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Tried & Tested: Summer's best pre-packed hampers

To celebrate picnic season, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Brampton’s The Food Marketing Experts to put six posh pre-order hampers through their paces

Velvet editor Alice Ryan samples The Artisan Smokehouse signature picnic hamper, £64, at artisansmokehouse.co.uk

The Artisan Smokehouse signature picnic hamper, £64 (57203216)
The Artisan Smokehouse signature picnic hamper, £64 (57203216)

First impressions? Housed in an elegant black box, tied with a shiny satin ribbon and lined with shredded paper, this hamper contains everything you need for a plush picnic: cheeses, salami, terrine, olives, crackers, chutney, crisps, nuts, biscuits and even a bottle of fruit juice. All the products are artisan-made and billed as best in class.

Tasty? Let’s be honest: whenever you buy/receive a pre-filled hamper, there’s usually that one item - a pickle in a particularly off-piste flavour, say - which gets left and ends up lurking in the back of the larder till long after its best-by date. Not so with The Artisan Smokehouse selection, which is so expertly compiled, you’ll scarf the lot in a single picnic for four. Standouts include the truckle of Snowdonia Black Bomber mature Cheddar (sharp, tangy, moreish), the smoked Finocchiona salami (sweet, smokey, moreish) and the maple smoked olives (rich, juicy, moreish). Smoked goods are, as the company’s name suggests, a running theme.

Best for? With the option to add a paired Sauvignon and/or craft ale at checkout, it’s perfect for a race-day picnic.

Velvet’s Louise Cummings trials the Ely Hampers luxury afternoon tea hamper for two, £35, at elyhampers.co.uk

First impressions? Delivered in a charming wicker basket, wrapped in green ribbon, was a sumptuous feast of delicate finger sandwiches, sausage roll, Scotch egg, pork pie, dinky mozzarella, tomato and basil skewers, crisps, and cheese (brie, blue and cheddar), plus crackers, chutney and grapes. Sweet treats included rich chocolate brownie, a pink macaron, fudge cubes, Victoria sponge and icing-sugar-dusted scones with clotted cream, strawberry preserve and juicy berries.

Tasty? Gosh, yes! Our favourite was the Cambridge Artisan Cheese vintage cheddar, drizzled in hot gooseberry chutney and served on twice baked thyme and toasted seed crackers. Delicious.

Best for? Enjoying on a river punt, washed down with Saffron Grange fizz!

Velvet’s Riadh Falvo samples the Not-Another-Bill Build Your Own Hamper, approx. £53, at notanotherbill.com

First impressions? The hamper itself is woven with quality rattan, lined with a Vichy red check cotton cloth, is well dressed with ribbon, and delivered ‘with love’. I LOVED it instantly and despite first appearances and assumptions of it being much too small for a picnic for two, it was more than enough with Perelló olives, Brindisa smoked Catalan almonds, olive oil and sea salt crackers, farmhouse Cheddar from The Fine Cheese Co, Tiptree chutney, a wonderful organic rosé made by Defy Wine from Abruzzo, and, perhaps my favourite, Not-Another-Bill’s own-brand Negroni. We finished with a bar of Tony’s Chocolonely milk chocolate, though if I’m being entirely honest, I may have opened that first. . .

Tasty? While customers can build their own hamper in the Picnic in the Park section of the website, my hamper was put together for me which I prefer. Unlike many of my counterparts, I love surprises, and enjoyed this particular surprise very much!

Best for? This hamper would be great to take along on a walk through Grantchester Meadows to sit under the willows, or on the back of the bike to Byron's Pool. My personal favourite though: throw in a tea light with lantern and make it a midnight picnic! Am I the only one that does that? You’re welcome.

Karen Braithwaite of The Food Marketing Experts tests the custom Gourmet Devon Food Hamper, £44 (prices start at £20), at devonheaven.co.uk

Gourmet Devon Food Hamper, £44 (57203311)
Gourmet Devon Food Hamper, £44 (57203311)

First impressions? A beautifully presented, traditional wicker hamper containing gourmet products, all sourced locally in Devon. There are lots of different variations to choose from on the website, to suit all tastes and budgets, but our custom hamper contained: Georgie Porgie’s Puddings West Country Cider & Apple Pudding (winner of a Taste of the West Silver Award in 2014), Burts Crisps, Otter Vale Onion & Pineapple Devon Chutney, Teonis Fudge Oat Crunch Cookies, Devon Heaven Luxury Chocolate Truffles, Popti Seaweed Thins, clotted cream fudge and a Mrs Gill’s Country Cakes chocolate brownie.

Tasty? Everything in the hamper was yummy but the Devon Chutney really stood out for me and was one of the nicest chutneys I have ever tasted. The pineapple added a delicious sweetness to a traditional onion chutney and paired perfectly with the seaweed thins and some cheese. The Teonis cookies were delightfully crunchy and crumbly too – a really wonderful taste sensation!

Best for? As you can include a personalised gift card message, this would make a perfect present for a foodie, especially as you can custom-choose your favourite artisan products.

Vhari Russell, founder of The Food Marketing Experts, tests the Hampers.com premium food and wine hamper, £105, at hampers.com

First impressions? All nestled in a wonderfully nostalgic wicker hamper, it contained the following: a bottle of white and bottle of red wine, jams, chutney, cheese, biscuits, chocolates, cake, crackers, nuts. . . In short: it was absolutely packed with an array of delicious treats.

Tasty? The fruit cake was delicious and took me right back to being a child and enjoying my granny’s baking. The wine selections were both delicious. The crackers, chutney, and cheese were perfect for a sunny afternoon.

Best for? This is a perfect gift for a foodie, as there is so much choice and variety.

Claire Dolan of The Food Marketing Experts trials the Fitzbillies Cambridge Hamper Box, £78, fitzbillies.com

Fitzbillies Cambridge Hamper Box, £78 (57203280)
Fitzbillies Cambridge Hamper Box, £78 (57203280)

First impressions? The most wonderful and wow-factor hamper to have delivered to friends and family. Securely packaged in a branded box, when opened it reveals a generous selection of the best of Fitzbillies’ bakes and treats: a fruit and nut-topped cake, four Chelsea buns, six macarons, English Breakfast tea, butter shortbread, chocolate chip shortbread, salted caramel fudge, milk chocolate honeycomb, raspberry conserve, Cambridge marmalade.

Tasty? There is something for everyone, and to suit all palettes. The macarons are sweet, but the shortbread is deliciously buttery. The fruitcake is moreish for those who love fruitcake and the chocolate honeycomb is perfect for a treat.

Best for? The presentation and packaging is premium and it feels like a very special treat to open. This is a hamper that showcases what Fitzbillies is famous for and would make a great gift for those who enjoy traditional bakes done well.

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