Fortnum & Mason’s St Nicholas Hamper, £300
Fortnum’s has been making merry gentlemen even merrier since 1707. And no merchant nails traditional festive greed with such panache as Fortnum’s: its huge range of hampers is Dickensian in its total commitment to Christmas. They ship everywhere, cater for every hearty appetite and occasion, and range from the sublime to the ridiculous, with the Mini Tuck Box weighing in at £50 and The Sovereign at a whopping £2,500. They’re not cheap but they are comparatively good value: this is a food hall which really gets Christmas eating and drinking, and every hamper costs less than the sum of its parts.
It is the attention to detail that makes Fortnum’s hampers such satisfying gifts: every rich, boozy, delicious item is beautifully tinned, jarred, labelled, boxed and wrapped, buried in piles of hay like a lucky dip, then leather-strapped into the famous wicker. The baskets can withstand a hard-knock life, and survive for years as picnic carriers or toy boxes. Ditto the retro tins, often more gratefully received than their contents (does anyone use loose-leaf tea? And, with boxes that look like they came from the Magi, does it even matter?).
Mid-range is a good place to look for a lavish box of delights to cheer someone up this socially distanced winter. The new St Nicholas (£300), packs a stash of posh booze including very decent champagne (Brut Reserve NV); sauternes, haut medoc red, chenin blanc and half a bottle of port – plus Christmas pudding, cognac butter, marmalade, loose-leaf tea (Christmas Spiced and Ceylon Orange Pekoe), Christmas coffee, cognac dragees, four kinds of biscuits in jewel-bright boxes, cinnamon and apple curd, chocolate-and-hazelnut butter and onion marmalade. Pretty much everything you need before you draw the curtains, light the candles and shut out 2020.
Star item The wind-up Mini Merry Go Round Christmas biscuit tin. It spins like a carousel! It plays ‘Jingle Bells’! It holds biscuits! Ding-dong!