Ding dong merrily at home
William Sitwell, the Daily Telegraph’s restaurant reviewer and MasterChef critic, tells us to stay at home this Christmas.
It’s a temptation that occasionally rears its ugly head. You never quite managed to corral everyone into joining you on your Christmas trip to Goa or Bali or Kenya and you can’t afford Mustique. So now you’re thinking of booking a restaurant for Christmas Day lunch. After all these years of turkey stuffing, potato peeling, of failed attempts to set the pudding alight and the prospect of all that washing up, you think that the time has come to outsource the problem.
You can imagine turning up at some chi-chi country house hotel, you can hear the gravel crunch as you slide the car into the parking spot. You can imagine the fire burning in the hall, you can wonder at the idea of perusing the menu before easing yourself and your family into the dining room where you’ll be looked after and for once you won’t have to lift a finger.
But stop right there, lazy bones. For that way lies disaster.
For a start, unless there’s a handy non-drinker in the family, there’s the row about who’s driving. And unless you have a people carrier that holds 12 or so, that means several rows.
And before you say “we’ll get a cab,” I say no. No cabs on Christmas Day. And no Ubers either. It’s a waste of money, just as much as that over-priced lunch.
Don’t think that all the squabbling will be mitigated because you’re somewhere posh. In fat the tensions are even worse in hushed surroundings, as teenagers are castigated for being scruffy and husbands for wearing their favourite shirt rather than the one you gave them.
Half of the fun of Christmas is doling out jobs to fractious family members. Think of the bonding between grandchild and grandmother as they peel the sprouts.
Indeed the relief and satisfaction of a team effort that created lunch and the many helping hands in clearing up can justify the greed of it. And if you’re at home you can allow the nippers to escape the table a little early – while the grown-ups pile into the cheese and port – to watch a little telly. For there could be few sights as hideous as a large family having lunch, with the crackers pulled, party hats on and a few teenagers clustered tat the end watching things on their phones.
And what of the poor staff, themselves denied Christmas lunch because you were too lazy to get stuck in yourselves.
Some elements of Christmas Day should be forced on even the most reluctant. For a glass of champagne at noon tastes so much better if you’ve all dragged yourself to church and back.
So puff up the cushions, fill the drinks table with wine, Champagne, gin, vodka and stickies. Shove logs onto the fire, lay the table and don’t fret if the turkey is dry or the potatoes aren’t crisp. It’s just one day with a big, happy, argumentative, forgiving and chaotic Sunday lunch.
Three places to try for Christmas (if not on Christmas Day)
The Fife Arms
Mar Road, Braemar, Aberdeenshire
Cosy, great for larger parties, with amazing decor to divert the attentions of those testing relatives.
No. 4 Chapel Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire
A lively bar, gorgeous cocktails, fabulous game, loads of dishes to share and a great place for a winter’s day.
194 Wandsworth Bridge Road,
Great value set menu, small neighbourhood restaurant with innovative plates and excellent service.