It hit me, earlier, as I was digging out videos of Whiskeytown performing “16 Days” for mine and my sister’s New York countdown, that I only have two working weeks left this year.
I suspect I’ll struggle to get to all those people I promised I’d meet up with “this side of Christmas”.
But what’s a couple of weeks here or there, really? Well…
There’s something particularly wonderful about catching up with friends and family over the festive season. It’s not just because we’re closing in on the end of the year, although it’s that too – rather, I think, it’s that Christmas a fixed point of time that tends to have positive connotations for those of us who celebrate it and that makes it a good time to take stock, check in with those that we love and see how things have changed over the course of the year. It’s been a pretty momentous year for many of my local blogger friends, for both happy and sad reasons: I mean, if you want an indication of how much things have changed, let me direct you to the fact that I had to specify that I wanted vodka in my raspberry cocktail.
(My friends’ stories are not necessarily mine to tell, although I think they’ve all been pretty open about what’s going on in their lives on their respective blogs – but I will direct you to Ruth’s incredibly moving series of posts on infertility and baby loss from earlier in the year. Ruth’s story had a happy ending, but she’s been very open about her journey up to this point and I know how important to her it was that people shared these posts.)
We’d been brought together by Laura of A Life With Frills: a lady who has had, in no uncertain terms, a complete shiter of a year but had still taken the time to organise a pre-Christmas get-together complete with reindeer antlers, a festive menu and beautiful gifts, lovingly packaged up in place of place cards. Tempus, the in-house restaurant at the Grand Central Hotel, looks beautiful all done up for Christmas – the private dining area even more so.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the food on my last visit to Tempus, but as our server (whose name I didn’t get, which always makes me feel rotten when I write these posts as it just sounds so bloody rude) brought out a selection of canapés for us to snack on before we ordered I realised this evening was going to be of a different class. My fussy palate means canapés are usually out of the question, but these were delicious: a mini bagel filled with sundried tomato and olives, tasty popcorn with a paprika kick and butternut squash bonbons, bursting with a delicious richness that I think had to have been some kind of cheese but since I didn’t bother to note it down I guess it’ll just have to haunt my dreams.
We were ordering from the festive lunch and dinner menu (from £15.99pp, available until 30th December), with a few modifications to accommodate the dietary requirements in our party. It’s a decent selection, with innovative veggie options throughout as well as the traditional festive turkey – albeit with a twist.
The starters were, however, a little too fancy-looking for my liking, so I opted for the roast butternut squash, coconut and chilli soup. Which I was perfectly content with – until Lori and Amanda‘s salads arrived, and my eyes almost popped out of my head.
Seriously, guys: I got a bad case of the green-eyed monster over some greens.
I’d never think to order a salad at a restaurant, simply because my Food Rules prohibit most types of dressing and I always assumed that these came pre-mixed. The Forager’s Salad at Tempus is… not like that. Rather, a tray packed full of fresh ingredients is brought to your table by your server, who will then mix up as much or as little as you like from a selection of in-season, fresh ingredients right in front of you. Oh, and the dressings come in little ramekins for you to add yourself to your taste.
I really, really want one of those salads.
Moving on to the main event: my first turkey dinner of the year. I have to be honest and say that this was the most disappointing part of the meal for me. Not the light and dark meat with stuffing, or the traditional vegetables, which were all perfectly adequate. But I had two complaints. Can you guess what they were?
What kind of MONSTER only includes one chipolata/pig-in-blanket with a Christmas dinner?!
The other complaint is entirely my bad, because the menu clearly states that Tempus’ take on the Christmas dinner is served with dauphinoise potatoes rather than what I would argue is the
only appropriate traditional roasties. My aversion to creamy sauces meant I was stuck picking at the top layer of potato, but given how accommodating the staff were for us I’d be very surprised if there wasn’t some kind of alternative they could offer.
Dessert, it seems, is where Tempus really excels. The set festive menu includes such delights as a salted caramel and chocolate tart, sticky toffee pudding and Christmas pudding cheesecake (seriously) – but, like Lynsay, all I had to hear was the words “brown sugar meringue” to tempt me off-menu and into the arms of the newly-launched Taste of Winter.
Combining meringue, spiced plums, orange mascarpone and an amazingly zesty clementine sorbet, this dessert was an absolute dream. The summer version, which Ayden had tried on a previous visit, sounds just as delightful. All desserts should be pick-and-mix style.
Thoroughly stuffed, and with two pregnant bloggers to see safely home, our party decided against staying for coffee – but we still managed to thoroughly decimate the miniature shortbreads, mince pies and stollen that were supposed to be served alongside thanks to some well-timed paper bags. Tempus: they really have thought of everything.
We were guests of Tempus/Grand Central Hotel, but all opinions are my own and unbiased.