It may be the setting of Dickens’ Christmas Carol (and The Muppets Christmas Carol of course), but is London really that Christmassy of a place for food? I reckon it can hold its own, and to prove it, I’ll take you through some of the most British Christmas Food Traditions you can sample in London over the festive period.
While a Sunday Roast might not exactly scream ‘Christmas’, it’s pretty much what you’ll enjoy around Christmas, whether at office lunches or dinners at home, with maybe a few extras for the festive period. We’re talking roasted meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb), roasted potatoes, roasted, boiled or steamed vegetables and maybe a Yorkshire Pudding or two. What tends to get added around Yuletide is Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Pigs in Blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon), plus for dessert a Christmas Pudding, which may or may not be doused in brandy and set alight.
These little baked goodies are everywhere this time of year, but where’s the best place to get them? While you can pick up decent options in all the main supermarkets, Waitrose is probably my favourite, with just the right level of mincemeat and thickness. Local bakeries will do fine too, or if you’re after something special, try Ottolenghi, St John or Toad Bakery, which each have a fun twist of this Christmas classic.
Every year I fall for the marketing and end up chomping down on the latest Christmas-themed sandwich at one of London’s many chain cafe/sandwich shops. Strangely enough, there’s usually one stand out per year, and it does actually tend to vary.
Interestingly, 2024 seems to be the year of the ‘pig in blanket’, with many chains putting their own spin on it, like Pret’s Pigs in Blankets Pot or Roll, Nero’s Pigs Under Blankets Panini and Costa’s Pig & Blankets Toastie.
Otherwise, Pret a Manger’s ‘Christmas Lunch’ sandwiches and baguettes, with turkey, cranberry sauce, pork stuffing and baby spinach, or their Nut Roast sandwich (butternut squash, pesto and pine nuts), are always a safe bet for some festive flavour when you’re in a rush.
Costa specialises in toasties and heated paninis, with their Brie & Cranberry Toastie, Vegan Turkey Trimmings Toastie and Brie, Maple Bacon and Cranberry Panini, so worth exploring if you want something to warm you up on those cold winter days.
Caffe Nero’s has a small range with Brie, Bacon & Cranberry, and Plant-based Festive Feast paninis, but the star attraction has to be their Turkey Feast Focaccia, which combines turkey, smoked bacon, pork and fennel stuffing and a tangy cranberry sauce to incredible effect – one of my favourites this year.
Leon’s Christmas offering has an ingredient list to die for, Turkey, braised in miso & porcini gravy, pork & herb stuffing, bacon, cranberry & orange sauce, aioli, cos, spinach and crispy onions. If that hasn’t got you heading down to your nearest branch, I don’t know what will.
Greggs isn’t the first place that comes to mind for a Christmas sarnie, but their Festive Bake is the one that people keep coming back for – a signature Greggs bake with chicken, sage and onion stuffing and bacon, perfect for a crispy hot snack in the snow. They also do a Spicy Veg Curry Bake, with chickpeas, onions, sweetcorn, peppers and parsnip.
Sainsbury’s has a huge range of Christmas sandwiches, with the most deluxe being the Taste the Difference Christmas Cracker Club, which includes a unique spin on the sarnie with smoked chicken, real ale chutney and gravy mayo, alongside the bacon and pork, sage and onion stuffing.
Tesco has a surprisingly exotic mix of offerings this year, with the Tesco Finest Spiced Duck & Pomegranate Chutney Wrap and Tesco Yule Hog Wrap giving you some unique flavours, alongside their standard Tesco Turkey and Trimmings Sandwich. They’ve also joined in the miniature sausage fun this year with their Tesco Finest Pigs Under Blanket Sandwich.
It may not quite be the most British thing to enjoy in London, but with how many cafe/sandwich shop chains line the streets of London, indulging in a Christmas-based hot beverage is pretty much an institution nowadays.
Pret a Manger is ready to serve up Merry Berry Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread Latte & Salted Caramel Latte, Costa will deliver many options, including Gingerbread & Cream Latte, Black Forest & Cream Hot Chocolate and Terry’s Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate.
Nero’s unique Panettone Latte is definitely worth a taste for something different, while they also offer a hot chocolate you won’t forget lightly, the Millionaire’s Hot Chocolate.
Starbucks has one of the biggest ranges of Xmas drinks, of which I have to say Sugar Cookie Almond Milk Latte is my favourite, but only if you can handle the sweetness! They also have a pretty decent Peppermint Mocha and Chestnut Praline Latte, and I’m keen to try out their new Gingerbread Oat Milk Chai.
Greggs have even put their hat into the hot beverage ring with their Mint Hot Chocolate, Salted Caramel Latte and Orange Hot Chocolate.