London's Best And Worst Christmas Sandwiches 2015

Helen Graves
By Helen Graves Last edited 27 months ago
London's Best And Worst Christmas Sandwiches 2015

The Christmas sandwich has become such an event nowadays that most high street sandwich shops and supermarkets sell them — with Pret going so far as to introduce a countdown to the release of their version (it went on sale at noon on 10 November). The classic Christmas sandwich generally contains a combination of turkey, bacon, stuffing, mayo, cranberry sauce or chutney and some sort of leafage, and so it’s this we’ve concentrated on (in the main) for this taste test. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes making festive fillings too of course, but for the purposes of this sandwich-off we’ve stuck to the high street.

Caffe Nero

It's nearly a zero for Caffe Nero

Unable to find a classic sandwich, we ended up with the Caffe Nero 'festive collection', a half and half combo of the turkey, cranberry sauce and pork stuffing filling, and the Brie, cranberry and rocket, both on sage and onion bread. Unfortunately, neither are very good. The turkey sandwich has an unnerving pasty texture, clinging to the roof of the mouth with the tenacity of peanut butter. The stuffing is an achievement in that it manages to be both bland and overwhelming at the same time, and there is only word that comes to mind when conjuring memories of the turkey and that word is, we're sorry to say, farty.

The Brie and cranberry emerges from the box under a dark cloud of shame, for it is soggy. Surely, this is the worst of all sandwich crimes, and there isn't even any tomato involved. Upon closer inspection the culprit was revealed to be slimy salad leaves. This is where Brie goes to die.

Price: £3.15 (take away).

Charity Donation: Nope.

Londonist Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Sainsbury's

Not a bad effort from Sainsbury's, but not good enough

The 2015 contribution from Sainsbury's is an arrangement of turkey, chestnut and thyme stuffing, maple cured bacon, mayo, and cranberry and apple chutney, on the ever popular Christmas sandwich bread of choice — malted. There's a generous fill to this one, and the appearance is that of a better quality sandwich than some of its competitors. We like the way the stuffing is spread out over one slice of bread, rather than loitering in crumbly balls ready to dive bomb your keyboard and disappear between the keys, and it does have a nice thyme flavour. The chutney is completely lost though, which is a novelty, since it's usually the main problem in a Christmas sandwich, being as it is, very sweet. The sandwich as a whole isn't particularly offensive, but there's nothing to charm us either, and the general consensus is a feeling of meh, with a large side of apathy.

Price: £2.60

Charity Donation: Nada.

Londonist Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Starbucks

We give zero f**ks for Starbucks

The first thing to notice about the Starbucks 'Christmas club' is that they've tried hard with the description. It contains, then, "succulent turkey, smoked dry-cured ham and mature cheddar, complimented with real ale chutney, stuffing mayonnaise (their missed comma) and salad leaves on soft, malted brown bread." But is it all sell over substance? Of course it is. A peek inside reveals a sorry slice of shiny processed ham, and some yellowing leaves which have seen better days/weeks. This is a sandwich in poor health. It's very dry, too, with the meanest slick of mayo and chutney — more of a skidmark than a compliment.

Price: £2.99 (take away).

Charity Donation: Don't be silly.

Londonist Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

M&S

The selection box from M&S

Another miniature selection pack here, containing a 'turkey feast' (on malted bread, naturally), Brie and grape, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and beef and horseradish. The turkey feast has a deep fill, and the meat has one immediately distinguishing characteristic, which is that you can actually taste it amongst everything else, and the flavour is genuinely pleasant. Hurrah! The stuffing isn't bad either and the bread is soft and fresh rather than pappy. Bravo.

The pack is let down however by the Brie and grape flavour. The sandwich oozes purple liquid, which is possibly jam, and looks like something that American children eat in sitcoms. We're really not sure about the sliced grapes here either; cheese and grapes is a combination that obviously works, but sliced into slippery rounds and grafted onto the cheese in this way... there's just something unsettling about them. Something faintly biological. The smoked salmon and beef sandwiches are fine but we're discounting them since they're available all year round anyway. Stick to the turkey feast.

Price: £3.90

Charity Donation: 5% of sales from the Shelter festive range will go to Shelter.

Londonist Rating: (for the turkey feast) ★★★☆☆

Tesco

Ho ho ho, from Tesco

The turkey and trimmings sandwich contains turkey (duh), pork sausage, diced bacon, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce and mayo on — wait for it — malted bread. First impressions of this one aren't good, and our appetite is further stunted by the sight of sad grey pucks of sausage lurking inside, swollen and flabby, like dog treats that fell into the water bowl. Somehow, the predominant taste here is the bread (malty) and the whole thing is reminiscent of a brown food buffet. Our cat sniffed once and walked away.

Price: £2.20

Charity Donation: Zilch.

Londonist Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Boots

The Boots Christmas sandwich: dominated by weirdy bacon

The Boots turkey offering is at least an improvement on last year, when it came very close to bottom in our memory, compared to competitors. Someone still hasn't got the memo about replacing the bacon infused with 'smoke flavour' with actual smoked bacon though, which is a shame, because it's all we can taste. That said, the fillings all seem fresh including, importantly, the spinach, which is really quite perky. Do we want to buy our sandwiches from the same place we buy floss and Preparation H? Not really, but if we had to, then this is just about passable. Now could someone make sure that bacon memo gets through to product development?

Price: £2.75

Charity Donation: Sod all.

Londonist Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Waitrose

The Waitrose 2015 effort.

The Waitrose sandwich contains turkey, pork and chestnut stuffing, bacon, cranberry, port and orange chutney, spinach and mayo on — brace yourselves — malted bread! This is definitely among the freshest of the sandwiches we tasted, and we can detect the flavour of each filling. Also, despite this sandwich being essentially all about protein and chutney, we really appreciated the generous amount of spinach, important for texture and contrast (not to mention cheering colour) in a sandwich that tends to smoosh together into a meaty wedge. Overall, there's an impressive 'traditional roast' flavour, too.

We come plummeting back to reality when seduced at the last minute by the intriguing 'three bird roast wrap'. The box is (rather cleverly, we think), shaped like a cracker, but what emerges from within is flaccid and pale, like a bloated sea worm. The tortilla has the exact texture of uncooked pastry and we find it hard to detect the flavour of one bird, let alone three. It's based of course on the Turducken, which is a chicken stuffed into a duck, stuffed into a turkey, a seemingly rather ostentatious way to enjoy three birds less than you would if you cooked them individually. We'll ignore this one and rate the turkey effort instead.

Price: £2.40

Charity Donation: Zip.

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Eat

Shame on you, Eat.

Good god. One bite of Eat's Christmas sandwich, and you get a pretty good impression of what Christmas during the Second World War might have tasted like. Everything in this lacklustre sandwich feels rationed, from the tasteless strips of turkey, to the textureless cranberry jam, spread so thinly (on malted! bread) that whoever was on the end of the knife must have previously had a job at Marmite. As for stuffing, or sausage, or any other kind of meaty goodness, you can forget it, mate. The only ingredient that is in abundant supply here is lettuce. Because that's what everyone wants for Christmas, isn't it. Despite the reasonably hefty price tag, we didn't spot a charity donation either. Frankly, paying for one of the these IS charity (except the proceeds in this case are going to Eat). As Santa (or Amy Winehouse) might say: no, no, no.

Price: £3.29 (take away)

Charity Donation: Nowt, as far as we can tell.

Londonist Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Pret a Manger

The George Bailey of Christmas sandwiches: we have a winner

If Eat's sandwich is the edible equivalent of the bit in It's A Wonderful Life when George Bailey trashes the living room, makes his kids and wife cry, then goes to launch himself off the local bridge, Pret's is the bit where he realises he's really had a wonderful life, skids through Bedford Falls screaming "Yay!" and then makes back the thousands of dollars he's recently lost in small change donations. This is a real Christmas dinner in bread; thick wodges of turkey breast, herby stuffing, lashings of mayo and — an ingenious touch — crispy shards of onion (yes, it's on malted bread). Every mouthful of this thing makes you realise It's a Wonderful Sandwich, and the fact it's made on-premises is no coincidence. In true George Bailey style, it's a charitable affair too; 50p from every one goes to good causes. Attaboy, Pret.  

Price: £3.60 (take away)

Charity Donation: 50p. You can even choose between charities (displayed on the sticker).

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

Last Updated 16 November 2015

Chi The Cynic

The EAT one *is* terrible, but in their defence they have also got an excellent granary baguette Christmas sandwich which is immeasurably better.

Semido

You forgot POD - their offering is excellent, and includes a charity donation.

hostile_17

The banality tastes worse than it all. Because a baby was apparently born 2015 years ago... you must eat turkey. And you must eat cranberry. And you must eat mince pies. So sure if you're going to be that predictable you might as well eat chainstore shite...

Dagmara

You should definitely try POD's one :)) love it!

Laurence Scales

A splendid read. The Starbucks paragraph reminds me that the great Robert Robinson once observed after eyeing all those gushing adjectives (something like) 'In the States you are expected to eat the menu, not the food.'

hostile_17

This is not a must read article by any stretch of any imagination.

Steve R

Glad you've reviewed them, because I wouldn't eat any of them. Don't get me wrong - I love a good Christmas sandwich, but I absolutely loathe malted bread and that seems to be the choice of bread for all these shops unfortunately.

Grammar Police

Complemented.

steve

WTF is London about these options? 90% of these monsters are available nationwide (unfortunately)