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A Round The World Trip in Supermarket Party Food: Part 2 – Waitrose; Marks & Spencer

December 7, 2010

In many ways, it seems unfair to categorise the wares of Waitrose and M&S alongside the likes of regular supermarkets like Tesco, Asda etc. Luxury supermarkets just blow the mainstream completely out of the water, or at least this is what I found when I took it upon myself to sample the delights supplied by Waitrose and M&S. From Waitrose, I purchased Mini Fish and Chip Cones and Mini Welsh Rarebits. From M&S, I had Barbecue-Glazed Pork Belly Bites, Cheese and Garlic Bites and Mini Melt-in-the-Middle Chocolate Puds.

The Waitrose selection in my local store seemed a little bit thin. Aside from my purchases, they also had mini Indian and Chinese selections, smoked salmon blinis and some sort of ham hock scones. All looked lovely, but nothing out of the ordinary and compared to tesco, the variety available was very much lacking. But I suppose this is where the phrase “quality not quantity” comes in. While Waitrose didn’t have a huge variety of food available, the Welsh Rarebits and Fish and Chip cones that I bought were absolutely divine. They were flavoursome, high quality and just delicious. The only downside was the construction of the food. Laying the Fish and Chip cones out on a baking tray was easier said than done because the individual components of each cone were wont to fall out of their house and land on my kitchen floor. Once cooked they were easier to handle, unlike the Welsh Rarebits. These went into the oven in their plastic tray, which was very easy to deal with, but when they came out, I had to battle with each individual Rarebit (in a pack of 12) to prise it, piping hot, out of its plastic and get it onto a plate in one piece. I managed fairly well, but I think it would have been easier to ignore the cooking instructions and just lay the Rarebits out on a baking tray like the Fish and Chip cones. The only thing that annoys me about the Waitrose food is that Iceland (who I will not be sampling) have completely ripped off their ideas and presented them cheaply and tackily. It annoys me in the same way that I get annoyed that the Rover car designs rip off the Jaguar S-Type. It completely diminishes the illusion of class presented by the food (or car) and the cheap version probably isn’t as good in any shape or form except appearance. In Iceland’s case, their Fish and Chip cones didn’t even look comparable to Waitrose’s. Perhaps supermarkets should copyright their wares to prevent other shops producing the same thing but poorly.

The M&S food (which we had on a different occasion – we aren’t greedy!) was equally delicious. I’ve been a fan of the Mini Cheese and Garlic Bites for many Christmases and have in the past composed a week’s diet around eating these accompanied with chips. Not particularly healthy, but very tasty and comforting on a cold winter evening. The Pork Belly Bites involved a little assembly, which I didn’t think was really the point of party food, but it was no major inconvenience to have to drizzle the Barbecue glaze over the pork and then stick a cocktail stick in each bite when they were cooked. And the taste was such that a little work was worth it. Perhaps the assembly burnt off a few of the calories I ate… The Chocolate Puds too were absolutely divine. I think I’ve only had better when I’ve made it myself. Normally, ready-made supermarket puddings are incredibly calorific and not that tasty, but these, while they probably were horrifically calorific (I didn’t dare look at the pack to check), were very, very tasty. However, the puds also required cooking in their plastic tray, and were impossible to get out in one piece when they were ready. In the end, I resorted to spooning them out in bits into individual bowls. Not very party-friendly if you’re expecting your guests to pick from a buffet and use their fingers. And I have since noticed that M&S aren’t advertising the puds on their Christmas food adverts. I wonder why…

Overall, the Waitrose and M&S food fared about the same. Both tasty, but neither entirely without their faults. If only I’d ignored all the cooking instructions, they may well have been completely and utterly perfect.

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