miserly. As a result, the price starts to look positively extortionate. 

Taste: 3/5

Festive spirit: 2/5 - lacking in Christmas generosity. 

The brie and cranberry classic 

Bacon, brie and £3.95, Costa. 

This, like its Crussh counterpart, goes heavy on the Brie, but here, the cranberry is abundant enough to balance it out. Overall, the sandwich creamy and tangy - the bacon is almost unnecessary, but then again, who doesn't love bacon. 

Taste: 4/5

Festive spirit: 3/5 

All unmarked images: author's own. 

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.