Tried & Tested: Fancy a taste of luxury? Make sure you read our essential guide to hampers
A hamper filled with fine food and drink makes a brilliant Christmas present. Not all hampers are made equal, though, so we teamed up with our friends at The Food Marketing Experts to put seven of this year’s to the test
Name of tester: Louise Cummings, Velvet
Hamper: Interhamper Wine and Cheese Classic, £36, at interhamper.co.uk
On the outside: The packaging is delightfully intriguing; presented in a luxury Bordeaux gift box - a suitably festive burgundy red in hue - the delicious contents are a mystery until you crack open the box.
On the inside: The star attraction is a fine bottle of award-winning 2016 Bordeaux from the Les Moutins Chateau, accompanied by two Nibble Nose Cheddar Cheese truckles (one Extra Matured Cheddar and the other Caramelised Homemade Red Onion Chutney Cheddar), Isle of Arran Soft Pear and Red Plum Chutney and Walkers Highland Oatcakes.
The proof of the pudding: This seasonal selection is perfect to enjoy curled up in front of a roaring fire while the wind howls outside. The full-bodied Bordeaux has rich notes of cocoa, making it a perfect partner to the tangy, buttery truckles and sweet chutney, which packs a real punch. We added a bunch of grapes and some crunchy celery sticks to the tasting
Would you buy it? This would be a great gift for couples this Christmas, especially as festive orders come with complimentary minty candy canes! I’d buy it for hubby and I to enjoy over a game of Boxing Day backgammon, once the bambinos are safely tucked up in bed.
Overall score: 4/5
Name of tester: Cat New, The Food Marketing Experts
Hamper: The Country Kitchen Christmas Hamper, £5 plus the cost of your chosen products - this one would retail at around £52. Order in store at The Country Kitchen 21 Church Street, Haslingfield, Cambridge CB23 1JE or by calling (01223) 874284.
On the outside: It’s a nice-sized hamper, with the flexibility to pick your own contents.
On the inside:
Tom’s Cakes shortbread: delicious, rich and very short as always, Tom’s never disappoints.
Asado Sauce: the South American-inspired barbecue sauce that oozes an incredible depth of flavour. The perfect accompaniment to cheeses and leftover meats from Christmas dinner.
Simon’s Marmalade Gin Liqueur: a sweet, thick, delicious liqueur from Norfolk, it would be perfect with a drop of prosecco on Christmas morning.
Fen End Gin & Lemon Marmalade: this marmalade has a great consistency and bags of flavour: just right, not too sweet and not too tart.
Ombar Strawberry Mylk - The Ecuadorian Vegan Organic Chocolate bar: if you haven’t tried these already, prepare for a velvety chocolate explosion. . .
Womersley Strawberry & Mint Vinegar: the uses of this vinegar are incredible and luckily a few recipes are included in the hamper.
Salted Almonds: deliciously moreish and a great pre-dinner nibble.
Stag Seaweed Water Biscuits: the perfect way to end Christmas Day - with Stag biscuits and cheese.
The proof of the pudding: The hamper is certainly crammed with lots of delicious treats, each one will bring a different dimension to your traditional Christmas celebrations. What stands out is they are
predominantly locally sourced, which is a great way of supporting the region’s businesses.
Would you buy it? This hamper would make a great gift for a culinary connoisseur. Because you can select the contents, you can tailor the box to suit different tastes.
Overall score: 4/5
Name of tester: Karen Braithwaite, The Food Marketing Experts
Hamper: Virginia Hayward Christmas to a Tea Hamper, £16.50, at virginiahayward.com Order by 1pm for next-day delivery.
On the outside: A pretty little rustic-looking grey wicker basket which can be used long after the treats within have been enjoyed.
On the inside: English Breakfast Tea, mini iced-top loaf, Christmas jam, mixed berry biscuits, chocolates.
The proof of the pudding: A delicious and fabulously festive hamper filled to the brim with some great teatime essentials.
Would you buy it? This lovely hamper includes a combination of traditional festive elements along with touches of luxury, such as the foil-wrapped chocolates. Perfect as a gift for anyone that loves their afternoon teas!
Overall score: 5/5
Name of tester: Barry Peters, Velvet
Hamper: Bury Lane Christmas Hamper. Pre-made hampers start at around £25; bespoke hampers from around £15. The one on test would be £100. Order in store at Bury Lane Farm Shop, A10 Bypass, Melbourn, Meldreth, Royston SG8 6DF or by calling (01763) 260418.
On the outside: I'm the *original* grinch. I moan when shops have Christmas displays out in late August - but this brought a welcome dash of festive spirit into the Peters household even before the first frost had
bitten my fingers. There's just the right amount of ribbon with those twirly bits I struggle to achieve with the back of a pair of scissors, and the basket is a keeper for well after the last piece of tinsel has been stuffed back into the loft.
On the inside: The real joy of a surprise hamper is not just the initial wow factor. It's like you are getting a series of gifts - and each one is something you'd probably never add to your shopping list and buy from Tesco. Duck pate, scallop soup, speciality chutney and pickle, spices for gin, port, gin and mince pies and biscuits which will be so handy for any household when those uninvited guests rap on the door. Add in jam, chocolates, olives and cocktail onions and you'll understand that this is indeed one hamper to savour. Oh and did I mention fruit cake and a Christmas pudding?
The proof of the pudding: The Toast for Cheese squares with dates and figs were to die for, the port was *oh so special* and the 14cm mature fruit cake was moist and moreish. You'll have to wait until December 25 for my view on the pudding though.
Would you buy it? This is a stunning gift for a parent or special friend to whom you want to say a huge thank-you - with a lovely red bow wrapped around it. It's got class written all over it.
Overall score: 5/5
Name of tester: Vhari Russell, The Food Marketing Experts
Hamper: The Gog Christmas Hamper, £125, at The Gog, Heath Farm, Babraham Road, Stapleford, Cambridge CB22 3AD. Order in store or by calling (01223) 248352.
On the outside: Presented in a lovely wicker hamper, perfect for storing the kids’ toys in later, it was packed with an array of treats.
On the inside: A bottle of both Cambridge Distillery Curator’s Gin and The English Single Malt Whisky, English truffle oil, Bay Tree tomato chutney, black garlic cloves, three-fruit marmalade, salted Marcona almonds and a reusable mug.
The proof of the pudding: Everything was gorgeous. The whisky was a delicious festive treat and the Cambridge Gin and Brindisa nuts were standouts which made a perfect combination on a Friday night! The chutney also didn’t last long. This hamper offered a different product for every meal and encouraged us to try new dishes with the ingredients we had. It was also great to see the reusable mug included, to help reduce your packaging waste for 2020.
Would you buy it? Yes, I would buy it, for my sister and her partner.
Overall score: 4/5
Name of tester: Claire Dolan, The Food Marketing Experts
Hamper: BoroughBox Gourmet Hamper, £49.99, from a selection at boroughbox.com
On the outside: This hamper is presented in simple packaging: a black ribbed card base with a flexible plastic-style lid, with BoroughBox branding clearly printed across the middle. The products inside sit clearly visible within a straw paper nest. The branding and colours confirm a premium product and the recyclable materials used suggest a sustainability focus with care for the environment. However there were no details
attached explaining what could or could not be recycled and the lid may not be.
On the inside: This hamper contains a selection of unique food products that have won the highest accolade possible in food, all of them winning gold stars at the independent Great Taste awards, known as the Oscars of the food industry. There is something in there to make each meal of the day a little more special. No useless boring chutneys here! The products contained are: Mount Mayon Kyoto Matcha Pili Nuts, artisan orange marmalade, Darkwoods Coffee Panama La Huela light roast ground coffee, Flat Brew Caramel Macchiato coffee spread, Danilo Manco Gustoso Organic Apple Vinegar, Islands Chocolate 72% Perseverance Estate, Manilife peanut butter.
The proof of the pudding: Each product in this hamper seems more delicious than the next. The flavours and textures means these are products that you savour and delight over. This is no ordinary hamper: this is a whole collection of the best of what nature and people can do together to create the most flavourful foods. Not only that but each brand has a focus on doing business ethically and sustainably, putting emphasis on the work and dedication of the people behind the ingredients. It is almost impossible to choose stand-out items. From the complex yet fruity flavour of the Panama La Huela, the earthy softness of Perseverance Estate 72% to the lingering sweetness of the Gustosa apple vinegar, a wonderful addition to my salads, there is craftsmanship to respect in every item. There is one item that did take me by surprise though: the pili nuts are like nothing I’ve ever tasted before - they have the softest creamy texture but at the same time with the perfect bite and crunch. The flavour is a perfect balance of savoury and sweet. Quite extraordinary.
Would you buy it? Yes, yes, yes! I would purchase this for friends and family who appreciate good food or who are open to tasting the best of what is available. This hamper is special and showcases the best of the best. It would be quite the surprise under any Christmas tree.
Overall score: 5/5