Two weeks after the summer-long heatwave ends I am brought back to reality with a bump. Not only have I spent the afternoon in rain-drenched Leeds but I have also been asked to cover a Christmas event.
Before you start feeling sorry for me I must explain that the promotion was held on the Fourth Floor at Harvey Nichols, so no need for sympathy.
The great and the good, the celebrities and the bright young things were out in force to learn about what the store has, well, in store for the festive season. For those of you unfamiliar with the layout of the store, this particular level is where the food and drink are situated, along with the restaurant and bar. There are a couple of tempting offers from the restaurant: anyone booking their three course meal and bottomless prosecco on-line will receive a free Garden Bramble cocktail. It is served from 4.30pm until 10.00pm Tuesday to Saturday and priced at a very reasonable £30. The second is for the Christmas menu, which runs from 15th November until Christmas Eve. If you book by the end of October you will be welcomed with a free glass of prosecco. What is not to like about those deals.
After sampling the fizz and the cocktail I took a stroll around the food hall to taste some of the wares on sale. I also met some of the interesting local producers and suppliers deemed worthy of inclusion by such a prestigious outlet. My first call was at a wine stand, surprise, surprise, where I sampled the very palatable House Red. It carries their own label and so has to be good to be honoured with that accolade. The gentleman who served me obviously had my card well and truly marked, pointing me in the direction of his colleague who was dispensing tasters of King’s Ginger liqueur and the most wonderful 12 year-old The Glenrothes Speyside single malt whisky, which had been matured in sherry casks.
It has only been on sale for just over a week but I am sure it will prove to be very popular. There was also No.3 London Dry Gin which I did not taste. I did, however, sample the Navy Strength Gin from Whittaker’s Gin, dispensed by a charming couple and owners of the company, Toby and Jane Whittaker. Like all of the produce they sell, it is made on their farm in North Yorkshire and came in at a whopping 57% abv. I am not normally a gin drinker but this was amazing and could make tonic water redundant. They produce four varieties which are available individually or in gift packs. The adult version of the Christmas Selection Box?
Time for something to eat, so after sampling some delicious canapés created by the Fourth Floor, I headed back to the food hall and the display of Cryer and Scott cheese. Again, they are a local company supplying the store and the director, Richard Holmes, is obviously passionate about what he does. The featured cheese was The Duke of Wellington Blue which was created to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Duke of Wellington buying the British Embassy in Paris. To reference the connection linking France, Britain and Yorkshire, where the Duke of Wellington Regiment is based, the cheese is derived from French Roquefort. I must admit that it could quite easily be gracing my cheeseboard in the very near future.
A stroll round the rest of the food hall led me to the new selection of Christmas Hampers, beautifully presented and full of everything which lifts the festive season to dizzy heights. There are several variations, with a catalogue available to help you choose, so the next time you are in Leeds why not pop in and pick one up.
As you would expect, Harvey Nichols has Christmas sorted in a big way, so get that meal booked and put some time aside to pick up the food and drink for the big day itself. As for me, it was goodbye to the party and back into the reality of the deluge. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.