17 | Nov | 16

Hugh Thomas

The Alt. Christmas Dinner

You may have heard. We’ve got it in for those ‘traditional’ Christmas markets. You know – the sort where the most interesting things they bring to the table are gingerbread and snowglobes. The sort where, as long as the food looks at least vaguely Christmassy, its quality is forgotten.

So where can you actually eat well over the Christmas period? Sure, Gran might have something to say about that. Throw her own hat in the ring, maybe. But hey, this is the alt guide to Christmas we’re taking about here. Brussels sprouts have had enough of the limelight for now.

How about – wait for it – Northampton? The city’s Winter Food Festival takes over the local cricket club for a couple of days over the winter. Its biggest USP? They don’t do any of that imported stuff. It’s all small batch, and it’s all local. Well, local in as far as you might get coffee beans from Kent, Mexican Street food from, um, Milton Keynes, and Caribbean fare from Birmingham. Can we call it cosmopolitan?

Last year, DEPOT was Cardiff’s answer to the other permanent indoor street venue happenings around the UK. It hosts the likes of Slow Pig, The Bearded Taco, and South Street Kitchen. And, with cinema screenings, televising the rugby internationals, and – dare we say it – tasteful karaoke, it does a bloomin’ good job of it too.

Give us your best guess – where can you find BSF’s People’s Choice for 2016, the best hot dogs and steak burgers this side of the Atlantic, loaded waffles, chaat and chai? All with a resolutely Yorkshire bent for Christmas? And all in the same place? Here’s a wee tip: try upstairs at Leeds’ Trinity Kitchen from December 11. Christmas dinner has never looked so….unconventional.

Over the festive period, Edinburgh will be snowy, with some cloud and a chance of crème brulee. How do we know? BSF alumnus Crema Caravan (that’s Best Dessert in 2015) are dropping into the Scottish iteration of the Foodies Festival. Hopefully with some of their colleagues – the line up of traders is yet to be confirmed, so all we can do is hope for a decent roster to top it all off.

London. Home to some of the best winter-themed markets in the country. But also home to some of the worst. Still, if Flat Iron Square’s cosy new ‘food and culture hub’ is anything to go by, and if Southbank Centre’s Winter Market is good as it tends to be (Hank’s Po Boys’ sloppy Creole beef Poor Boy sandwich is the very embodiment of a winter warmer, FYI) then at least there’s not too much we can sniff at.

Can we just say this? We love Manchester, home to one of the most alluring food scenes in the country. The city’s latest addition, Winter Gathering, throws together some of the good stuff with the best of what winter has to offer (proficiency in ice skating not required) in the Grade II-listed fire station on London Road. Sure, we’re running the street food. But furthest thing from that cookie-cutter Christmas market we were talking about? You bet.