REVIEW: Fortnum and Mason Traditional Mince Pies

So…I ummed and I arrred and eventually, decided to go for it. What am I talking about? Well, buying these bad boys is what…bought from the Fortnum and Mason shop at St Pancras Station as I passed by on my travels…the price, a cool £10.95.

That’s £1.83 per pie!

I mean, there’s premium.

There’s luxury.

There’s posh.

And then…there is this:

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The single most frustrating packaging to photograph ever….look, you can see my hands taking the photo…anyway…let’s get on with the review.

Packaging
The box is heavy, super heavy, 500g. For comparison, the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference pies come in at 370g and the regular Sainsbury’s pies at 355g so there is some real extra here with these.

The packaging is red, reflective and really shiny, hence my hands on the photo above.

There is a lovely looking window, with the branding nicely displayed, showing off the pies, it’s a really attractive presentation of the pies.

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The rest of the packaging has a colourful green pattern design, not sure what it is, but it kind of looks Christmassy. It’s maybe a bit of holly and horns and things. Who knows, I think it could do with being a bit more obviously Christmassy and maybe then it’d be perfect.

8/10 – Pretty lovely generally, but just not that Christmassy!

Presentation
So, you open the packaging and slide out the tray. And it’s not just any tray.

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First thing you see is more of the reflective stuff, this time it’s gold coloured.

And then…it’s made of cardboard, none of that plastic tray action here. I figured I’d get a different angle on it.

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It honestly feels really special and looks different too. It’s much more interesting than any other box of pies I’ve had for a long time.

On the pies themselves, they are emblazoned with an “F&M” logo. It’s a little bit self-aggrandising I guess, but it’s still quite attractive. I’ve said before, the lack of “christmassyness” does seem to increase alongside the price. The cheaper the pie, the more of the normal Christmas thing you get.

The quality of the bake here is outstanding though as you can see. Extremely even and well presented. Look closely and you can see copious amounts of sugar on top here and just look how deep that pie is. You can see where the extra weight in the box comes from, there is a lot more here than regular pies.

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9/10 – Not getting 10 simply because of the me me me thing of adding their logo to the top.

Filling
So, getting to the real meat of the matter now, what’s the filling like.

Well, the ingredients list is something to behold and it’s all on show when you get into this monster.

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It might not look chock full, but it is a bit mis-leading on this picture. This is very high quality stuff here, massive chunks of fruit, but it’s not the look, it’s not the amount, it’s all about the smell. It smells like sweet apples, brandy, and cinnamon. Genuinely astonishing!

But you know what, if there is a complaint, there could be a smidgen more, although when you taste these, you probably won’t think so.

9/10 – Almost perfect, just needed a tiny bit extra to fill that air gap!

Taste Test
Well so far, this review could really have been any more complimentary could it? What is the taste test going to bring…

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Let’s just say, these are the single greatest mince pie I’ve ever had. Full stop, hands down they are incredible.

The F&M website describes them like this:

There is nothing quite like a traditional mince pie, warm from the oven and eaten on a crisp, winter’s afternoon. To make ours especially good, we put quite a lot of butter in the pastry, and we make each pie extra-deep, to hold generous helpings of mincemeat. And, of course, we use our own mincemeat, made with plenty of brandy. Serve warm with a spoonful of Fortnum’s Cognac Brandy Butter or Rum Butter eased gently under the lid.

Everything about that paragraph is entirely accurate.

Let’s start with the smell. When you slide them out of the box it hits you, as described above, that sweet alcoholic flavour. It’s an amazing smell that engages your taste buds before you even taste them.

Then you bite into the pastry and it’s genuinely unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s buttery, flakey and very slightly “cakey”. It’s also very sweet, all of that sugar is right there, available to taste.

Then you tuck into the filling and the warmth of the brandy really comes through, there is cider, brandy and cognac in here, with fruits and spices. Oh my, it’s wonderful.

So, where does that leave us?

Perfection is where!

20/20 – Does not get better than this.

Overall
Right, so these are clearly not for everyone. The cost is pretty eye-watering when you consider some of the alternatives. Even Harrods are only asking £8.95 for their mince pies, so these are genuinely decadent.

Luckily, I don’t actually consider the price in these reviews, if I did there would probably be a negative multiplier in there. They are by far the nicest mince pies I’ve ever had.

Should you buy them?

If you can afford to go down the pub and spend eleven quid on a pint of ale and a white wine for the wife, and you think that’s worth it, then why can’t these be worth it too?

It’s Christmas, treat yourself!

46/50 – I will be buying more in December for certain.

2017 UPDATED REVIEW: Iceland Luxury Mince Pies

2017 Update
I find it interesting re-visting things from last year. You have certain expectations. Your views have changed, moulded over another year. These Iceland Mince Pies were a 19/20 in the taste test last year as you can see below, and the main thing that let them down was the size of the pie in comparison to the size of the tray and box. I wonder what’s changed…

So, off Mum went, back to Iceland and picked these up for me.

First of all…the packaging is identical. 100% identical to last year. Even the tray is the same inside, and the Mince Pies look the same too, same pretty design and yes, still sitting very deep in the over-sized tray. I’m not mad about it…just disappointed.

On to taste, and I’m not sure if there is a change now.

The pastry is nice and the filling is the same recipe, but this time it felt like marginally too much pastry. Like, because of the size of the pie and the thickness of the pastry, there wasn’t enough room for the lush filling. I asked for second opinions around the house, all the same, very nice mince pie, a touch too much pastry over filling.

On that basis, I’ve got no alternative but to knock the taste test score down to 17/20. It’s not that these are bad, 17/20 is still a hugely respectable taste score, and right up there with the best pies. Maybe though, if they filled the pie more, made them bigger (and charged an extra 50p for the privilege) we’d be back up to the best taste of all.

2017 Overall score: 38/50

2016 Original Review
So, my mum went to Iceland (that’s the shop, not the country for those at the back)…came back with these very interesting looking mince pies. I’ve heard great things about these from the Internet in general, so my turn to have a go.

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Packaging
Let’s be honest here, they’ve not exactly gone to town on the packaging.

It’s a fairly thick box (promising sign). Nice pictures of the pies on the front, no window notably. The only nod to the party season is the flickery lights in the background, but genuinely, it’s pretty basic stuff here and not a lot to say.

And I know it’s being picky…but why show 5 mince pies on the front for a box of 6…not rocket science is it.

6/10 – An inauspicious start for Iceland here, fairly dull and unimaginative.

Presentation
Box open, the tray is gold…so what you might say, well these are £1.50 for 6 so a gold tray is a statement. Sliding out the tray, and suddenly all becomes clear about the £1.50 for 6 pricing.

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They look pretty good from this angle.

How about this one:

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Ever feel like you’re getting half a pie?

I think this is a pretty slack trick from Iceland to be honest. I feel just a little bit swizzed by this.

Now to be honest, they are very very pretty looking. they remind me a hell of a lot of the M&S Star Mince Pies (which were in an appropriately sized box and tray by the way).

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You can see on close inspection, a nice layer of icing sugar, even bake and they look like a genuine high quality, premium mince pie.

How to mark these though? Just taking the pie on it’s own, you’d definitely go very high, but the swizzle factor here is high too. The thickness of the box and the lack of window really working to make you not realise until later the size differential. I’ll take a middle ground on it though…my feelings are clear on this.

6/10 – I could have got really grumpy about the swizzle in box size versus pie, very naughty from Iceland but the pies, they’re very pretty and a GOLD TRAY!

Filling
At least this bit is obviously not an attempt to trick.

The pies are full to the top with the filling, which looks very fruity and thick. Not much a smell from it so not expecting much booziness.

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9/10 – Considering the size, to be expected, but it looks good here.

Taste Test
How many ways can I find to say, this is the bit that really counts. Well, I guess that’s another way…

Immediately apparent is the quality of the pastry. It tastes a little sweet, but very buttery. It’s not the sticky gloop butter flavour though, this is a melt in your mouth style of munch. It’s not crispy by any means though, so horses for courses, this is soft and luxurious.

The filling tastes very fruity, this not really a hint of booze involved. It’s quite nutty and thick and for the first time in a long time, finishing it all left a “shall we have another one?” open question (for the record, yes, we did).

The key word is balance, and this has a perfect one.

It can’t be over-stated, these are outstandingly nice tasting mince pies.

19/20 – Yes, genuinely lovely in every way.

Overall Score
Although tempting to apply a divide by 2 on the overall score, based on the level of people they use to advertise their shops, I’m better than that.

These are a superb mince pie, but the con job Iceland are pulling with the packaging leaves a nasty taste.

40/50

Cadburys Roses and the case of the severely impaired judgement!

Welcome to my Cadburys Roses rant! And this will be a rant, as actually I’m very irritated by this. How can a company, especially a clever one like Cadburys, completely misjudge their customers so badly.

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Now, I’ve always had this vision of Roses as the more premium of the two big dogs in town for Christmas. It’s always been Quality Street versus Roses. Someone always brings in the Quality Street tin at work, and all you really wanted was a Roses one. That was a good few years ago though.

Now, the clever one brings in the Heroes for a change, or the Quality Street for the Christmas feel. ‘Some’ still bring in the Celebrations though…and they need to be dealt with eventually…but nobody really brings the Roses in anymore.

And that’s because Roses now are basically falling off their pedestal, onto the hard floor below, alongside Celebrations, and proceeding to get trampled by Heroes and Quality Street.

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What’s the problem you ask?

Well, in all fairness, the tub looks ok. It’s always been a little more classy and restrained than the others and that’s good. They’ve kept that part, that’ll be the next collapse into oblivion I’m sure.

Let’s open the tub, the first problem, the new problem this year and the show stopper for me that has meant that the tub has remained unconsumed after two weeks of being open, is obvious immediately.

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What. On. Earth. Is. That?

It looks like Celebrations and Roses mated, and the kids got the looks from the Celebrations side.

Awful.

Whoever thought that flow wrapping (as in, Quality Street you twist to unwrap, these, you tear) was a good idea needs sacking. Now. This is utterly vile. The packaging fills tons of space with absolutely nothing but paper to rip. You know how irritating the packaging is in Celebrations, think that, but with even more ugly branding.4-1

Oh yeah, the branding. We GET they are Roses folks, we’ve opened a bloody big tub of them. You don’t need to spell out that they are Roses in quite such big font on each and every sweet.

Something else with them being wrapped this way, you know when you open Quality Street for the first time and drown in the chocolate smell that just means you want to consume the lot. Yeah, no smell here.

Notice too, that apart from the colour..EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME!

There’s no menu either. Nothing on the side of the tub, bottom or inside (or on the inside of the lid). Oh no, wait. There is. Except it’s buried at the bottom, below all of the sweets. That’s right, someone at Cadbury thinks it’s a good idea when packing these, as a process, to put the MENU IN FIRST and cover with sweets. You utterly galactically stupid imbecile!

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So what’s wrong next.

Well, just look at the sweets. The smooth curves, the size of them. That’s right. Cadbury have basically said, reduce the size of the sweets and let’s tell all of the customers it’s so it “fits the shape of your mouth better”. Really. They said that. I’m not joking here.

If there IS a consolation…Roses do still taste of Cadburys chocolate so if that is your thing, I’m sure you’ll overlook the rest of it.

Sadly though, that pretty little tray of chocolates that my mum puts out from Christmas Eve till New Year, will never again have Cadburys Roses on it and will now be full of Quality Street and Heroes. Game over Cadbury.

Quality Street through the ages!

Christmas isn’t Christmas without stupid indulgence of chocolates in front of the TV, wearing something loose fitting with an elasticated waist because for some reason, your jeans are a bit tight today.

For many years, the battle was Quality Street versus Roses. As I was growing up, and Quality Street was made by Rowntree, it always seemed a battle to make the biggest tin. Nowadays, we’re down to sub-1kg tubs in the main and we have Celebrations and Heroes in the battle too, although these two are mere pretenders to the throne.

So, in the first in a series of one, I’ve felt all nostalgic and trawled YouTube for the various Quality Street adverts through the ages…there are some real, ahem, Magic Moments, among them.

So, let’s begin with this one from somewhere in the mid-80s. What I like about this advert is how it demonstrates how stupid Cadburys are for changing how they wrap their sweets this year (more on that in another post later). It’s a selling point for Quality Street on this advert. Oh, and how full is that tin!

Whatever next…how about one where the tin is almost literally as big as the child..

Genius this one from 1994, couldn’t help but smile:

The advert from 2015, possibly fresh in your memory (not in mine, must have missed it). I quite like this advert, stylish stuff. Notice though, the use of the tub instead of the tin, notice how it was half full (which is actually how full it really is) and finally, Cadburys take note, the twist to open….

Finally, I tried to keep it till last, the classic Neil Innes. This one is probably my favourite of what was quite a long running series of adverts over a few years in the 80s.

Turns out there are loads and loads of Quality Street adverts on Youtube. Definitely worth a trawl.