Vegans, vegetarians, juice dieters, macaroon thieves, dogs, and turkey haters and lovers alike – this food guide is for you. If you’re working up until Christmas Day, you’ll have a lot of lunchbreaks to fill, so here’s what you should, and shouldn’t, fill them with…
PS. We did this last year and a few years before that, so we’ve tried not to repeat ourselves.
All photos: promotional
Christmas Lunch Baguette, £4.25
It was nice. I enjoyed it. Christmas is the most wonderful time of year because it is acceptable to eat what is essentially jam in your lunchtime sandwiches. But I do worry slightly that my relationship with Pret has become problematic because last time I went to the States I was genuinely excited to find they have Pret there now, which doesn’t strike me as healthy. I don’t really know how to review food. Jonn Elledge
Festive Winter Salad, £4.50
The one line from a children’s book from my youth that still sticks out to me is Spot the Dog’s lament when he gets “salad for tea”. Well, I feel the same about “salad for Christmas”. Jesus wasn’t born for calorie counting, plus he’s from the land of hummus and tonnes of oil, so in turn we must honour him on the day of his birth by gorging on fatty foods. This salad undermines that tradition – but luckily it’s also delicious. Not potato-roasted-in-goosefat delicious, but delicious all the same. The pomegranate, broccoli and pecans give it a nice crunch, while the cheese and butternut squash make it creamy and rich. The apple is the only dud ingredient – too crisp and acidic and reminiscent of an 11am work snack when you’re Being Good. Which, as covered, none of us are at this time of year. Anoosh Chakelian
Very Merry Christmas Lunch (vegan), £3.50
One of the biggest barriers to reducing the amount of meat in my diet has been sandwiches. They often call to mind Henry Ford’s “any colour, as long as it’s black”: any ingredient, as long as it is cheese. A lot of terrible things are done to high-street sandwiches in the name of vegetarianism, though Pret is usually an exception: their vegetarian sandwiches, particularly their Christmas sandwich, are a delight.
But the vegan Christmas sandwich? What fresh hell is this?! Vegan stuffing lacked flavour – or perhaps just didn’t have enough flavour to overcome the vinegary taste of the vegan port and cranberry sauce, which made it taste like the whole thing had been dropped in vinegar. Mystifying, as you could turn the veggie sandwich vegan just by removing the pesto… Stephen Bush
Veggie Christmas Sandwich, £3.50
Being vegetarian has turned me into a sandwich sceptic, as far too many of those on offer are a variation on egg and cress (or falafel and hummus), and if more elaborate than that, marred by pickle that is unbearably sweet. For this reason, I took one look at the orange blobs in this sandwich and imagined apricots. In fact, it was squash and this was a genuinely delicious savoury sandwich that helped tide me over on in the midst of a bad cold. If only it could be Vegetarian Christmas all year round. Julia Rampen
Gingerbread Latte, £2.85
Are you a cup half full kind of person? Or would you, like I did, stare at this Pret gingerbread latte and wonder where half of it had gone? As a spicy-caffeine kicker without being sickly sweet, the seasonal special is not a bad way to ward off dark December mornings, but in my case there wasn’t enough of it. Perhaps it was the fact all the whipped cream had dissolved by the time I got round to drinking it. But in winter, every sip of something warm counts. Julia Rampen
Orange Hot Chocolate, £2.85
As a non-coffee drinker, whenever I’m faced with choosing a posh brew I usually opt for a hot chocolate. With whipped cream on top. I realise I’ll never be a high-powered businesswoman this way, but who cares, I gotta Keepcup full of cream and chocolate round my mouth and you can’t change me. So predictably I loved this hot chocolate, which was basically like an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange blended and warmed up to a cosy heat. Perfect for a hard day’s strategising in the boardroom. Now bring me a marshmallow before end of play. Anoosh Chakelian
Mini Christmas Caramel Shortbreads, from £1.50
It’s rare to find a millionaire shortbread that doesn’t deliver on a sickeningly sweet, luxurious two bites (or let’s face it, one bite) when grabbing a café lunch or a snack for the train. The Greggs millionaire shortbread is no exception. Shortbread firm, but soft, oozing caramel that presses out at the sides as you take a bite, and reliably lovely milk chocolate on top are what you can expect with Greggs’ take on this classic pudding, with a festive glittering shine to top it off. Sarah Manavis
Festive Bake, from £1.50
Somehow, and I don’t know how this happened, I glimpsed inside my Festive Bake. It’s really better not to do this. You don’t need to witness the stormy grey void with bits of matter floating around like wreckage within. Just close your eyes and munch, remembering the enduring beauty of the Festive Bake formula – crunchy crumb-topped pastry, chicken, bacon, and sage and onion stuffing. Moist, steaming and delicious. Just don’t look down. Anoosh Chakelian
Turkey, Bacon and Cranberry Roll, from £1
Ferociously dirty – golden, flaky pastry, with squishy white meat flecked with pink inside, plus the occasional slightly haemorrhoidal cranberry. I loved it. Helen Lewis
Christmas Lunch Sandwich, from £2.70
The Greggs-love is strong among younger members of NS staff, and is to be questioned at your peril. So luckily for me, I did very much enjoy this year’s Greggs Christmas Lunch sandwich. Not too salty, not too sweet, it had a sense of timeless reliability to it (something that can no longer be said of the UK high streets on which it is sold). But their PR team could sadly not respond to my enquiry about the provenance of the meat – a worrying sign. India Bourke
Snowy Road (gluten free), from £1
These are just chunks of rocky road made with white vanilla-coated biscuit instead, basically. A little insipid, and really quite inaccurate – if Greggs wanted a real “snowy road” effect, they would’ve been grey, soaking wet, and covered in a beautiful rainbow of petrol. Anoosh Chakelian
MARKS & SPENCER
Pressed Apple, Pear & Winter Berries Juice, £1.50
Sweet, a bit acidic, and an inviting maroon colour, this is basically like a pre-mulled hot apple mix without potpourri swimming in it. Tasty, and 5 per cent of its cost goes to Shelter. Which isn’t that much but it is better than buying a random little multivitamin Tropicana to top off a misjudged meal deal of a lunchbreak. Solid juice. Anoosh Chakelian
Pigs in Blankets, £2
5 per cent of each sale of the M&S Christmas collection is donated to the homeless charity Shelter. This laudable partnership adds a whole new layer to the (already quite odd) notion of sausages in “blankets” – but one that perhaps can’t be bettered. The sweet cranberry and orange dip is also delicious. India Bourke
Three Bird Roast Sandwich, £3.80
This fat, three-sandwich affair (three birds, three sandwiches, one sleepy afternoon) was obviously one of the most appealing Christmas sandwiches on offer this year, as it was eaten immediately by a secret office borrower who was obviously so overwhelmed by the flavours they couldn’t possibly write down their feelings about them. Which says good things about this sandwich. Maybe.
Turkey Feast Sandwich, £3.50
A more meaty and generously-packed sandwich than other supermarkets’ turkey attempts. But, as above, unfortunately no words were forthcoming from the New Statesman staff. Perhaps a vegetarian (and there are many of them here) secretly went rogue.
Festive Macaroons, £1.80
Delicate and Parisian, macaroons are certainly a good addition to the more decadent supermarket lunchbreak lines. But I think what is supposed to make these ones “festive” is their metallic sheen – rather than the traditional block multi-colours that usually make macaroons so appealing. This gold, bronze and silver effect gave them an air of doorknobs or giant ball bearings rather than gourmet patisserie. They were certainly desirable though, as one eager elf in our office snapped them up in no time. Name yourself! Anoosh Chakelian
Sainsbury’s: The Big Beef, £3
The packaging for “The Big Beef” is cunning. Housed in a substantial cardboard unit, it reveals itself only through a strip of transparent plastic – placed, crucially, on the top of the box. Around the sides we are treated to a trompe l’oeil photograph of the filling: ripples of perfectly pink roast beef, coy spinach leaves and sensually pooling sauce. But all we can see from the window is a brown expanse of bap. Like the child’s toy with a “try me” button but no battery, this sandwich is teasing us. Once the box is breached, the Big Beef reveals its secrets: “layers of rare beef, gravy mayonnaise, a cheese sauce and a juicy Yorkshire pudding in the middle”. Aesthetically, the effect is underwhelming: the beef is plastered to the bread with a slick of sauce, the Yorkshire pudding sitting glumly in the middle. The eating experience is, at least initially, better than expected: though the pudding is by no means “juicy”, it is edible and not so large as to dislocate one’s jaw, and it has cleverly been both under- and overlaid with entirely edible, non-chewy beef. “Gravy mayonnaise” and “cheese sauce” sounds more disgusting than it is – it tastes, essentially, like slightly cheesy mayonnaise. But two thirds of the way through, the sheer stodge of The Big Beef begins to make itself felt, as the airless Yorkshire pudding and the bap sink, grappling – like Gandalf and the Balrog – into the pit of one’s stomach. Tom Gatti
Unicorn Bark, £2.50
My first clue that this would be the greatest challenge my body’s insulin reserves would ever face came from the packaging. There was no suggestion that there might be a particular flavour to the creamy slab, covered in glitter and silver stars. It didn’t even exactly claim to be chocolate (although 76 per cent of it is). It merely asserted it was a “white and pink confectionery bar with sprinkles”. It tasted of sugar. And grit. And a bit of vanilla. I have no teeth now. Helen Lewis
Dinosaur Chocolate Bark, £2.50
This giant chocolate bar looks like what happens when a young child with access to crafts “wraps” a Christmas present for the first time: a complete mess, covered in uneven clumps of glitter and bits of miscellaneous foam – with shards of green scattered patchily like confetti all over the top of it. All it needs is some crusty PVA and smudged gel pen and the look would be complete. Apparently this treat is in the style of a “dinosaur”. No wonder they died out. No camouflage here. Crunchy, garish and delicious – you try walking your child through Sainsbury’s and not being forced to pick this up. Anoosh Chakelian
Sainsbury’s Vegetarian Christmas Wrap, £2.60
Here are some foods that I, a vegetarian, eat at Christmas: roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing, some variation on a nut roast, parsnips, carrots, sprouts, broccoli, gravy, nice cheeses, Twiglets, a Yule log, After Eights. And here, by way of comparison, is a food that has never once been served up to me on Christmas Day by my similarly vegetarian parents: falafel.
It’s not a Christmas food, is it? You can’t just take a Falafel and Houmous Wrap and stick the word “Festive” in front of it and whack a snowman on the packaging, then claim it’s part of your Christmas range. That’s not how Christmas works. But that’s damn well what Sainsbury’s have done, so I’ll get on with reviewing it. It’s alright. The falafel supposedly contains cinnamon and clove, which I guess is the pitiful nod to Christmas, but I can’t taste either if I’m being honest. That said, I can’t really taste anything; the falafel, as is the norm in supermarket wraps, is very dull.
The houmous is nice, but then again it’s hard to mess up houmous. The carrots and cucumbers are fresh and add a satisfying crunchy texture, but it’s the spiced chutney and pickled red cabbage that carry the wrap in terms of flavour. I’m not too sure where this mint vegan dressing is; perhaps they forgot to put any in mine.
Overall, I would eat this “Christmas” wrap again, whatever the time of year, if the Ploughmans were all sold out and there was only an Egg and Cress Sandwich left. Indra Warnes
Sainsbury’s Wensleydale and Cranberry Crisps, £1
I have one major gripe with these crisps and that is this: I do not believe they truly exist. I know that a single packet was kindly delivered to the NS office (thank you, Sainsbury’s), but I am not convinced they are an actual product that is genuinely for sale on the shelves of real-life supermarkets. I have been in literally six of London’s Sainsbury’s in my quest for this festive snack, and each time I leave disappointedly clutching a packet of Walkers.
How far am I to travel to find a branch that sells them? Am I to have to leave the M25? Am I to trek the length and breadth of the country? Are they so delicious that staff are squirrelling them away before they even hit the shelves? I do not know. All I know is that I cannot for the life of me find any.
Which does pose a problem for this review, which is now unfortunately based on the handful of crisps left in the bottom of the bag after my colleagues swooped in like the hungry, free-food lovin’ vultures they are. So here goes: these crisps, from what I remember of them, were very nice.
I admit I was sceptical. I do not love cranberry, and I do not understand why once a year we must insist on covering perfectly delicious savoury food with a sickly sweet sauce that we barely look twice during the first eleven months, but alas, Sainsbury’s have managed to create the perfect “… and Cranberry” Christmas food – and they have done it simply by omitting any hint of cranberry.
So these are, to all intents and purposes, cheese crisps. And there is nothing wrong with that, cheese is the basis for many of the crisp greats: cheese and onion, Quavers, Wotsits, and the orange Doritos. All in all, I would buy these again, if that were a feat that mankind could possibly achieve, and next year I think that Sainsbury’s should seriously consider actually selling them. Indra Warnes
Mushroom & Truffle Pizza, £14.95 (prices vary by location so we’re quoting the highest)
Anticipating that Pizza Express’s Christmas offerings might be a little underwhelming, I was pleasantly surprised by the Mushroom & Truffle Sliced Portobello mushroom with mozzarella, ricotta, fresh rosemary and garlic oil on a creamy béchamel base, finished with truffle oil. Not too chewy, thanks to the thin base and not too rich, as food sprinkled with truffle oil can be, it was actually rather delicate and subtle. I’ll definitely have this again! Gerry Brakus
Christmas menus are often not particularly veggie-friendly – the vegetable element of traditional Christmas dinners are not particularly gourmet, even if there is something seasonal about a parsnip and a Brussels sprout. So the Pizza Express Mushroom & Truffle Pizza is an extra-festive treat. It’s basically a cheese and mushroom pizza with some truffle oil drizzled on so you know it’s fancy. Still, it does feel genuinely decadent. Is it the generous helping of garlic that helps the truffle along? Or the double dose of cheese –mozzarella and ricotta? I think the secret might lie with the béchamel base, unobtrusive but luxurious. Either way, this is not a pizza to be truffled with – it’s a serious Christmas meal contender. Anna Leszkiewicz
This was a delight. The truffle was liberally applied, making each bite luxurious. I always think Pizza Express pizza is delicious, and this is a step up from the usual. Lovely thin base, festive flavours and an all-round great time. August Riddy
PizzaExpress Pigs in Blankets, £6.75
These were juicy and delicious, as pigs in blankets should be, but really what are you doing ordering pigs in blankets at Pizza Express? Dough balls, or if we want to give them an equally cutesy bedtime-related name, garlic butter pillows, are the only acceptable starter at Pizza Express. Anoosh Chakelian
La Festiva pizza, £15.25
Our reviewer, Leon Parks, didn’t have time to review this treat – though he did say “it shouldn’t work but it does”, and the New Statesman office ordered some more in to celebrate our last issue before Christmas, so there’s an endorsement.
Vegan Mushroom & Pine Nut pizza, £12.95
As someone who spent my first years in London determined to never leave Soho’s culinary warren, I have long been a convert to pizza biancas, as well as sourdough, weird names for mozzarella and queuing for hours to enter restaurants where you can’t hear yourself speak. These days are long gone, so it is a Christmas treat to discover Pizza Express serving much the same thing, but on tables you can actually book. This is a good effort as far as vegans are concerned, although having tried the vegetarian equivalent (truffle oil, cheese and little else), I’d suggest tis the season to be flexitarian. Julia Rampen
Snowball Dough Balls Doppio, £8.95
The dough ball’s role in British cultural life is era-defining. At once comforting and decadent, unique in its simplicity, the humble yet mighty dough ball is a little spherical, puffy piece of ourselves. It’s the culinary touchstone of an entire generation of voucher-clutching aficionados, raised to keep the garlic butter on the table for dipping crusts. So of course, messing with the formula is going to be controversial.
Nevertheless, Pizza Express now rolls out a sweet version, dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar, for Christmas with the disastrous pun-blind title of “Snowball Dough Balls”. And this year, they go one better – a DOUBLE portion. Sorry, “doppio” portion. Letsa not forget our Italiano. This special jumbo serving comes with three dips: salted caramel (which, catastrophically, I did not get to taste), a delicious vanilla cream (like the butter icing you lick off the top of childhood birthday cake), and a frankly disgusting fruit coulis (a very thin, almost fizzy, jam without the lumps or seeds). It’s a valiant take on a classic, but can’t beat the real thing. As my poor colleague who tried dipping a pizza crust in the vanilla cream discovered. Anoosh Chakelian
Leon Noel wrap, £5.45
So this was a novel-noel experience: Christmas dinner in a flatbread wrap. Perhaps more akin to what Mary and Joseph might have eaten in a Middle Eastern stable, it makes for a merry innovation on the theme. There was a little too much mayonnaise for my liking, but, all importantly, their press team inform me that the turkey, ham hock are accredited to the Red Tractor standards (ok-ish) and the pork stuffing is accredited to the RSPCA’s Freedom Food, now known as RSPCA “Assured”, standards (better). India Bourke
Falafel and cranberry wrap, £4.45
I love anything with falafel, but this just didn’t do it for me. Thumbs up to Leon for originality and the whole Christmas theme. But falafel and cranberry are just not meant to be mixed together. Also, it was quite dry and I had to eat it with the wrap in one hand and a drink in the other. But I’m full though, so I won’t complain too much. Dorothy Musariri
Ham and fig crisps, £1.60
If someone were to ask me what my two food obsessions were, ham and figs would be the two I’d list (in that exact order). So upon seeing this classic combo gracing Waitrose’s Christmas food line-up this year, I was delighted and excited at the anticipation of tasting them. However, while very delicious, they did disappoint on the fig front – for fans looking for that earthy, sweet hit, you may need to look elsewhere for your taste of this Greek fruit this season. That being said though, the taste of ham was strong without being overpowering, making the overall consumption experience a festive, salty, treat. Sarah Manavis
Prawn, smoked salmon and beetroot relish sandwich, £3.85
Apparently some people have starters at their Christmas lunch and I guess if you were to, it might be something like this – light, fishy, indulgent, a bit special… perhaps with a modish Nordic twist? Won’t fill you up too much before the fatted fowl. Waitrose makes a pretty good stab at a “festive first course in bread”, or to give it its full title “A sandwich made with prawns, smoked salmon, beetroot relish, full fat soft cheese and crème fraîche with spinach and horseradish sauce in sliced rye bread” but for me it’s a festive piece that doesn’t quite live up to its sumptuous promise. It’s the beetroot, you see: I love beetroot and this could have been delicious, but what they’ve gone and done is made it cloyingly sweet and chutney-like when it should have been tart and tangy. It overpowers the horseradish and obliterates the otherwise succulent salmon. It’s a Scandi nah. Tom Calvocoressi
Duck with Bitter Orange and Juniper Relish wrap, £3.20
Crispy duck pancakes with all the trimmings are one of my desert island/death row foods and I’ll often dive (geddit) for their sandwich-shop wrap interpretations (or inter*PRET*ations). This, though, is not that, and the use of an orange relish rather than a hoisin sauce/mayo combo – along with a rather dusty stuffing and the tortilla – makes everything far too dry when it should be oozing and juicy. For that, I can’t believe in this canard… The orange and juniper flavour is great though, it reminds me of something really specific, Proust-style, from childhood: Is it that tangerine jelly you got at children’s parties? A particular flavour of Nerds? The smell of a Bodyshop bath pearl. But what is that flavour though? Tom Calvocoressi
Christmas Brie, Cranberry & Grape sandwich, £2.95
Brie, cranberry and grape, eh. An uncomfortable trio, only because cranberry and grape is a bit of an odd combo. Both lovingly court the queen bee brie in other scenarios, of course – breaded brie with cranberry sauce, for example, or brie and grape on a cheeseboard. But never usually as a threesome. Like Louis Theroux, I investigated these unlikely bedfellows, tucking in myself – but with an air of detached curiosity. And, often as Louis does, I found it surprisingly quotidian. Just a cheesy sandwich with a bit of acidic twang and a sugary smear. Not sure if the grape’s really necessary here. Also brie isn’t that Christmassy really is it? Unless you count just “buying creamier food than usual” as Christmassy. Which, actually, on second thoughts, I really do. Anoosh Chakelian
Turkey stuffing and Christmas Tree Shaped Tortilla Chips, £1.50
Flavoured with rosemary, sage, thyme and onion, these crisps a-maize-d me with their festive twist on a party classic. I mean if a tree-shaped tortilla chip doesn’t scream Christmas, then what does. India Bourke
Fruity! Clementine, Blackberry and Redcurrant, £2.69
As everyone knows, plastic pots of fruit are the greatest lottery on our supermarket shelves today. Will your pineapple chunks be sharp and tangy or fizzy and sloppy? Will your mango bites be juicy and fresh or tough and woody? Will your slices of apple be cool and crunchy or sour and browning at the edges? (Slash, just buy an apple next time, you bourgeois monster.) The same goes for EAT’s festive fruit salad. The big clementine chunks are delicious – more on the orange end of the spectrum, far from the sorry wrinkles of an easy peeler. The blackberries are huge – like you’d imagine in a bounteous forest, giving wood pigeons funny tummies. But the redcurrants – surely the fruit that makes this selection at all Christmassy – are the let-down. The grit in the oyster. They’re both too tart and too watery and bland. They sit uncomfortably with their giant juicy peers. Not decorative enough to be holly berries and not delicious enough to be cranberry sauce, they are the sad non-fruit of Noel. Better than pre-sliced apple though. Anoosh Chakelian
Brie, Cranberry & Stuffing on Onion Seed Bloomer sandwich, from £3.99
I have a confession to make. For reasons that I’m not quite sure of – perhaps it is the overly simplistic name, which if we are being honest is what a caveman would call his high street sandwich chain; possibly it is the in-your-face font and colour scheme; probably it is just because I’m a snob – I have long considered EAT to be the poor man’s Pret.
My colleague Anoosh is, I think it’s fair to say, practically a brand ambassador for EAT (she’s not, but she should be, if anybody from EAT is reading this) and I must admit her soups and pies do always smell delicious – but with a Pret next to the office, I’ve never been tempted to venture that far.
However I did have to admit EAT’s veggie Christmas sandwich sounded good; Brie, Cranberry & Stuffing on Onion Seed Bloomer. And good it was: the white bread was thick and soft, although I had no idea it was also supposedly onion seed until 30 seconds ago, when I googled the sandwich to double-check its name. Are onion seeds supposed to taste of onions? I’ve never heard of onion seeds. It did not taste of onions.
The brie was nice and creamy, albeit somewhat drowned out by the cranberry sauce, which while nice, was pretty overpowering and made tasting any other ingredients quite difficult. In that sense, this was less a Christmas sandwich and more a cranberry jam one.
The stuffing, like the brie, was independently delicious, but lost under the cranberry. But it did add a crunchy, nutty texture that was enjoyable. I think if both the stuffing and the brie were slightly stronger, or there was slightly more of them, the sandwich would be massively improved. The spinach was just spinach, I had no thoughts on it. All in all, this was a decent veggie Christmas offering and I would eat it again. Indra Warnes
Festive Full Works on Malted Wheat Baguette, from £4.25
This bland offering was short on mustardy-tang and crandberry-kick, but the addictive EAT saltiness was there in abundance and the bread was chewy and delicious. However, when I dropped a line to EAT’s press team to ask about the provenance and welfare-standards of the meat, their response was not reassuring: their pork is certified by Red Tractor (ok-ish for welfare) and is not necessarily from the UK, while their Irish Turkey “meets EU welfare standards” (even less stringent). Maybe my above use of the word salty should be replaced by “overly-processed”. India Bourke
Festive full-works bloomer, from £3.99
The Eat festive sandwich contains mega meat – doorstop proportions of turkey, pork and ham – and plenty of mayonnaise, which is so essential to prevent the falling “rubble effect” of stuffing seen in, say, the sad, steadily-declining Pret equivalent. The stuffing itself, too, is cohesive – occassionally too much so: part of it got wedged behind my teeth like a gum shield. There is, thankfully, minimal intrusion from Cranberry sauce, and despite the exhaustive ingredients list, this is a good, simple sandwich that will not fall into your lap on the bus. Kate Mossman
Coronation on onion seed bloomer, from £3.75
Our reviewer, Elliot Host, didn’t have time to review this vegan treat – though he was expecting coronation chicken over the vegan cauliflower replacement. He said it was still tasty though.
Stollen bites, from £1.75
These stollen snowballs dusted in icing sugar were delectable and when I first sampled them I was stumped as to why they were not on coffee tables all year round. However, looking down at the desk, I realised there was a price for this indulgence. If you don’t plan on leaving a trail of icing sugar wherever you go, a regular stollen might be tidier. Julia Rampen
Mince pie, from £1.50
To be fair to EAT, I ate these mince pies unheated – which, for those looking for a lunchtime fast and festive hit, is probably how they’d eat them too. They were not bad by any stretch, however, they didn’t inspire the senses at the same time. If you’re looking for a mince pie that accomplishes what is advertised, though, (a raisin filled gooey pastry with a sweet shortcrust exterior), then you’ll get what you’re looking for here. Sarah Manavis
Mini yule log, £1.75
The best kind of snacks are ones that have two layers of chocolate. It’s the sort of comfort food you need on a cold winter’s morning. But I do have to say, for someone with a sweet tooth, I still thought it was a tad too sweet. But delightful, nonetheless. Dorothy Musariri
Tesco Vegetable Christmas Dinner Wrap, £2.50
I’m not a vegetarian but when it comes to seasonal sandwiches I tend to avoid the meat-based ones, partly because I find it offputting to combine more than one species per mouthful and partly because some veggie Christmas sandwiches, such as Pret a Manger’s Veggie Christmas Lunch, are excellent. This wrap, described as a “pumpkin tortilla filled with maple roasted vegetables and stuffing”, is one of the saddest things I have ever eaten.
The lack of a hyphen on the compound adjective is just the beginning of Tesco’s mistakes. Inside, half a diced parsnip, a few chunks of carrot, one spinach leaf and four tablespoons of mayonnaise have been rolled up into a container that has the colour, texture and gustatory appeal of a Jiffy bag. The vegetables have none of the caramel flavour, chewiness or crispy bits you’d expect from anything roasted. There is a strong lingering aftertaste of dried sage once (if) you’ve champed the uncooked tortilla and its contents into a sufficiently claggy paste to be swallowed. It’s worth noting that this wrap, though small, contains nearly a teaspoon more sugar than a Curly Wurly.
The last bite of each half is the final insult; the vegetables run out and for the last half-inch it’s wrap alone, containing nothing more than a smear of mayo and the wrecked dream of a meat-free Christmas. Will Dunn
Boxing Day sub roll, £2.30
The principle question hanging over the entire concept of the festive sandwich is whether Christmas dinner is ruined by eight weeks exposure to its elements in cold form, in the office, at the desk, beforehand. Whoever designed this odd sub seems to be taking the idea of depressed satiation to surrealist extremes. It imagines the entire contents of a post-festive fridge, including a marmalade-flavoured roll (?) and brussel sprout “slaw”, sheathed wetly into a plastic wrapper. Unfortunately, even the addition of bubble and squeak can’t make this sandwich the naughty, comforting experience it intends to be. The Americans do a really good Thanksgiving sandwich – it includes gravy and mashed potato – but you buy it hot and open-faced, in a diner. The Tesco Boxing Day also needs to be hot – or not at all. However, if you put this in the microwave, it would liquify. Kate Mossman
AND FOR SOMETHING POSHER…
Crosta & Mollica Chocolate Panettone, £8.49
As luxury carbs go, this was a very satisfactory mix of bread and chocolate, and there is very little bad you can say about that. Nevertheless, as far as festive food went, it felt as everyday as a takeaway muffin. Perhaps it would have felt more Christmassy with some more exotic flavours mixed in. Julia Rampen
Pots & Co Christmas Hazelnut & Chocolate Praline, £2 (5p of which goes to Colombian farming communities)
Essentially a really posh and ethical Muller corner, Pots & Co’s exclusive Christmas dessert is a pot of smooth praline milk chocolate cream which you can pour a lid of hazelnut nuggets and little crispy flakes into. Indulgent, creamy and with a little crunch to top it off, it takes the supermarket granola-and-yoghurt-pot format to decadent levels. It even comes in a lovely red ramekin which will be perfect for
keeping at the back of the cupboard for all of time making little bakes or tastefully displaying tealights. Anoosh Chakelian
PET A MANGER
Lily’s Christmas spectacular biscuit collection tin for dogs, £20
I only have to rustle a packet or open a tin and my dog, Rudy, comes running with mouth drooling and eyes wide with hopeful expectation. He’s not picky either – he’ll eat pretty much anything. So I was quite excited when I was handed the rather beautiful tin of Lily’s Kitchen Christmas Spectacular Biscuit Collection. Containing a selection of 8 finely flavoured biscuits, including the ‘star of the show’, the Gingerbread Dog, Salmon Shortbread Biscuits and Turkey with Cranberry Biscuits amongst others, everything is oven baked using organic ingredients and little extras like black strap molasses and alfalfa for shiny healthy coats.
I’m not sure if it’s the oven baking that makes these treats so hard in texture and lacking in smell but Rudy seemed somewhat baffled when I handed him the first one, the Gingerbread Dog. He sniffed it and pushed it around wish his nose and then… he walked away! I Maybe it was the size of it (it’s quite large) so I tried a smaller one; the turkey and cranberry flavour. A little more successful but he didn’t come back for more, which is most unlike him. On reflection, I think it’s safe to say I was more excited by the Lily’s Kitchen Christmas Spectacular Biscuit Collection than my dog was. I bet they sell loads. Gerry Brakus