Review: Christmas Fayre at the Hatton Arms, Warwick
December 5, 2021

[Disclosure: I was invited to try the Christmas Fayre menu for free in exchange for a review on this blog. All views are my own and honest.]

When people get excited about Christmas food, it usually focuses on the the day itself or those on its periphery. The big roast dinner on December 25th, the Quality Street binge that night. The festive cheese boards, the Boxing Day brunch, and all the other gluttony that we hit over a three-day period then spend the next three trying to digest.

I love the festive feasting as much as the next person, but it’s not those days that really get my mouth watering. It’s this period of time – these weeks in the run-up to Christmas when we suddenly make time for friends we haven’t seen for too long, take time out of work to browse festive fayres, and go for the midweek lunches, drinks and dinners that somehow never feel quite as acceptable during the rest of the year.

Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre

If I were the only one who liked this period of the year, then festive menus probably wouldn’t be a thing. But they are – and in a pretty big way. The menus are launched as early as October these days, urging you to grab your pals and scoff a turkey roast and some Christmas pud way before the 25th, spreading those social occasions out through the months and making sure that that Christmas indulgence is actually far more extensive than just three days. 

When it comes to choosing a festive lunch location, there are a few things that tick the box for me. Nice food, obviously, and preferably something a little bit different from the pate starter, bogstandard dry turkey dinner and microwaved Christmas pudding.

But that’s not all. There’s the ambience – a place you can pull crackers with the much-needed abandon expected after the past few years we’ve had. Festive tunes, decorations and cheerful staff who get that these occasions are the special ones for some reason – and they need to be embraced by us all. 

The Hatton Arms, Warwick
Hatton Arms Warwick

It’s an atmosphere that I was pleased to discover on a recent trip to the Hatton Arms just outside Warwick when I went along to try their festive menu. Pretty lights, pleasant tunes. Groups of people scattered around each starting their own festive season a bit – though entirely justifiably – early with Prosecco, wine and lots of laughter. 

The Hatton Arms is a bit of a favourite of mine. It may not be perfect every single time, but it’s generally consistent. In a lovely location, it’s a great place for a bite to eat before or after a walk down Hatton Locks, and in my experience you tend to get a decent welcome, a nice bit of food, and walk away feeling like you’ve had a good time. My mum meets her friend there on a regular basis and the very fact she goes back again and again must be a good thing. 

The Menu

Their Christmas Fayre menu is a decent offering. Two courses for £23.95 (only available from 12pm to 5pm) and three for £28.95, with a menu that’s slightly different from the average ones I mention above, yet familiar enough to appeal to everyone in the gang, whether it’s your work colleagues for a boozy lunch, or a catch-up with your aunties and uncles before the big day.

The Hatton Arms, Warwick
Hatton Arms, Warwick

There’s a game terrine to start, taking you away from a straightforward Brussels pate and into something that you hope is more likely to have been made on site rather than shipped in. If it’s pate that you want, you’ll have to try the smoked salmon and dill version, or you could go for a mini melted camembert, soup, or the Hatton Arms’ take on a prawn cocktail, which adds Brixham crab. 

For main, you can choose turkey but it will come in the form of an escalope served with sage and chestnut butter, or there’s an apricot-stuffed roast pork loin. If the thought of a roast is just too much this early in December, there’s a salmon supreme with crushed potatoes that I nearly have, or a 28-day dry-aged rump steak that certainly would have attracted Jamie’s attention if he were my partner in crime that day.

For dessert there’s Christmas pud with brandy sauce, of course, because it’s almost sacrilege not to include it. But if you are worried about overdosing so early in the season, you can go for a mulled wine winter berries pavlova or cheese, a chocolate brownie or cheese and crackers.

The staff are friendly, cheerful and seem to get that this festive season is going to be just as important – if not more – than 2020’s, and we all very much are banking on it to bring a bit of joy amid the ongoing uncertainty. Their smiles and positivity are perhaps even more commendable given that there really aren’t that many of them, and you can’t help but notice that the staffing shortage across hospitality seems to still be biting hard. 

Hatton Arms Christmas fayre

Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre

The Dishes

Mum opts for the terrine, and will go on to declare it the highlight of the meal. Well seasoned, nicely-compressed chunks of meat that contrast with the slight crunch of chestnut, it’s moreish as hell, as is the plum chutney it comes with. The toast it comes with is unnecessary but we eat it anyway, mainly because they do fairly decent butter and smearing it on toast is more socially acceptable than eating it by the forkful.

My choice is the prawn cocktail and it proves to be even better than I’d hoped. For anyone who doesn’t like scooping their prawn cocktail out of a sundae dish or martini glass this is the place for you. Forget a pile of prawns in sauce chucked inside glassware on top of a watery mess of iceberg lettuce. Instead, these neat little spoonfuls of prawns in a piquant, creamy Marie Rose sauce with the added richness of crabmeat nestle inside baby gem lettuce.

Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre

They’re fresh, light and tasty and inspire me to consider a prawn cocktail starter for my own Christmas dinner menu. The melba toast and dollops of avocado puree are unnecessary again, but they make the whole thing look quite pretty and everyone loves a pretty plate at Christmas. 

Buoyed by the start of our meal, we eagerly await main courses. Both are enormous, so if you choose the Hatton Arms for your Christmas meal, you might want to skip breakfast. My turkey escalope is an impressive sight and a welcome reprieve from a few slabs of dry, white turkey on a plate. Coated in crispy breadcrumbs, the thick escalope is moist and tasty, while the sage and chestnut butter brings the indulgence as it melts into it.

Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre

The veg is well cooked, especially some particularly nicely-done carrots and a bowl of green veg, including obligatory sprouts, that’s served to the table. It comes with a jug of gravy that somehow works despite my doubts over gravy on an escalope. It’s only the potatoes and chipolatas that let the side down.

Perhaps I’m spoilt with Jamie’s roast potatoes, but I remain firmly of the belief that as well as having crispy outsides, roasties should be fluffy and light inside. These somehow aren’t, and the hard shells yield little in the way of that dreamy fluffiness inside. The pigs in blankets are another disappointment, the chipolatas inside somehow lacking the meaty texture of a decent sausage and proving themselves an unnecessary addition to what is already a decent star of the show in the form of the turkey.

Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre

Mum goes for the pork, which is another generous portion of nicely-cooked slices of pork with the necessary accompanying crackling ripe for stealing from the side of her plate. The apricot stuffing we were expecting to have been rolled within the loin comes in the form of a separate disc that’s hard and somehow lacking in the sweet fruity apricot we’re expecting. She concedes that turkey was perhaps a better choice.

The hefty portions mean we can’t face dessert, so we skip an assessment of the Christmas pudding, but mum tells me that the size of the sweets here tend to be as big as the mains, so I’m happy to pass on any more food. For someone who hates food waste, it can be a tough call in places where portions are huge and while I’m usually happy to take a doggie bag away, I decide I can wait for my Christmas pudding and brandy butter until later in the festive season.

The Verdict

The staff are helpful and cheery throughout, despite being clearly busy, and we watch as people wile away the afternoon ordering a few more drinks, dessert and coffee, seemingly reluctant to leave what is a great place for a festive lunch.

It’s good value, the food is pretty good and they’ve done what we all want from a place at Christmas and created a fun, friendly place where you can pull your crackers, order a bottle of something nice, and embrace this wonderful run-up to the end of the month.

Yes, my husband may do better roast potatoes, but we all know that roasties alone do not a Christmas meal make. It’s about way more than that, and the Hatton Arms are doing a pretty darn good job, giving us all a bit of festive cheer – from decent food to a great atmosphere, all at a reasonable price – just when we need it most.

The Hatton Arms Christmas Fayre menu is available from now until Christmas Eve. For more details visit their website here.

[Disclosure: I was invited to try the Christmas Fayre menu for free in exchange for a review on this blog. All views are my own and honest.]

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