London is something of an epicentre of seasonal festivities, with countless shows, shopping events and illuminations that never fail to get residents and visitors alike in the Christmas spirit. However, it’s the festive food that really makes London such a draw to visitors during the holiday period. From gluhwein to bratwurst, mulled cider to churros, and even more unusual dishes such as Peruvian or Asian cuisine, Christmas is a great time of year for foodies and food vendors alike.
Whether you’re a food lover seeking the finest culinary experiences in seasonal settings, or are an establishment looking for the best opportunities to branch into the Christmas food and drink business, find out more about the top 5 food and drinks-based Christmas markets in London…
Christmas at Kew Gardens
Christmas at Kew Gardens is an immersive experience that is sure to entice even the least festive of consumers. “As the twilight falls, the magic begins…”, they explain on their website, and this is certainly true of all aspects of the evening. As the botanical greenhouses become illuminated in beautiful colours, guests can stroll through the Tunnel of Lights, the scented Fire Gardens and even visit the North Pole village or frequent vintage rides.
This is a more traditional fare in terms of food, with hot chocolate, spiced cider, mulled wine, toasted marshmallows, and roasting chestnuts all available throughout the festive period. Although this might not entreat the food maverick, there is something to be said of this classic approach. Even the most experimental among us have our favourites, particularly around Christmas. This is a time of year when consumers are inclined to indulge, particularly in food and drink that is familiar to their experience of the festive period. Alongside several eateries offering quality dishes crafted out of the finest ingredients, this is a fail-safe approach to Christmas service that works.
Camden Christmas market
Camden has long been associated with markets, due to the success of its international Camden Lock Market and its edgy street-style shops. The food here is amazing all year-round, but at Christmas, the vendors really step up their offerings. London Town say: “Camden Market will be hosting a weekly Christmas Market this festive season, with a new themed one popping up in the North Yard every Thursday from 17th November. The market will bring together the best gifts from across London as well as live music, festive food and mulled wine aplenty.”
One of these themed evenings is called ‘Season's Eatings’, a wise choice in appealing to consumers who are looking specifically to sample seasonal foods as a main attraction rather than an afterthought. Plus, the pun in the name will strike a chord with Camden’s alternative demographic. As the market’s website explains, this event will focus on “festive foodie gifts from local artisan producers”, and so you can expect to see some of the classic curries and experimental pizzas the market is famed for alongside seasonal offerings from Herb Camden, such as the ‘Ho-ho-ho hotdog’ – a heritage breed frankfurter with melted brie and clementine candy bacon, or their indulgent spiced mince pie soda, which features hints of butter caramel, raisins and candied citrus.
Alongside the food-centered festivities, the North Star bar proves to be a winter-y haven serving seasonal cocktails, hot toddies, mulled wine, and hot chocolate throughout December. This is a major attraction for Christmas shoppers who are looking to enjoy a few celebratory drinks, but don’t fancy the standard offerings of mulled wine and cider. Seasonal cocktails like Cranberry Collins, Rum Noggin or a Virgin Mary cocktail are sure to be on the cards, appealing to drinkers looking for a more up-market fare with a classic Camden twist.
Taste of London Winter
Last year, one of the main attractions at the renowned Taste of London Winter market was the stunning edible Christmas house at the centre of the venue. Although it typically runs in November, this event receives over 30,000 visitors per year, which is described as “the perfect place for passionate foodies to get inspiration and enjoy a festive gastronomic heaven.” The market is popular with foodies and industry professionals alike, where elite chefs share their festive cooking tips in live demonstrations and restaurant owners can gain a real insight into the festive trends that appeal to food and drink consumers through networking and simple observation.
Visitors sampled delicious aperitifs as they shopped for exquisite seasonal ingredients to add flair to their own festive classics come Christmas day, which adds an attractive element for those who are really interested in good food beyond simply eating it. According to Visit London, “the festival offers food lovers the chance to sample the signature dishes and wintry specials of 21 of the capital’s finest restaurants, including The Woodford, Bubbledogs, Hix, Kurobuta and Tredwell’s.”
Fanatic Team Takeover | @justinetrickett | Taste of London Winter 2015 The food element at festivals has been gathering pace over the past few years. My first experience of photographing chefs was at Wilderness in 2014, and this year I covered an entirely food-focused event for Fanatic, Taste of London Winter. I love detail shots, and especially ones where you get a sense of action and pace (even if only subtly), so I've been working on ways to show this in my photos. I've chosen this one because it has this element in a touch of motion blur, and also partly to creep out anyone who doesn't like the sight of tentacles 🐙 #tasteoflondon #foodie #foodphotography #tasteoflondonwinter
Featuring aged cheeses, fine wines and mixologist-prepared cocktails, and artisan chocolates, the Taste of London Winter market drew in visitors across many interest groups and demographics with their highly customised approach to food-based events. Allowing guests to create their own tasting menu with world-class signature dishes, this event set itself apart by presenting personalised, intimate experiences but with high-class interactions.
Real Food Christmas Market
Set outside the festive location of Kings Cross St. Pancras, the Real Food Festival is one for the consumer who loves shopping at farm shops and artisan bakeries. Providing a family-orientated atmosphere but retaining the element of quality food. Everything is ethically-sourced and produced, from British Charcuterie dry cured meats, cannoli, and a wide range of gift hampers, alongside dishes to enjoy as they shop.
This is perfect for the enthusiastic home baker or cook to add some more interesting, unusual and festive ingredients to their cupboards to experiment with. But equally, professional chefs and restaurant owners can frequent the market to network with suppliers, sourcing produce for festive specials and Christmas menus. Although there is an emphasis on gifting food, visitors can enjoy sumptuous snacks from The Polish Deli London’s pierogi, tagines from Nomades Moroccan Recipes and mouth-watering organic chocolates hand-made in London by Niko B. – all providing an exquisite and varied dining experience that emphasises the important of multiculturalism and simplicity for Christmas foodservice.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is perhaps the most famous Christmas event in London, and attracts visitors from around the world. Boasting a huge selection of food and drink outlets, Hyde Park becomes transformed into a festive food lover’s heaven. Several themed areas provide the classics such as The Bavarian Village’s beer gardens and bratwurst, as well as salmon grills and traditional sit-down east-German dishes. A traditional Swiss chalet restaurant welcomes guests with log fires and traditional cheese fondues, whereas at The Outpost & Grizzly Inn, visitors can enjoy pulled pork and festive pies with a glass of hot cider.
The drinks, too, offer real appeal. Bar Ice features two bars seemingly sculpted out of ice, where guests can enjoy a complimentary cocktail served in their own glass as they are wrapped up in a winter cloak and gloves. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland may be a large-scale event, but it gets one key thing right for attracting food and drink customers at Christmas – immersion. If you own a high-end restaurant, you may want to only slightly tweak your menu as a nod to the festive season, but if you intend to truly capitalise on Christmas, it needs to go beyond the food. From décor to plating, following a theme through will truly make your bar or eatery stand out from the hordes of establishments merely adding mince pies to the proceedings.