I catch the District Eastbound to Temple (aye, I know my stuff now- only joking, I went to the wrong tube station beforehand, as there are two in Hammersmith. “The one with the Pret inside” wasn’t a good identifier; they both have Pret inside).
I’m not sure what I’m expecting as the tube sets off. Perhaps a big conference room, with tiny stalls around the edge, like when I went to Leeds Met’s UCAS fair. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Holly and I eventually find each other (who knew Somerset House had so many entrances- it turns out she was stood on the balcony directly above me, but we got there in the end) we go in through a door, sign in, and then, suddenly, it is Christmas…
We are greeted by a long white arched corridor, with fairy lights, christmas music, holly strategically hung from columns, and waiters wielding trays of canapés, tasters, and ice cold drinks. We each pick up some water (could have chosen orange juice or something fancier- they had Proseco, and also a bar), and head into the first room.
Each room coming off of the corridor contains different displays of food, home ware, gifts…it is breath taking. First of all we approach the cakes, where one guy talks us through Sainsury’s christmas/ winter products for anyone with a sweet tooth. It is how I imagine Hogwarts to look at christmas when all of the food magically appears. There are cakes decorated with 24 carat gold, more cupcakes and muffins and biscuits and choux pastry than I have ever seen in my life, an area set up as tribute to some god of chocolate- and lots and lots of tasters. A little way down three chocolateers are creating truffles by hand, topping them with popping candy to emulate the fizz of the champagne they contain. The stand following the cakes and chocolate contains mountains of buttery shortbread, and we’re talked through the design and packaging for this year’s festive season.
The next room at Sainsury’s is filled with the deli products, meat, fish, and cheese. I am blown away by some of the fish tasters- in particular some Maple and BBQ Prawns, whole langoustines, and calamari. It is amazing to be able to eat squid without someone trying to seal it in a tomb of batter.
The room fills with the scent of cheese as we move further in, and suddenly the most unusually flavoured cheeses are on display. The picture shows only a sixth of the cheese counter. I almost wish I liked cheese, as unusual flavours are one of my favourite things- but Holly does like cheese, and the woman on the counter can barely cut the stuff fast enough in her excitement to showcase these new creations. Look out for them around christmas guys, because even I might have to try some. Just for the novelty factor. One has Irish cream and fudge inside, another is named ‘Tipsy Mince Pie’, and another has sweet chilli and pepper in there.
One thing I will be trying is their new vegetables. There’s a new strain of carrots they’re introducing, and new varieties of kale. They’ve upped their veggie game considerably. Several side dishes will be moving into my kitchen this December.
The home ware section is bursting with luxury christmas crockery, utensils, stew pots, and also adorable reindeer cookie cutters, something I knew was coming up as a big trend thanks to some research I was given yesterday.
Next up is Not On The High Street (http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/)- and this was one of my two favourites. I was only meant to go to the Sainsbury’s show, but Holly lets me tag along to the ones later in the day, and I get a whistle stop tour of London as we walk from Embankment to Russell Square, to Soho, to Bloomsbury, to Baker Street… I cannot believe my luck.
Not On The High Street has a fire place decorated with advent tea bags. I desperately hope my mother reads this, because that is what I need in my life this Christmas.
There is table which looks as though the Mad Hatter relocated to Narnia, with stools crafted from birch trees, and sparkling fake snow scattered around.
There are whoopee pies the size of my palm, chocolates disguised as biscuits, cocktails in jam jars, chocolates masquerading as brussels sprouts…There is a knitted reindeer head protruding from the wall.
It is 30*C outside, and in here it is most definitely Christmas. It is confusing to say the least. Not On The High Street has the most beautiful christmas gifts I’ve ever seen. It’s so different seeing the products in the flesh instead of online. My own favourites include a necklace that opens up to show the night sky, a cushion with a star constellation pattern. A company that use a laser machine cut Holly and I each a polar bear christmas tree ornament with names of our choice on. Holly gets one with “Dave” for her boyfriend, and I get one with “Matty” for my brother.
Next stop is the Bord Bia, where companies from the Irish food board showcase products. Here there is more cheese, more delicious crackers- the brown bread ones from Sheridan’s (http://www.sheridanscheesemongers.com/ ) are amazing- and almost every product has a story behind it. One company is called The Be Sweet Company (http://thebesweetcompany.com/), and the two sisters who run it are wonderful. One is a pilot, and their product is well established in europe and the west, but now making its way home. Chocolate hasn’t ever known true luxury before these two. The packaging is amazing, and the flavour combinations are inventive and mouthwatering.
Flahaven’s (http://www.flahavans.co.uk/) win me over with amazing homemade cookies that contain healthier ingredients, I fall in love with SynerChi’s (http://synerchikombucha.com/) Ginger and Lemongrass kombucha above all other flavours – my mouth is attached to that bottle until every drop is gone. This was one of my favourite finds. It’s 56kcal per bottle, and as it is fermented is great for gut health. It tastes amazing too. I get to hear the story behind Glendalough’s (http://glendaloughdistillery.com/) gin and whisky, and the escapades of St Kevin and the blackbird, but can’t face whisky that time of the morning. Not even for research purposes.
Our penultimate stop is Etsy‘s (https://www.etsy.com/) Christmas show room. Here I find a woman perched on a stool sewing fabulous glittery bows. I don’t wear bows, I am not a bow person- they make me look even younger, or else like an overgrown poodle. But I would possibly make an exception for these- I may buy one just for display purposes. The girl is sewing the sequins on individually, one by one. These are like miniature works of art.
There are amazing plush cushions from NikkiMcWilliams (http://nikkimcwilliams.com/) in the shape of retro biscuits like custard creams, nice, malted milk, and digestives. I am now the proud owner of this gorgeous digestive cushion, which will be taking pride of place on my bed. If I haven’t mentioned already, each show gave us a goody bag each, plus that each stall holder gave us free samples. I had five full bags by the end of the day, one of which was completely food. Unfortunately due to no air con most of the chocolate is rapidly melting.
And so this is where my fabulous cushion came from. I think that my favourite Etsy stall though was Oh No Rachio (http://store.ohnorachio.com/). Here there was a cushion shaped like a moon that I fell for, and then a print reading “Just be kind and brave. That’s all you need to be.” It was on a nightsky background, in a photo frame, and it was a motivational quote. I fell head over heels for this last item, it was truly beautiful. The moon pillow below has also sparked some interest over on Facebook with my friends too. The spring patterned notebooks with more motivational words emblazoned on the front caught my eye- I’m thinking they may be good for some lecture notes and creative writing seminars next year… Rachio herself was also lovely when I stopped to have a chat, and look at all of the Christmas gifts she had to offer.
House of Fraser and now we are in Baker Street, and absolutely knackered. This is probably the emptiest show room, very minimal. We have to walk through an archway off the road, lit with flickering white candles dripping wax, into a small courtyard where two people tend to miniature plants. The best thing here is the infused sparkling water (mint and cucumber), and the food. And being able to sit down.
After being handed another bag we head the (thankfully short) distance to the underground and I catch the tube back to Hammersmith. Once back in the Premier Inn I collapse onto my bed with my new cushion and don’t move- for a very long time.
So that was my penultimate day guys, and that means just one more post on my London adventures…
(I’ve tried to include links to the websites that produce any products I have pictures of, however I haven’t been able to find them all. As I find the manufacturers, I will add their links in the relevant places guys! If you are a manufacturer of a product photographed, please comments below and I shall add a link in)