There’s no gift foodies like more than a classic Christmas hamper, but for some those ready-made ones from Fortnum & Mason et al can be a little predictable. Instead, why not spend a little time and effort putting together your own? It’s a lot more thoughtful and you’ll be supporting local businesses too. Local markets are a good place to start – check out our picks here – but we’ve also pulled together some top places to go for festive fodder.
Let’s start with savoury, because, as we all know, cheese is the cornerstone of any hamper worth having. London has oodles of brilliant cheese shops, including La Fromagerie, Neal’s Yard Dairy and Pistachio & Pickle, which all supply supplementary cheesy paraphernalia too, such as crackers and pickles. If you’re really being strict on the London theme, there’s a bloke who makes his own artisan cheese in Tottenham – you can pick it up from the dairy (calling ahead recommended), online, or at a small number of London stockists.
For meats and delicacies
Premium cured meats, pâtés and chutneys can be picked up at The Ginger Pig’s Marylebone butcher’s shop. (Pro tip: grab yourself one of their dreamy sausage rolls while you’re there. Hamper shopping is tiring work.)
For puddings and sweet stuff
On to the all-important pudding component. London is a sweet, sweet cornucopia of things that’ll warm your heart and rot your teeth. Would it be weird to include some artisan dental floss? Okay, yes. Yes, it would. Never mind then, it is Christmas after all.
Rococo, which has been making and selling its ethical chocolate in London for over 30 years, sells the most exquisite salted caramels. And, if you fancy something a bit edgier, hand-painted chocolate lobsters. They’ve also recently done a collaboration with Roald Dahl's estate, so you can find bars of Frobscottle & Snozzcumber White Chocolate and Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Fudge Cake Dark Chocolate (£5.95 each).
If you prefer sweets to chocolate, swing by SugarSin in Covent Garden for cocktail-flavoured gummies and old-fashioned jars of all-natural hard-boiled sweeties.
You’ll know Dominique Ansel as the man who brought the world the Cronut, but unfortunately his most famous creations are not known for their longevity. Instead, try his Christmas Morning Cereal, which consists of puffed rice, luxury milk chocolate, hazelnut clusters and smoked miniature cinnamon meringues. Like granola, basically, but not shit (£12.00 a box).
Hit Gail’s bakeries for boxes of traditional mince pies (£8.50/six), and pick up a jar of their signature cinnamon & almond butter (£6.50) while you’re there.
Or, for a chocolately twist on a Christmas classic, pick up a box of Paul A. Young’s famous brownie mince pies. This year they’re finished with lingonberries (£2.95 each or £11 for a box of four).
If you are putting together a hamper for my mum or Edmund from 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' – the only people I’ve ever known who genuinely like Turkish Delight – you’ll appreciate the vast selection on offer at the Arabica Food and Spice Company online and at Borough Market.
Premium grocers Andreas of Chelsea Green is known for its very special panettone, baked by award-winning master baker Sergio Pontoni of Italy’s Dall’Ava bakery. You can pick up one these exclusive breads, which are infused with candied orange and dried fruits, from £17.50. They also stock a number of top-quality chutneys, pickles and oils.
Who knew that the rooftop of the National Theatre is home to three hives of bees – and that you can buy their honey from the NT bookshop (£8.00 a jar).
No Christmas hamper is complete without festive booze, and fortunately London is swimming in artisan spirits to get sloshed on. Our Vodka is made and bottled in east London, and comes in smallish bottles that are big enough to share but little enough to fit cosily into a smallish hamper – perfect for Boxing Day bloody marys. Available from the distillery or from Borough Wines (£19.00 for 350ml).
Or, try Willem Barentsz’s exotic, botanical-loaded, small-batch gin, made in Clapham and known for its smooth jasmine notes. You can find it in Gerry’s in Soho.
London isn’t renowned for its vinyards, so you might have to cheat if you’re set on including some grape juice. Independent wine shop The Sampler has branches in Islington and South Ken, and boasts Enomatic tasting machines that allow you to try before you buy.
Obviously if your recipient’s tipple of choice is craft beer, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There’s excellent beer to be found all over the place (we’ve listed London’s breweries here), but if you’re after a selection then Borough Wines sells the best of them, and has branches all over town.
Once you’ve collected your goodies, pop everything into a gift-wrapped box or wicker basket with some shredded tissue paper and bedeck with an enormous comedy ribbon. Voila!