Last week I was lucky enough to be invited along to my local shopping centre, Queensgate in Peterborough to celebrate the end of the year with an explore around the centre discovering what both stores, restaurants and cafe’s had on offer. Don’t worry if you’re not local there’s lots of high street options covered for you. We were told to arrive hungry, and I wish I’d not had to take a later lunch as there was so much to try!
Our meeting point was John Lewis, we met at “The Place to Meet” Cafe on the top floor and was greeted by staff who showed us a look at both the items on the menu until the new year in the Cafe, as well as food items available to buy into the store.
First off from the Cafe there were a few lovely options including mince pies and a nut and cherry topped fruit cake (which I didn’t get around to sampling, a Christmas Ciabatta with Turkey, Stuffing, Bacon and Cranberries which was lovely.
John Lewis stores this year have been themed for Christmas with Red, Green, Gold and Amber and the take home Christmas foods have had a makeover with the aid of brands, many of which have had a decadent Christmas makeover which are exclusive to a store and make a lovely gift. There was Chocolate Chip Pannetone, Christmas Pudding Truffles, Mini Mince Pies infused with Gin, and my personal favourite puff pastry cheesy Christmas Trees – which I’m definitely going to have to go back for a box of!
The Lakeland store has added a demonstration area since I last visited and the counter top was filled with treats for us to try. With a token vegan with us – Loved by Laura – we had a nice mix of items to try, most of which were vegan friendly which was refreshing to see and great to try and it was nice to see just how many options are out there – if you’ve got a vegan coming for Christmas, or even if you want some delicious snacks regardless, Lakeland should be a shop you stop into and take a peek at, I feel like their food section is bigger than ever this year – there’s items for your own Christmas Dinners and Desserts – as well as items that would make beautiful stocking stuffers.
My favourite treats were the vegan marshmallows from the Naked Marshmallow Co, I think they have a much nicer texture than most marshmallows and are great as a snack or topping a hot chocolate off. There was some after dinner mints which were lovely too and will make a nice alternative to the “usual” brand and we were kindly given a box of these in a goodie bag from Lakeland – I’m resisting opening!
They had a showstopping twist on a Christmas Pudding – if boozy hot fruitcake is not your thing, then there’s a family friendly chocolate option, which you smash open with a spoon, the chocolate cake inside is topped with jewel-like jelly beans. Bound to be a popular choice with those with younger families.
Other lovely items included a lovely Gingerbread house kit which contains everything you need to decorate – without the hassle of baking (something I’m a fan of having tried and failed to make one a few years ago, I’ll never try again!). And finally the mulling syrup – rather than faffing about with mulled wine spices and waiting for it all to infuse together they sell bottles which you simply mix in with a bottle of wine, heat and and hey presto it’s done! I thought this would make a lovely gift too for someone who loves a festive tipple – or could be made with cider too, I sampled a glass of this and it was delicious.
We were given a grand tour of the shop and given an in-depth showcase of all the normal treats in store as well as new in items for Christmas. We had a quick look at Hotel Chocolat’s new ‘Velvetiser’ or a hot chocolate kettle as I would prefer to call it – for anyone who loves making a hot chocolate at home this would make a real treat.
We was allowed to pick a mini box of chocolates each, whilst I resisted picking something to scoff on the way home – I ended up going for their “Christmas Mess”, white chocolate with cranberries, cinnamon and topping of merengue – we’ve been passed the baton of hosting Christmas this year and I thought these would go down nicely after Christmas Dinner with a hot drink. We took a hot chocolate away with us (I opted for their basic Milky Chocolate) whilst we walked to our next stop…
When Polly Met Fergie
I’ve heard a lot of great things about the newly opened When Polly Met Fergie – it’s a vegan plant based restaurant open down Westgate Arcade (near Handmade Burger), with a Jazz Bar with regular live music on the top floor. They have a lovely view facing down Westgate Arcade, which is particularly lovely with Christmas decorations hanging.
Interestingly they don’t want to shout about being a vegan restaurant – they just want to be known for doing good food, and they do that really well. We starters, mains and desserts to share between three, and there wasn’t a course I didn’t enjoy.
First off for a starter we had a Mushroom and Pecan Ravioli, served over a Butternut squash puree and topped with pomegranate, I normally avoid anything nutty as it’s not my bag, but I was actually surprised at just how nice these were. The main was a Nut Roast in a filo pastry with a “cheesy” potato gratin with a side of cranberry sauce and a little pouring pot of gravy. Finally a delicious berry crumble with a side of cream.
Finally something different, but they’ve got a homemade set of spirits which would make a gorgeous Christmas Gift, there’s two gins (Christmas Thyme and Olde English) and two rums (Christmas Pudding Rum and Winter Coffee Rum) on offer.
Finally our last stop was Turtle Bay, not the place you’d immediately think of for a Christmas Shindig, but fear not there’s a few limited edition items on the menu and great if you want a break from Turkey! The restaurant still has plenty of festive atmosphere as it’s warm and cosy inside and with fairy lights hanging around too. The Christmas menu starts at two courses for £14.95 during lunch and £19.95 during the evening.
First off we were treated to a trio of cocktails to try from their Christmas menu – I had a little sip of one, as I was driving and it wouldn’t have been something I normally gravitated to on the menu, but I’m glad I tried it as it was lovely!
We had a few different starter platters on the table (which are huge by the way and could easily be shared between 4-6 people!). By this point I was really full so only tried a handful of items, but I was a fan of the Chicken Wings (warning, they spicy) and the Sweetcorn Fritters too (they not so spicy, but drizzled in something very spicy!).
So fear not, if you’re a Peterborough resident or visiting over the Christmas period there’s lot of different options on the menu to try. As always though the Christmas Period gets busy, I recommend pre-booking at any of the restaurants should you wish to visit.