Fortnum & Mason Almond Topped Mince Pies

The final review of 2017 now, hopefully everyone has had a lovely Christmas so far, we do still have a few days to go and of course, New Year’s Eve is coming up for a final blow out before the next 4 or 5 days of trying to stick to a diet before the next weekend comes along and you go for a takeaway and a beer.

Anyway…I picked these up shortly before Christmas in the St Pancras store but didn’t get around to eating them until a couple of days ago, so let’s crack on.

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Packaging
Pretty much re-visiting everything I said about the traditional Fortnum and Mason Mince Pies here, the only difference being that the packaging here is gold rather than red. Both colours are gorgeously shiny and reflective, which is a nightmare for photos, but I do actually prefer this colour over the red. The pattern on the front is similar too, but with more purples than green this time.

The box is just as heavy at 500g (and the price just as heavy at £12.95).

8/10 – Basically, same thing different colour to the traditional variety.

Presentation
Sliding out the tray, what do we see…

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The tray itself is this lovely gold cardboard creation, and it’s very nice. Much nicer than the plastic trays you see everywhere else. It’s deep too…

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Interestingly though, the pies themselves are decorated quite differently to the traditional variety. Before, we saw the F&M logo on top with a very light covering of granulated sugar, now we have something a whole lot messier. Is it icing sugar? Almond dust? Don’t know, but it looks quite snowy and therefore Christmassy…so it works for me.

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9/10 – Lovely presentation generally, but missing a decoration of some kind.

Filling
So, the filling…

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I had high hopes here, especially after the previous F&M pies were so SOOO good.

But, you know what, there is something missing here.

The lid on these pies sits on top despite appearances and is a bit of a dome inside. The pie is about half full of mince. And worse, they taste a little bit bland. The mincemeat is quite wet, has a little kick of brandy if you give it time to appear…but overall, disappointing.

5/10 – A bit bland and not as much as there should be

Taste Test
Ok, so the mince itself is bland, but what about the pie overall. After all, we’ve got some premium pastry and premium almond topping here right.

So, my first tasting went badly…the top of the pie is quite crunchy and solid, being embedded with the almonds. The rest of the pie though, especially with the wet filling, is very soft. This resulted in my fat hands squashing the pie and the lid hitting the kitchen floor, creating a dusty mess (and expensive dusty mess at that).

Take two then…and the pastry itself is the good stuff from the traditional mince pies, but this time the filling really is doing it no favours, the wetness is too much and you end up folding it into your mouth, leaving the lid behind on the plate. The almond lid is nice, very crunchy and almondy, and I liked that, but it was just physically tricky to eat it all together.

So, i’m torn for a taste test…in the end, the filling is killing it!

10/20 – Two of the three core elements here are good, but the bad one hurts everything!

Overall
Shocker then…

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They look the part, everyone thinks you are distinctly middle class at dinner parties if you’ve got a plate full of them…but just don’t let anyone eat them…because real middle class people have cleaners and you’ll be picking up the pieces yourself with these.

32/50 

Mince Pie Reviews – November League Table Update

Figured it was worth updating the league table and because some people do miss it (it’s linked seperately either in the hamburger menu on a phone or up top on desktop).

Miles away at the top is the Fortnum & Mason pies, but it’s looking like a strong list.

For reference, the columns in order are “Year of Review, Packaging, Presentation, Filling, Taste Test and Overall Score”. The table is ordered by Overall Score, with Taste Test as a tie breaker (then Presentation then Filling and finally Packaging if all of those are equal).

No. Name YR Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Fortnum & Mason Traditional 2017 8 9 9 20 46
2 Tesco Finest All Butter 2016 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 2016 6 10 8 17 41
4 Aldi Specially Selected 2016 4 9 8 19 40
5 Iceland Luxury 2016 6 6 9 19 40
6 Aldi Sloe Gin Mince Tarts 2017 6 7 7 19 39
7 Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All Butter 2017 7 8 8 16 39
8 Aldi Specially Selected 2017 4 9 6 19 38
9 Iceland Luxury 2017 6 6 9 17 38
10 Coop Irresistable Luxury 2016 8 7 7 16 38
11 Lime Tree Pantry Mince Pies 2017 4 9 8 16 37
12 M&S Christmas All Butter 2016 6 5 8 17 36
13 Greggs Sweet 2016 6 6 7 17 36
14 Spar Luxury All Butter 2016 8 8 7 12 35
15 Sainsbury’s Mini Ecclefechan and Mincemeat Tarts 2017 6 9 8 10 33
16 Tesco Mince Pies 2016 9 2 4 17 32
17 Waitrose All Butter 2016 5 5 7 14 31
18 Sainsbury’s Iced Topped 2017 9 5 4 12 30
19 Sainsbury’s Deep Filled 2017 9 4 5 10 28
20 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 2016 5 1 4 10 20
21 Coop Puff Pastry 2016 6 6 1 5 18
22 Heston Spiced with Lemon 2016 3 9 3 1 16

 

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.