It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Plan ahead and make sure your diary’s full of festive cheer with our ultimate roundup of where to eat, drink and be merry everyday in December.
Don your fanciest glad rags: Raymond Blanc’s swanky Oxfordshire restaurant and sprawling kitchen garden, Belmond Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, will host a series of black-tie Christmas carol concerts in December. After bubbles on arrival, take a torch-lit walk to nearby St Mary’s Church for the performance, then retire to the restaurant for a four-course dinner made using produce grown on-site. The restaurant’s team of top development chefs also run excellent cooking courses which would make a great gift for food lovers: choose from advanced bread making, soufflés and summer barbecuing.
Stock up on tipples for the party season at London’s oldest wine merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd. Shoppers in December will be offered a glass of belly-warming King’s Ginger liqueur and a mince pie to nibble on while they browse.
Gather your friends for a one-off feast at River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Devon farm. Guests will be driven to its yurt on a tractor for mulled cider by the fire, before heading to the garland-strewn barn for an indulgent lunch with extra helpings of bucolic cheer. Think roast squash gnocchi with coriander pesto and rump of beef – made with beef from cows reared on the farm – and honey-glazed veggies.
Stop at the modish south Indian restaurant Kricket, in London’s Soho, to feast on its Christmas goose vindaloo. Fragrant and gently spiced with cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and mustard seed, it’s a far cry from the average blow-your-head-off curry-house versions. It’s served with a chestnut and brussels sprout barbecue – a twist on the dry Keralan curry that’s traditionally made with cabbage. All that’s needed to round it off is a warming glass of masala chai, with an added splash of rum to get you in the festive spirit.
The Alnwick Garden will feel like a winter wonderland this month; with its landscaped walkways illuminated by twinkly trees. Browse local produce at the market every weekend, then stop for lunch at the treehouse restaurant. Nearby, secondhand bookshop Barter Books is a cosy place to while away an afternoon perusing thousands of well-thumbed titles.
A wintry wander around London’s Borough Market would lift the mood of even the most committed Scrooge. Pick up charcuterie by Cannon & Cannon, lush cheeses from Blackwoods Cheese Company and fiery mulled cider from The Cider House. It has extended opening hours all month, but today the market’s top cheesemongers will come together for a special shopping evening, with tastings and top tips.
The 100 acres of land surrounding 18th-century Harewood House, Yorkshire, will be the inspiration for the menu at the Hidden Harewood pop-ups (7–9 December). In a specially designed outdoor dining room, chef Josh Whitehead will serve a tasting menu featuring produce from the garden and house-reared venison.
London’s top department stores are offering a lot more than just shopping this December. The John Lewis flagship branch will host a rooftop pop-up from acclaimed Bristol restaurant The Ethicurean (tip: book one of the cosy private lodges). Dishes include an epic Christmas pie filled with venison and bacon, and sticky toffee apple cake. Meanwhile, Selfridges will entertain shoppers with live choirs and DJs, plus new rooftop restaurant Il Tetto will be serving up rustic Italian fare.
More than one million twinkling lights illuminate the winter trail at Kew Gardens, which feel like a Harry Potter book come to life. As you walk through the gardens at nightfall, gaze at glowing snowflakes, lantern-lit Christmas trees (including one crafted from 360 wooden sledges) and an ethereal, shimmering lake. The finale – a light show made up of kaleidoscopic projections – will leave you spellbound. Once you’ve taken it all in, pick up stocking fillers at the market with a hot mulled wine in hand.
Bristol’s bounty of independent shops and producers is showcased at the city’s Christmas markets. There’s street food and quirky gifts in a Georgian arcade at St Nicholas Market, which also hosts regular farmer’s markets on the adjacent street. Plus, find edible gifts at the Harbourside Market and design-led treats for the home by local crafters at Made In Bristol HOME.
Winchester ticks all the boxes for festive fun-seekers. Find gift inspiration in the form of traditional treats at the Christmas market and on-trend homewares at The Hambledon. Alexander’s of Winchester is a lovely place to refuel with a loose-leaf tea created by its master blender. Look out for baking demonstrations (10–11 December) at Winchester City Mill. Bakers grind flour the old-fashioned way in the UK’s oldest watermill, before whipping up some Christmas treats.
With its maze of cobbled streets housing cosy cafés and treasure-trove shops, the medieval city of York is postcard-pretty all year round. But come December, there’s extra magic in the air. Wander through the St Nicholas fair, where stallholders sell Yorkshire cheeses and handmade ceramics from snug wooden chalets, then warm your cockles with a mulled wine spiked with cherry brandy at Thor’s, a pop-up fire-lit tipi. A pitstop at Bettys Victorian tea rooms feels like stepping back in time – the kitchen has been turning out homemade treats since 1936. Try the festive twist on its signature fat rascals: spiced scones with currants, topped with almonds. Come dinner time, there’s a more modern offering at the city’s hottest restaurant, Skosh, where chef Neil Bentinck serves inspired seasonal small plates in slick surrounds.
Housed in the Rosewood hotel, Holborn dining room is one of London’s most festive pitstops, decked out with chandeliers and trees laden with decorations. Chef Calum Franklin is a pie master, and his buttery, rich mince pies – packed with a boozy mincemeat filling – are exceptional. You can also watch bakers handcrafting savoury pies at the wonderful new ‘pie room’, opened on 4th December. The bar is home to the city’s largest selection of gins; try the warm sloe gin, hibiscus and vermouth cocktail.
Head to the village of Cartmel in the Lake District for lunch at Rogan & Co, the casual sister restaurant to Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred L’Enclume. The winter menu promises updated interpretations of Christmas classics, such as ham hock and sweetbread terrine, and eggnog with mince-pie ice cream. Next door, the shop sells edible goodies from Cumbria. The Cartmel Village Shop is known for its sticky toffee puddings, but its seasonal figgy puddings are just as much of a gooey, sticky delight – go for one of each.
Prop up the bar, take in views across Watergate Bay and sip on a gingerbread sour at today’s special cocktail event at Fifteen Cornwall. Guests will get a hands-on lesson in cocktail making from the team’s expert mixologists, while head chef Adam Banks will serve carefully crafted small plates matched to the drinks.
Escape the Covent Garden crowds in Angela Hartnett’s Italian oasis Cafe Murano for a glass of Tuscan Chianti and a bowl of pitch-perfect tagliatelle alla bolognese. Next door, the team at the Pastificio deli will help you make up a personalised Italian hamper of preserves, wine and cured meats. Or, if you simply need a stress-free supper, try its excellent take-home meal deal. It includes two portions of handmade fresh pasta, an unctuous sauce and a bottle of vino for just £15.
Sink into a leather seat by the fire, sip a killer cocktail and take in the eclectic surrounds of the Zetter townhouse in London’s Clerkenwell. all visitors in December will be treated to a complimentary eggnog.
Scents of cardamom, clove and cinnamon greet shoppers at Middle Eastern deli Honey & Spice, in London’s Fitzrovia. December will see the shelves lined with kadif pastry, date syrup, dukkah and homemade spice mixes, and the counter laden with chocolate-studded babka and pink Persian love cakes. Book ahead for the deli’s Food Talks, which profile some of the industry’s leading lights. This month, wine journalist Fiona Beckett, food writer Fuchsia Dunlop, and Israeli spice collector Roi Hendel will be chewing the fat over a glass of wine and a plate of spiced cinnamon squash falafel.
Warm up with the new wave of artisan hot chocolates. Customers at Knoops in Rye, East Sussex, create their own drink from a selection of single-origin chocolates, finished with winter spices and homemade marshmallows. The hot chocolate floats at Edinburgh’s Mary’s Milk Bar are made with sea-salt chocolate topped with a salted caramel gelato. In Brighton, Black Mocha serves a smooth, dairy-free drink made from top-quality beans.
Every Wednesday throughout December, the shops at London’s Columbia Road Flower Market open late, and a piano is pushed up and down the street for impromptu carol singing. Don’t miss Milagros for some colourful Mexican tableware.
Need a last-minute Christmas present, but don’t fancy that panicked dash down the heaving high street? Craved sells bespoke gift boxes, which showcase a handpicked selection of craft food and drink producers. Treats include small-batch gin, exquisite chocolate from indie producer Seaforth, and fragrant honey made in Pembrokeshire by the family-run Coedcanlas.
Today’s the day to beat the rush and arrange to pick up your Christmas joint from one of The Ginger Pig’s eight London butchers shops– as well as turkey, it sells fantastic goose and duck from Botterill & Son. Feeling peckish? Fill up on the delicious limited-edition pork, stilton and cranberry sausage rolls.
People will trek from far and wide for the Christmas edition of the Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market, Norfolk. Traders are spread across two converted barns, selling goodies spanning exotic Indian spices, locally reared lamb and artisan coffee. Look out for cooking demonstrations and live music, too.
Before you hunker down for a Christmas Eve supper, head out for some festive frivolity at Skate at Somerset House. After taking in the neoclassical architecture and gliding around the rink, skaters can refuel at the luxurious pop-up from Fortnum & Mason. Its alpine lodge serves melting cheese fondue with pigs in blankets for dipping, while the shopping arcade is handy for some last-minute presents.
Find more travel inspiration in Jamie magazine every issue. Words: Heather Taylor.