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Britain’s big supermarkets are certainly giving the Christmas spirit a good try this year with their winter menus.
However, with food costs on the rise, supermarket cafes are no longer the cheap-as-chips food options they once were. So which cafes deliver the most satisfying festive offerings on a break from your big shop – and which aren’t really worth the bother?
To find out, reporters from the Manchester Evening News headed out to all the big supermarkets that offer cafes in-store with either a Christmas dinner or festive offering this year.
So that meant a trip to Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda, who all offer a full turkey meal in-store, while Tesco and M&S have come up with their own festive café twists. Here’s what they found:
For its seasonal offerings this year, Sainsbury’s Café is offering everything from turkey and vegetarian Christmas dinners (£6.80) to a Pigs Under Blanket bap (£4) and mince pies. There are also festive drinks, like gingerbread lattes, for those wanting to truly push the boat out, writes Adam Maidment.
Straight off the bat, I’ve got to say it’s not bad, actually it’s quite nice. The plate is crammed full, there are FIVE roast potatoes and two Yorkshires, for a start. The man sitting at the table opposite gives me a knowing look, as if he doesn’t think I’ll be able to eat it all. We’ll see about that.
Starting with the meat and the turkey slices are just your standard fare, really. They make for a good sandwich but, for me, turkey is always a little too bland for the extravagance of a Christmas dinner. It’s no different here, but there’s loads of other things that make up for that.
The gravy has a nice herby taste to it, it’s thin and there are no lumps to be found. Plus, there’s absolutely loads – enough to soak up the turkey and roasties as I bop along to East 17’s Stay Another Day on the café speakers.
On the topic of the roasties, the potatoes are good. They’re tasty and verging on crispy. Had they been cooked just a little bit longer, I’d even have gone as far as saying they were just how I like them. Sadly, the pigs In blankets are a bit of a disappointment. Just like roasties, pigs in blankets are a key highlight to my Christmas dinner. While Sainsbury’s offerings aren’t bad, they’re just essentially smokey mini cocktail sausages. Plus only one of my three PiB’s has bacon on them, which is a proper let down.
Now onto the controversial bit: the sprouts. They’re personally my least exciting part of the Christmas dinner, but, in the interest of fairness, I feel it is only right that I give them a proper taste. Surprisingly, I don’t hate them. In fact, they’re actually quite good. I tuck into another just to double-check, and I’m still enjoying it. Am I now a fully-certified Brussels sprout fan? Doubtful, but there is hope on the horizon.
There’s sadly no stuffing ball, as advertised, but it’s not really missed considering the whole plate I have in front of me. The cranberry sauce is nice, although it’s nothing to write home about. It’s maybe a bit too sweet for my liking, but it adds another level to the meal.
Now, did I manage to eat it all? Sadly, I have to admit that it did defeat me and there was no room left for me to try a mince pie, but I feel I gave it a good go. There was a lot on my plate, after all. It’s a very good offering and it was a lot tastier than I had expected it to be, to be fair. Supermarket cafes often get a bit of a bad rep and I’m just as guilty of that as anyone else. With other offerings on the menu, and with vegetarian options too, you can see they’ve tried to offer a variety of things.
And it’s maybe even changed my mind on sprouts. Winner winner, Christmas dinner.
Since my last visit for a lacklustre fry up, my local Morrisons café has undergone a major refurbishment, complete with a Market Kitchen offering pizza, oatcakes and various other options alongside the traditional yet transformed café, writes Bethan Shufflebotham.
Gone are the boring, white school dinner plates, replaced with reactive blue glaze crockery from Staffordshire pottery firm Dudson. Paired with reclaimed wood features and mocha leather seats, this Morrisons has had a 2022 glow up that makes it feel more like an independent you might find in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, if it weren’t for having so many tables.
The Christmas menu has arrived at Morrisons café, and on my first attempt to sample their turkey roast during a visit on Monday, I was gutted to find that a lack of Yorkshire puddings had seen it scratched off the menu for the day. However, I was reliably informed that they’d be back on the next day, following a delivery. The very helpful staff member even gave me a festive menu to take away so that I could ponder my order overnight.
And it’s almost a serendipity that there were no Yorkie puds on, because upon reading the menu at home, I discovered that between 11.30am and 3.30pm, you can actually get a two course meal for less than a tenner, or opt for three courses for £11.99 – saving around £2 on the total value.
The Christmas menu includes favourite starters such as prawn cocktail and Brussels pâté for £3.99 each, but during my (second) visit, I went for the tomato and basil soup worth £3.49. For the main meal, customers can get a Christmas turkey roast with vegan and vegetarian options available – all at £7.49. Meanwhile £2.99 desserts include Christmas pudding, Bramley apple crumble or sticky toffee pudding.
I ordered the turkey roast and apple crumble, and decided to have them all brought out together to make it easier for kitchen staff – though you can have them delivered one at a time for a real restaurant feel. From payment to placement, it took less than 15 minutes for my food to be delivered to my booth, complete with a jug of extra gravy, and a pouring pot of cream for my dessert.
I began with my giant bowl of soup which came with a white roll and two packs of spreadable Lurpak – no expense spared here, we all know how dear it is. The portion size was frankly, massive, and almost overflowing the deep dish.
It felt hearty and artisanal, which is everything you want from a festive meal out, isn’t it? There’s nothing worse than being served up food that looks, smells and tastes like it’s just finished doing a waltz in the microwave.
Onto the festive feast, there was so much food I couldn’t even see the plate, complete with a generous carving of juicy turkey that didn’t feel as though it’d been sat under a heat lamp, as can often happen with diner dinners, as well as soft carrot batons and five Brussel sprouts. The stuffing ball was perhaps a little on the overdone side, but the crisp pigs in blankets were perfect. I love the fact that Morrisons don’t have you make the painstaking decision of mash or roasties, serving up both as standard, and the creamy mash paired with the three crunchie roasties really was a delight.
Completing the plate was a Yorkshire pudding – a bit on the soft side but nothing detrimental – with a pot of cranberry sauce and lashings of rich and tasty gravy. Vegetarians can swap the turkey for a pumpkin and cranberry roast and remove the pigs in blankets, while the vegan option is the same as the vegetarian, but also removes the mashed potato and Yorkshire pudding.
No Christmas meal is complete without dessert and Morrisons Bramley apple crumble with cream was the perfect finale to what had been – as far as supermarket cafes go – a stellar meal. I genuinely don’t think I’d have gotten much better in a pub for £12 – essentially £4 per course – and I left absolutely stuffed.
If three courses are perhaps a bit much, festive hot sandwiches and burgers are also available, as well as a Mini Christmas Turkey Roast. Fans of Pigs in Blankets can order a stand-alone portion for £2.99 to satisfy any festive cravings, served with a pot of cranberry sauce. Morrisons café has offered up stylish dining at affordable prices with generous portions and delicious gravy here. They get five gold rings from me.
Reflecting on my visit to Asda Kitchen last Christmas, I worried I was perhaps a bit Grinch-like and overly harsh, so it seemed only right that I returned to the café inside Bolton’s Burnden Park Superstore this year to see if I had a better experience, Tom Molloy writes.
Since last year, a Christmas dinner has gone up by 95p to £6.95. Cheaper choices include a brie and cranberry toastie (£4.25), pigs under blankets toastie (£4.25) and tomato soup with a roll (£3). Meanwhile, desserts are priced between £1.75 for a mince pie to £2.50 for a Black Forest gâteau. Under the ‘festive hot drinks’ section are standard tea (£1.60) and an Americano (£2.45), which feels like cheating, or you can get a toffee-flavoured hot chocolate (£4.25 with whipped cream or £3.70 without).
Due to a deal which allows you to get a mince pie and a hot drink for £3, it cost me £9.55 for a Christmas dinner, a mince pie and a toffee hot chocolate with whipped cream. As I arrived before they started serving Christmas dinner at 12, I had to have my dessert first.
Getting whipped cream was probably a mistake as the mug struggled to contain it and it started oozing over the sides. It was also a bit sickly but pleasant enough. After my incredible experience at Poppins Tea Rooms recently, the mince pie had a lot to live up to, but I was quite impressed with both the size and the taste.
Once I was able to order my Christmas dinner it came incredibly quick, around five minutes after ordering. I’ll start with the positives – I can have no complaints about the friendliness of staff or the speed of service. On to the food, the pigs in blankets were also really tasty, even if one of the bacon ‘blankets’ was missing its mini sausage ‘pig’. The stuffing balls were actually quite good with almost a meaty texture and the Yorkshire pudding (whether or not you think it belongs on a Christmas dinner) was just the right amount of crispy.
The roasties were also nowhere as bad as last year. On a more negative note, the turkey was, once again, limp and uninspiring, while the sprouts had seemingly been boiled or microwaved within an inch of their life. Overall, I left a lot more satisfied than last year but would still probably say that a carvery is better value if you want this sort of thing.
Christmas dinner – 2.5/5
Mince pie – 3.5/5
Hot chocolate 2.5/5
Overall rating: 3/5
Marks and Spencer
It’s a truth universally accepted that if you’re going to an M&S Cafe, you’re going to be queuing for it, writes Dianne Bourne . You will stand, you will mutter, you will think of a million different ways you could better organise the hot drinks and hot food service and yet still, you’ve come back to queue at the M&S Café.
That is, of course, because this is not just any old café food, this is M&S Café food. And OK, on balance, it’s worth the wait.
Especially now the festive menu is live – and there’s plenty of treats here this year. They may not have gone the full Christmas dinner hog here, but for 2022 there’s a warming turkey pot pie soup (£5.50) and turkey roast toastie (£6.50) as well as a rather bargainous pot of “festive” mini sausages on a bed of cranberry sauce (£1.50).
There are also festive drinks to try and I go for the rather opulent candy cane frappe (£3.75) which is like a large milkshake with a hint of mint chocolate in there. It’s finished with loads of cream and a cute candy cane chocolate on top. We also tried the mince pie latte (£3.30) which was pleasant but we couldn’t really pick up much of a mince pie flavour in it.
The Turkey pie soup arrives in a large bowl with a large puff pastry circle on top. It was pleasant and warming – but it was really just like a soup with the added pastry for pizzazz.
The Turkey roast toastie seemed rather expensive at £6.50 but wow, that’s until I tasted it. It was worth every penny if you ask me – with a huge hunk of turkey inside all wrapped in richly buttered wedges of toast with a herby sprinkling on top and some kind of melty cheese too.
It’s that massive you could easily share this – particularly if you go for the five dinky sausages which you could then share as a side to create a really fun and tasty festive meal on your shopping break.
You can’t leave an M&S Café without going for dessert and so we sampled the Christmas tree tiffin slice (£2.95) which was a tasty chunk of chocolatey biscuity stuff with bauble sugar decorations on the front. The red velvet candy cane loaf (£3.50) seemed a tad expensive for a cake slice but was pleasantly moist, although I was a little troubled by the crunchiness on top, which was the sugar crystals used to look a bit like snow.
The standout here though was the turkey roast toastie – it tasted as decadent as a Christmas Day dinner and that makes it a real winner in my eyes.
Turkey roast toastie: 5/5
Festive sausages: 4/5
Turkey soup pot pie: 3/5
Cakes and drinks: 4/5
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Oh dear, Tesco. You might have got away with this dreary, limp “turkey feast” panini if I’d not just eaten the turkey toastie of dreams over at M&S, writes Dianne Bourne .
The most pathetic slithers of dry turkey slathered with an unholy mix of mayonnaise and cranberry sauce, with a smattering of stuffing in there for £4.75. The panini bread itself was quite pleasant but the filling was so thin that it was about as far removed from a “feast” as you can get.
Thankfully Tesco Café redeemed itself with the festive Yorkshire pudding wrap (£6.25) served with some extra thick gloopy gravy (which is fine by me as that’s just how I like it) and it was delicious. It was packed with sausage, bacon, stuffing and cranberry – but rather oddly no actual turkey in there.
Inexplicably, there was some kind of salad included – perhaps to look like sprouts? Either way it was fine, I actually quite liked it within the weird sausage, gravy, cranberry batter mix of it all.
On the drinks front, they’ve come up with a few festive ones – although the cherry plum winter warmer (£2) tasted a bit like medicine – or Gluhwein with the alcohol sucked out. The gingerbread latte (£3.30) had a bit of a syrupy taste to me, however the Yule log hot chocolate (£3.80) was a winner. It worked well with the squirty cream on top and a collection of choc shavings in the midst too.
For dessert, it was a Viennese mince pie (£1.25) which was right up my street as it was heavy on the pastry, with a fairly thin layer of mincemeat. I particularly enjoyed the giant wodge of pastry and sugar on top.
To end on a positive note, the actual café itself that I tried (at Tesco Crewe) was a really pleasant environment, having apparently had a bit of a recent makeover with snazzy posters and colourful chairs. And there was lots of room between the tables which meant for a pleasant and relaxing experience with our festive food.
Turkey feast panini: 1/5
Yorkshire pudding wrap: 4/5
Mince pie: 4/5
Overall rating: 3/5
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