I once spent an evening smashing and scoffing Easter Eggs in the name of a blog review and I thought that life couldn’t get any better. Oh how wrong I was! Queensgate Shopping Centre in Peterborough topped it by inviting me to their headquarters to sample all of the festive food and drink the major retailers and restaurants have on offer this Christmas.
It was a super fun evening and I discovered all sorts of delectable festive food and drink. I’ve whittled it down to my top picks below and have tried to include a little of bit of everything, from dinner party treats to Christmas Day must haves and even some festive restaurant menus too!
Warning: the following post contains an excessive amount of photographs of highly delicious food – reading on an empty stomach is not advised! 🙂
I’m going to start with alcoholic drinks because John Lewis have gone above and beyond this year!
First off, they have baubles containing Pickering’s Gin. Yes that’s right – gin! They look pretty enough to get away with being regular decorations, but unscrew the top and you have an instant tipple!
Keeping with the gin theme, how awesome does Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur sound? The liquid is iridescent and shimmers as you swirl it in your glass to add to the festivities.
(I’ve been assured that no unicorns were harmed in the making of this product.)
Food wise, if you eat in a John Lewis cafe this Winter you’ve got to try the Chocolate and Orange Cake! It’s like an amped up version of a Jaffa Cake Bar and the flavours are insanely good.
If you’re not a big fan of chocolate orange they have a whole range of other cakes and slices too including millionaire shortbread and lemon drizzle. (I’ll repeat again though, you MUST try that chocolate orange cake!!!)
Moving on to Lakeland, these guys take the prize for having some of the most fun and innovative treats this Christmas.
My favourite find this year has been Lakeland’s Candy Cane Peppermint Bark – white and dark chocolate with minty candy cane shards sprinkled on top. It is just divine and totally moreish!
There are actually four whole bars inside the pretty tin packaging so it would make a great gift to give you your hosts if you’re going somewhere for Christmas, or you could just as easily make four lovely presents from the chocolate bark by rewrapping each seperately in cellophane and ribbon, then keep the tin for yourself!
I also made a beeline for their Rose Gold Shimmer Popaball For Prosecco because you should all know by now how much I love ANYTHING rose gold! Seriously though, at my friend Tiffany’s wedding earlier this year they had a ‘pimp your prosecco’ stand with some of this stuff and we all loved it.
Another great idea I picked up from Lakeland is to use a slow cooker for hot chocolate, something I’ve never thought of doing before but it makes perfect sense really! Rather than making individual servings that can go cold quick, you just make up a batch with hot chocolate and milk/dairy free alternative and keep it gently bubbling away to serve as and when needed. PLUS, Lakeland have only gone and made a hot chocolate version of the peppermint bark – hallelu!
Marks and Spencers
You can’t beat a good mince pie at Christmas and whenever I eat an M&S one I have to put on the voice and do the: “This isn’t just a mince pie, this is a MARKS AND SPENCERS mince pie!” quote because it’s true, they are always that extra bit delicious!
As always they have a massive amount of buffet style nibbles that promise a quality table spread. At our festive feast we were treated to turkey and cranberry sausage rolls and a seasonal sandwich selection with delicious sounding fillings such as Turkey Feast, Brie and Grape, Prawn and Smoked Salmon and Ham Hock and Golden Beetroot Piccalilli.
Ever one for pretty packaging however, my top picks are this beautiful Christmas cone filled with yummy shortbread biscuits that we made VERY short work of, and Gold Creme Brulee Liquer which I can imagine enjoying in front of the fire after Christmas dinner.
Some of the restaurants at Queensgate Shopping Centre had also sent along some of their festive menus for us to try on the night. Here’s a roundup of my favourites!
Carluccio’s have a Christmas menu available until the 3rd January with 2 Courses for £17.95 (or add £3 to include dessert). I can highly recommend the Pere e Gorgonzola, a starter of pears & gorgonzola served with radicchio, green beans and walnuts, tossed in a lemon dressing. It’s light and fresh and yet at the same time gave me all the festive feels.
The Tomato Bruschetta was also absolutely delicious with slices of grilled ciabatta topped with fresh baby plum, yellow cherry and beef tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, baby basil and garlic. I want the recipe for the tomato dressing, it was so good!
If you can fit in dessert the Coppa di Limoncello Mascarpone is another winner – mascarpone limoncello cream drizzled with limoncello syrup and served with raspberries, crumbled amaretto biscuits and mint.
The Handmade Burger Kitchen
As someone about to transition to a plant based diet (read more on this here) I was absolutely delighted to see a festive vegan burger on the Handmade Burger Kitchen menu, the Veg-Mex. Well done guys, this made me extremely happy and gives me hope that once fully transitioned, I’ll still be able to enjoy Christmas meals out!
It’s a veggie patty with handmade Mexican salsa, hand crushed avocado, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato & red onion and I tell you what, as someone who has eaten their fair share of meaty burgers, this one holds up against them! It has a bit of a kick to it, it’s packed full of flavours and textures and is extremely filling.
For the meat lovers there are PLENTY of festive burgers to choose from – the avocado and bacon burger seemed to go down a treat with the non veggie bloggers!
Pret A Manger
Pret are also complete stars in my book this year for putting out a vegetarian Christmas lunch consisting of roasted chunks of butternut squash, spicy rocket and nutty Christmas pesto made with walnuts and pecans. It’s served with a spoonful of yoghurt & mayo dressing and a sprinkling of crispy onions on malted bread.
Excuse the blurred picture of Melvin The Melted Snowman but isn’t he so fun? Made with a marshmallow head, a puddle of icing and a gingerbread cookie base, he was adorably cute but not enough to stop me giving in to temptation and scoffing him before I managed to get a decent photo!
Hotel Chocolat assortments are always epic and The Christmas Gift Box is no exception with 42 of the finest truffles, pralines and caramels to choose from. Each chocolate in the selection is so beautifully detailed with little extra elements such as a crunchy topping for the Treacle Tart and a liquid centre for Mulled Wine, ensuring that there are no duds in this box! My favourites are the ever classic Champagne Truffle and the Christmas Mess!
Last but by no means least, the artisan family butchers at Grasmere Farms had provided a selection of freshly handmade sausage rolls, pork pies and scotch eggs (including a ham and scotch egg version) for us to enjoy. I didn’t partake (being the awkward veggie at the party!) but I know that a lot of you enjoy a good sausage roll so I’ll pass on the other blogger’s comments and tell you that these were exceptional!
For anyone local to Peterborough you can find them in Queensgate’s Westgate Arcade but a good selection of their produce is now available online for those of you further afield too.
So there you have it – my 2017 Festive Food and Drink Roundup! My thanks go to the wonderful hospitality of Queensgate Shopping Centre and all of the lovely stores who plied me with food and drink all evening!
Have you spotted anything here that takes your fancy for Christmas?
*Disclaimer: As noted above I attended an event held by Queensgate Shopping Centre to sample the festive food and drink available in stores this year. I was not paid for this post and all items selected are hand picked by me because I absolutely loved them! (In the case of meat items I was given reliable reviews from my fellow bloggers on the night!).