Four Christmases (Dinners)

Thursday, December 18, 2008 0:36 | Filed in The Pickards

It’s not Christmas yet, and I’ve already had four Christmas dinners. This may sound like something from a Vince Vaughn film, or indeed a Vicar of Dibley plot, but it’s all perfectly logical when you have it explained to you.

First, I went out for a Christmas meal with the people I work for. This consisted of meeting up in a pub, then going to a casino where there was a restaurant, and having the food there. I think I had some sort of soup to start, followed by a steak of some description. However, I know I consumed a large quantity of red wine, so everything got somewhat fuzzed during the course of the evening and I may not remember this precisely correctly.

I may also have rambled out to my co-workers about not much in particular at length, but I probably do that anyway, so the only difference is that I would have been slightly less coherent than normal.

Fortunately, I took my camera along, in order to make some record of the evening. However, I appear to have used my camera to simply catalogue what I was drinking, so all I can actually show you is a nice pint of cider and a couple of glasses of red wine…

Cider and red wine. What more could any night out require? (flickr)

I somehow managed to make it onto my train in time the following morning, some thirteen minutes after waking, which was rather fortunate as the GLW was meeting me at the station as she was going to York for a night out with her friends. Although I suspect it may have been some twenty-four hours later before I was relatively human again.

But a night out doesn’t have to be about drinking red wine. Although it would appear that this is what I tend to do on these occasions, because the next time out was a visit to the Greek restaurant Simply Greek in Newcastle city centre, where we enjoyed a large quantity of mezé of different types. Mmmm.

Oh yes, and some red wine. However, this time a slightly more measured quantity thereof, and therefore no hangover. Which was deliberate policy on two counts as:

  1. I don’t like having hangovers and feeling rough
  2. We were attending BTP’s school nativity play the following day and I wasn’t going to show him up by turning up hung over

Then my wife and I went out for a meal with her friends at a place called Chapters — where we’d been before — and again had a very nice meal. I had :

Ballontine of Ham Hock & Corn Fed Chicken, Plum Chutney, Green Bean Salad
Main Course:
a steak with peppercorn sauce, some chunky chips and a little bowl of salad which was listed on the menu in the restaurant but not on the online menu.
Selection of Yorkshire Cheese, Miller Biscuits, Quince Jelly

And, like last time, the food was very nice (although I wouldn’t have grumbled at larger portions and/or some vegetables with the main course); the company was sparkling — although one member of our company was feeling unwell and retired straight after dessert. The floor was just as wonky as I had remembered it, as obviously when they had built what was presumably originally an 18th Century coaching inn, they hadn’t been quite as concerned over things such as “flat floors” and “normal shaped doorways” as we would be today. We were in fact in the same room as our last visit, which was pretty much as I had remembered it before, only now I think they had a nicer telly in there…

Grandma and Grandad had looked after our children the night before. It’s always an adventure for the children to stay over at Grandma’s house (and it is probably somewhat of an adventure for Grandma and Grandad too, depending on how well behaved they are being), with the plan that we’d all meet up together the following lunch time and go for a Christmas lunch at Lumley Castle.

Lumley Castle is a spectacular old castle, originally built around 1400 and then extended in the 18th Century. They do family Christmas lunches throughout December during which time Santa comes along to see the children.

SWP and BTP with the presents Santa gave them at Lumley Castle (flickr)

The kids were obviously a bit shy in the face of actually meeting Santa for real (as he knows all about when they have been naughty, you know) but managed to mumble to him some of the things that they wanted for Christmas. He gave them each an early Christmas present (a selection box) and then it was time for dinner.

Unusually, there wasn’t a starter I particularly desired — I’m not keen on tomato soup, I’m not overly fussed about prawns, I wanted something a little more substantial than melon, and I’ve never really liked pâté. So I thought ‘bugger it, I’ll have the pâté anyway’. Which turned out to be very nice actually, and has left me trying to work out whether I actually do like pâté now, or whether this was just a one off, with my dislike of the pâté being covered over by the most highly flavoured stuff it was served with.

This was followed with roast beef, and then again a selection of cheeses — having never gone for the ‘cheeseboard’ option at a restaurant ever before, I’d now gone for it twice in 24 hours. There was a bit of cheddar (which the kids pinched); some smoked cheese of some description, a piece of wensleydale with cranberries and some Guinness cheese, which I’d never even heard of before but was particularly nice.

BTP eats a chocolate dessert (flickr)

However, as you might be able to tell, BTP had gone for the chocolate mousse type of thing which came with chocolate sauce.

He seemed to enjoy it, and although I was always of the opinion that the trick with eating is to try and ensure that most of the food goes into your mouth — as opposed to, say, around your mouth — I think that just further added to the entertainment.

Coffee and mince pies were then served, although the mince pies were tiny. It would seem a little unfair to complain about this however, as I didn’t eat mine as I was full up from having eaten my dinner (and, ahem, assisting my children in eating theirs).

I have to say that the service wasn’t particularly great — they seemed in somewhat of a hurry to move us on, and twice asked us if everyone had finished our main course before we had, which shouldn’t have been that difficult to determine as in both cases the kids were actively engaged in eating. I do appreciate that we were probably in the last lunchtime sitting of the day, but if you are in that much of a hurry, then you should only take bookings up to an earlier point in time.

However, we did have a very nice time, so I don’t wish to be churlish about it, and would still very much recommend it as a family friendly Sunday Christmas lunch.

Grandmarazzi (flickr)

We also got a little glimpse of what it must be like to be a celebrity, as there was someone — other than me — there who was taking photographs. Fortunately, I managed to get a photo of this person, who I can only describe as the “Grandmarazzi”.

The only drawback with describing her thus however is she probably won’t like it and is therefore liable to give me a clip around the ear…

And that was my four Christmas dinners. While I enjoyed each of them very much, I have to admit to feeling somewhat relieved that I don’t actually have to have any more three course meals before Christmas Day, when it is considered mandatory to celebrate the birth* of someone who was very much about self-sacrifice by exchanging lots of expensive gifts and over-eating. Nope, not entirely sure how that works myself, either, but it’s traditional, innit?

*yes, I know he wasn’t actually born then**, it being in early January or something but moved to fit the winter solstice or some Roman festival or something.

**yes, I know some people don’t believe he even existed at all, but whether or not he did, Christmas is still about celebrating his birth***.

***look, just drop it, okay?

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3 Comments to Four Christmases (Dinners)

  1. Jack's Mam says:

    December 18th, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Its a pity you’re missing Boxing day lunch with the grandmarazzi. Instead of a clip round the ear, I’ll just tease you with the menu- Beetroot and pomegranate soup to start, then a little palate cleanser of lychee and lime sorbet followed by fennel/butternut squash and cranberry tarte tatin with braised greens, oven roasted cherry tomatoes with tarragon and crispy potatoes with apple. Followed by a choice of home made ice-creams- liquorice, ginger , plum blush ………….oh yes, I am making a pink grapefruit sorbet at your request, not that you deserve it :-)

  2. Jack's Mam says:

    December 18th, 2008 at 1:16 am

    PS I forgot to include the Christmas Pud ice-cream too.

  3. mark fairlamb says:

    December 18th, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    heading for the aley any time before chrimbo then?

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