Everybody claims to sell the best turkey, the finest smoked salmon and the most decadent cheese, but if you have your heart set on the perfect Christmas dinner this year, who do you put your faith in? The Resident’s food columnist, Tom Parker Bowles, share his little black book of foodie favourites…
Lead image: The Ginger Pig
Christmas. Season of joy, good cheer. And distemper. A time to unearth that dusty box of dates (ever present, despite being never eaten), wade through lumpen plum pudding and remember, once again, why we only eat that damned dreary turkey but once a year. Still, it’s a joyous (and socially acceptable) excuse for wanton Bacchanalian excess, a time to soak oneself in the Yuletide spirit. Be that whisky, gin or rum.
It’s also a time for top tucker. And if you do insist upon eating turkey, then look for Copas or Kelly Bronze. These great gobblers are raised outside and reared for flavour. Or if, like me, you prefer a great rib of beef or roast goose (the old fashioned British Christmas choice), get yourself down to one of London’s many great butchers. They’ll have some pretty serious turkeys too.
HG Walter in Baron’s Court is my favourite, but the likes of Lidgates in Holland Park, M Moen and Son in Clapham, The Ginger Pig, all over London, Turner and George in Smithfield, Godfreys in Highgate and Chadwicks in Balham are all masters too.
You’ll also find serious chipolatas, along with great pink hams (the proper dry textured stuff, made from happy pigs), decent bacon and home made stock. Remember a great butcher is not just for Christmas. Rather someone to eternally love, worship and adore.
Then there’s the cheese. Magnificent aged Mongomery’s Cheddar, oozing Vacherin, a wheel of creamy, and spicily rich, Stichelton. Nutty Berkswell, stinky Epoisse and luscious Gorgonzola – London has some truly spectacular cheese shops. La Fromagerie, for a start, just off Marylebone High Street, one of the capital’s great shops, full stop. As is Neal’s Yard Dairy in Covent Garden, and, a relative newcomer to the scene, The Fine Cheese Co in Belgravia. All three keep their lactic lovelies in tip top condition. Blessed are the cheesemongers indeed.
Remember a great butcher is not just for Christmas
Smoked salmon is another Christmas staple and you want the good stuff, not that luridly greasy rubbish that loiters rudely on the palate for days to come. Hansen and Lydersen, ‘a Norwegian smokehouse in London’, is smoked over juniper and beech and the end result is elegantly subtle. As is the smoked Var salmon from Severn and Wye. You’ll find it at Fortnum and Mason (in the interests of being open, I have just written their book), Harrods, Selfridges, Planet Organic and Harvey Nichols.
I love the smoked salmon from Daylesford, who also do cracking meat, hams, mince pies and puddings too. And while we’re on the topic of mince pies, don’t miss the old fashioned beauties from the great St John. You’ll find them at their two restaurants, or at their bakery on Druid Street too. Armed with this veritable cornucopia of top tucker, even the most irritating of relatives will cease to irk. Eat, drink and make merry. A happy (and hearty) Christmas to you all.