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    PRET Christmas Lunch Sandwich (Winner 2019)

    Christmas sandwiches: the best (and worst) revealed

    22 November 2019

    ‘Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the house, Christmas sandwiches were eaten, by Olivia and her spouse. For the last two weeks, we’ve been rigorously testing and rating the best and worst of this year’s high street festive sandwiches, so that you know what to seek out and what to avoid. In this list, we’re just reviewing the meaty sandwiches – this year, we’ve got a separate list for vegan sandwiches, which you can find here.

    Eat’s Festive Full Works Bloomer, £3.99

    What they say

    Turkey, pork, sage & onion stuffing, smoked ham, mayonnaise, cranberry sauce & spinach on multiseed bloomer.

    What we say

    First impressions: this is a pleasingly chunky sandwich, generously filled and, biting into it, it has good structural integrity – it doesn’t fall to pieces as you’re eating it. The bread itself is good quality, and there’s a good amount of well-flavoured and seasoned turkey. There’s perhaps a little too much cranberry, but my major issue is with the leaf choice. Why has spinach become the veg of choice in a Christmas sandwich? Is it just for the vibrant colour? I don’t think I’ve ever seen spinach on a festive table, and far from adding to these sandwiches, it just seems to sit in a big, dry clump, bringing neither flavour nor texture. Please next year, can we just do away with the baby spinach?

    7/10

     

    RUNNER UP: Eat Smoked Salmon, Beetroot & Horseradish on Dark Rye, £4.50

    Eat Smoked Salmon, Beetroot & Horseradish on Dark Rye (Credit: EAT)

    Eat Smoked Salmon, Beetroot & Horseradish on Dark Rye (Credit: EAT)

    What they say

    Scottish Smoked Salmon, Hot Smoked Salmon & Horseradish Pate, Beetroot Relish and spinach on a Dark Rye bloomer. A decadent Christmas sandwich choice.

    What we say

    Smoked salmon sandwiches feel like a little bit of a cheat when it comes to Christmas sandwiches, given that they’re usually available in some format all year round, unlike their turkey shelf-mates. But this is really well thought out: the rye bread is lovely, and a good pairing for the filling and, in place of the more usual cream cheese, there’s a decently spiced creamed horseradish (it could be hotter for me, but I think that’s a matter of taste), and the sweet, earthy beetroot is a good counterpoint. Perhaps the salmon itself could be a bit more generous in quantity, but this is a top choice if you’ve already got turkey fatigue.

    8/10

    JOINT RUNNER UP: Paul’s Festive Pig Sandwich, £4.65

    Paul's Festive Pig Sandwich, £4.65

    Now this is a really good sandwich: the bacon and onion baguette is excellent (even better than the Dinde de Noel bread), the sprouts have great flavour and bite, and the sausages are particularly good – and points are awarded for being the only pigs in blanket sandwich I’ve seen where the pigs are actually in their flipping blankets (many places are trying to get away with ‘pigs under blankets’. I see through your shortcut, supermarkets, that’s just a bacon and sausage sandwich). The only downside is that the red onion combined with the plum and balsamic chutney is a bit much: a little slimy, and too treacly and sweet. But that’s a minor complaint in what is otherwise a cracking choice.

    8.5/10

    Tesco’s Turkey & Stuffing Yorkshire Pudding Wrap, £2.75

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches of 2019, Credit: Tesco

    What we say

    There are a few yorkshire pudding wraps doing the round this year: this one you’ll find in the Tesco’s hot food-to-go counter. The pudding itself is crisp and greasy, as if it’s been fried: it surrounds stuffing, turkey and cranberry sauce. Emphasis on the stuffing. My God, there’s a lot of stuffing; one of our testers comments ‘It’s like a Yorkshire pudding wrapped around bread’, and I don’t think she meant it as a compliment. It’s really dry, really hard to eat. Our tester concluded ‘It’s not bad… it’s not good,’ and, honestly she’s being generous.

    3/10

    Tesco Gammon & Piccalilli, £2.20

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019, Gammon & Piccalilly (Tesco)

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019, Gammon & Piccalilly (Tesco)

    What we say

    I was excited for this sandwich: I love gammon, and there are a lot of sandwiches that could be improved by the judicious use of pickle. I don’t have anything against white bread, but this stuff is pappy, the sort of stuff you could squeeze up into a clammy ball. One of my testers loves piccalilli with a concerning fervour, and after her first bite just gazed sadly at this sandwich. The so-called gammon is miserable, mechanical meat, smooth and plasticky, and the picalilli lacks crunch, acid and heat. Great expectations, dashed.

    2/10

    Tesco Finest Turkey Feast, £3.00

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019, Tesco Finest turkey feast (Tesco)

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019, Tesco Finest turkey feast (Tesco)

    What we say

    This is quite a nice sandwich, but it should be noted that we ate it after Tesco’s two other offerings, so were delighted just to have a sandwich that delivered on its name. It certainly looks and tastes fancier than the other Tesco offerings we tried, but then it should do as its in Tesco’s Finest range: the malted bread is dotted with (nicely) chewy cranberries, and it’s moist and well-seasoned, with good turkey, – it’s not overwhelmed by stuffing, which is a welcome relief. This is a classic Christmas sandwich, which won’t disappoint (but won’t set the world on fire).

    6/10

     

    Leon’s Christmas Wrap, £5.65

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019 (Leon festive wrap)

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019 (Leon festive wrap)

    What they say

    A right cracker. British turkey, ham hock, and pork, sage & onion stuffing balls, all wrapped up with spinach, tarragon mayo and a cranberry & clementine sauce.

    What we say

    Let’s be honest, tarragon mayo is a weird choice. Sure, tarragon and poultry go together, but it’s a pretty dominant flavour, and not one that we tend to put on our Christmas dinner table. So why here? I don’t know. It doesn’t work The rest of the filling is nice (although the wrap itself is not good: cardboardy and unseasoned): the pork stuffing balls are great, and the turkey is really juicy, but we spent most of the time eating it looking at each other and saying ‘…tarragon?!’

    5/10

    Paul’s Dinde de Noel, £4.65

    Paul's Dinde de Noel, £4.65

    Paul’s Dinde de Noel, £4.65

    Ok, perhaps I was hasty when I said that baguettes weren’t a good vehicle for Christmas sandwiches. Paul’s sage and onion baguette is pretty good, and doesn’t – as others have, even when they’re not – taste stale, although the cranberries studding it are too big, and dominate a bit.. The way this sandwich is compiled means that the fillings splurge out a little (and there’s more of that dreaded spinach), but the turkey is generous, moist and full of flavour, and the horseradish cream cheese is subtle but welcome.

    8/10

     

    Costa’s British Turkey & the Trimmings Toastie, £3.95

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019: Costa

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches 2019: Costa

    What we say

    Is this a good toastie, or did I just enjoy it because toasties are intrinsically satisfying? I’m still not sure to be honest, but I really did enjoy it: it’s moist and well filled, the croque-monsieur style cheese on top has a nice flavour, the choice of bread is a good choice for a toastie, and a pleasant change from the myriad of malted-bread sandwiches we’d tried – and it doesn’t feature a big clump of raw spinach, which is in its favour. The turkey itself is a but underseasoned, but this is compensated by the salty cheese. And you can’t get away from it: a hot, cheesy sandwich at this time of year is always welcome.

    7/10

    Costa’s British Turkey Feast Sandwich, £3.60

    What they say

    British Turkey with Beechwood smoked bacon, pork sausage, sage & onion stuffing & cranberry sauce on malted bread.

    What we say

    There’s just too much stuffing here. Way too much stuffing. You can’t get around it, conceptually or literally: it sticks to the roof of your mouth, and everything else fades into the background. There’s also no greenery at all, which to my surprise has me suddenly longing for besmirched spinach. This is an uninspiring sandwich.

    3/10

    Waitrose’s Coronation Turkey Wrap with spinach & coriander, £3.30

    The best and worst Christmas sandwiches: Waitrose’s Coronation Turkey Wrap with spinach & coriander

    What they say

    Pulled British turkey in a lightly spiced coronation mayonnaise, with sweet cranberries, crisp cucumber and a honey, whiskey and apricot chutney with fragrant coriander and spinach in a bar-marked tortilla wrap.

    What we say

    This was probably the most divisive of our sandwiches. One of our testers (ok, it was me) couldn’t finish it, but another thought it was great and, despite Christmas sandwich saturation, happily took my half and polished the whole thing off.

    This tastes like very old-fashioned coronation chicken to me: sweet, raising-filled and very saucy, with one dimensional, almost grainy curry powder flavouring. It’s what I try to convince people coronation chicken doesn’t have to be. But obviously, to some, that traditional taste is its very appeal – I’m reliably told it’s a good rendition of a classic.

    7/10

     

    Waitrose’s Pigs under Blankets with cranberry chutney, £3

    What they say

    A favourite festive trimming sandwich made with succulent pork sausages under beechwood smoked bacon blankets, paired with a tangy and sweet cranberry chutney and mayonnaise, on malted bread

    What we say

    The taste and texture of the meat is clearly significantly higher quality than many of the other Christmas sandwiches using sausages and bacon, and the execution is good. It suffers from the same problem that other pigs in blankets sausages do: it feels a bit more like a breakfast sandwich than a Christmas sandwich. But hey: bread? Good! Meat? Good! Condiments? Good!

    8/10

     

    Starbucks’ Festive Feast Panini, £4.25

    What they say:

    Pulled turkey, hickory smoked bacon & Emmental cheese with a cranberry chutney on a rustic panini

    What we say

    Listen, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast: a ciabatta or panini is not the right vehicle for a Christmas sandwich: it’s too crusty and crunchy for something that is inevitably going to be filled with soft meat or stuffing. That said, this isn’t a good example of the (niche) Christmas sandwich panini genre: the bread is really not great, and feels stale even though it isn’t, and the fillings are bland with the exception of the hickory smoke on the bacon, which gives it a peculiar barbecue flavour – it’s not unpleasant, but feels a little out of place. The whole experience is kind of generically savoury: it’s not festive, and it’s not delicious, and I need at least one of those to carry a Christmas sandwich into the repeat-purchase territory.

    4/10

     

    Starbucks’ Tis the season Turkey Sandwich, £3.59

    What they say

    Pulled turkey with chestnut, sage & onion stuffing with cranberry sauce on a malted bread

    What we say

    This is aserviceable sandwich. The bread’s nice, and the cranberry isn’t too sweet, but on the other hand, we think it could probably do with a bit more meat, we don’t realise there are chestnuts until we check the packaging, and my old nemesis – big, dry lump of spinach – rears its head again. And I’m not sure turkey is ever improved by being ‘pulled’. It’s a perfectly nice ‘default’ Christmas sandwich: it doesn’t make any major mistakes – but it doesn’t really make an impression either. If you’re in a Christmas sandwich pinch (it happens to the best of us), this won’t disappoint.

    6/10

     

    WINNER: Pret’s Christmas Lunch 2019, from £3.95

    PRET Christmas Lunch Sandwich (Winner 2019)

    What they say

    Thick slices of free-range turkey paired with port & orange cranberry sauce, herby pork stuffing and baby spinach leaves. Finished with a dab of free-range mayo and crispy onions.

    What we say

    I have an epiphany while eating this year’s Pret Christmas lunch sandwich this year and suddenly realise where a lot of Christmas sandwiches are going wrong: bacon is a misstep. Sure, bacon’s great, but in a mixed-meats sandwich, it’s overpowering, it’s dry, and it doesn’t meld with the other components. But sandwiches which completely eschew pork products are missing something. Pret’s pork stuffing solves this dilemma: it brings great flavour, great moisture, and doesn’t fall into the claggy trap that is a big wodge of sage and onion stuffing. The turkey is lovely (and free-range, unlike most other high street offerings) and well-seasoned, the cranberry sauce not too sweet, and the bread is great. My only real criticism is the spinach: get rid of it.

    9/10

     

    Lidl’s Christmas Turkey Feast Sandwich, £1.69

    What we say

    For its price point, this is a good sandwich. That’s not to damn it with faint praise: it’s a pretty decent turkey sandwich in its own right – it’s generously filled, with (I believe) the highest meat content on the high street this year, and its stuffing contains pork, rather than simply sage and onion, which brings flavour, moisture and richness. But for £1.69 it’s particularly impressive.

    7/10

    Lidl’s Ham Hock with Farmhouse Cheddar & Plum and Apple Chutney, £1.69

    What we say

    This is the cheapest sandwich we reviewed this year, but even with the gulf between this and the most expensive Christmas sandwiches, this is one to miss. I love a good ham and cheese sandwich, but the ham hock is miserable and dry, the cheddar almost flavourless, and the plum and apple chutney seriously over-compensating for the other elements’ lack of flavour and moisture, it’s cloying, and too sweet. Next, please.

    3/10

    Greggs’ Christmas Lunch Sandwich, from £2.75

    What they say

    Enjoy a classic Christmas sandwich complete with delicious sliced turkey breast with pork, sage & onion stuffing, sweetcure bacon, fresh salad leaves with a cranberry and port sauce and mayonnaise on malted brown bread.

    What we say

    This is a bit of a lacklustre Christmas sandwich. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, and one of our testers was enthusiastic about its well-flavoured bacon (but acknowledges that this did overwhelm the other elements), but it feels a bit mean and sad. The greenery in this sandwich is lettuce rather than the more ubiquitous spinach, which we were glad of, and it has a lower price point that more other brands, but it is a bit floppy, and underfilled.

    5/10

     

    Greggs’ Pigs Under Blanket Baguette, from £3.00

    What they say

    Made up of some of our favourite ingredients, this quirky take on a classic is a baguette filled with succulent pork sausages, sweetcure bacon, pork, sage and onion stuffing with a cranberry and port sauce.

    What we say

    This was a bit of a confusing sandwich: one tester said that the sausages ‘tasted cheap’ but in quite an enjoyable way, that it was ‘better than it should be’. The meat, cranberry and stuffing is well-seasoned and quite well-balanced, but it’s let down by the baguette which isn’t great, and probably isn’t a great format for christmas sandwiches generally. Nothing to write home about.

    5/10

     

    HONOURABLE MENTION: Greggs’ Festive bake, £1.50

    What they say

    As tasty as ever it combines succulent pieces of chicken breast, sage & onion stuffing and sweetcure bacon in a creamy sage and cranberry sauce. All encased in golden puff pastry with a crunchy crumb topping. YUM!

    What we say

    Ok, this is a cheat, we know. But it’s such a firm favourite of customers that we couldn’t resist – and we weren’t disappointed. This knocks a bunch of legitimate Christmas sandwiches out of the park. When I look back at my notes it says in block capitals: ‘JUST SO GOOD’. It tastes like all the gooey, gravy bits you want in Christmas leftovers encased in crisp pastry, and the ‘crunchy crumb’ is great – the whole thing is deeply satisfying.

    9/10 (one mark knocked off for it not actually being a sandwich)

     

    Marks and Spencer’s Yule Hog Roll, £3.90

    What they say

    ‘A brioche sub roll filled with British pulled pork, onion mayo, apple sauce, pork, sage & onion stuffing, rocket and crispy onions.’

    What we say

    This was a sandwich of two halves when we tested it: the apple sauce was almost completely absent in the first half of the sandwich, but in the second half, comes to the fore, and really lifts the rest of the sandwich. The dominant flavour is the sage and onion stuffing but of course this pairs well with the pork – we couldn’t really detect the crispy onion. The bread is surprisingly great: rich, but not too sweet, and soft with a nice taut crust, and makes this an enjoyable, if not outstanding product.

    8/10

    Marks and Spencer’s Turkey Feast, £3.90

    What they say

    Roast British turkey breast with pork, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry chutney, and onion and turkey stock mayonnaise and smoked British bacon on brown bread

    What we say

    Ok, this sandwich breaks all our rules: first of all, there’s no greenery at all, but we don’t think the sandwich is poorer for it. And I know we said that bacon doesn’t belong in Christmas sandwiches, but this is the exception that proves the rule. Turkey, bacon, and pork stuffing all sit happily alongside one another in this sandwich, although one of our testers complains that the turkey is bland. I’m not sure we could have identified that the mayo was ‘onion and turkey stock’ but it is noticeably nicer than a lot of the other turkey sandwiches, and deeply savoury. It’s generously filled, with quality meat, on good, chewy, flavoured bread.

    8/10