With limited edition Christmas drinks and grab’n’go lunch options now a staple in supermarkets and coffee shops over the holiday period, I thought I’d explore which places have been offering a vegan option in 2017. Look out for these over the next couple of weeks if you’re doing some last minute Christmas shopping or braving the boxing day sales, and fingers crossed we’ll see these five options plus even more next year!
Tesco Finest Bubble and Squeak Fritter with Spiced Red Cabbage Roll
This is a truly decadent sandwich at 521 calories, containing 25% of your recommended daily allowance of saturated fats. I think Tesco can be forgiven for that though because in my opinion it tasted good enough to be worth it. The savoury carrot sub roll is soft and similar to brioche which I haven’t had in a good while. The texture is really satisfying with the crunch from the cabbage along with the softer fritters and the chew of the bread. The different layers of flavour go deliciously together too, as you get sweetness from the bubble and squeak which has hints of christmassy cinnamon and apple, along with the vinegar of the red cabbage. To top it off Tesco have developed a vegan mayonnaise and include a sachet of coconut bacon. It’s the first time I’ve tried that in a year and a half of veganism, and while I know they don’t really taste like bacon, they are extremely tasty, adding the smokey and salty element that bacon would otherwise bring.
Marks and Spencers Chestnut Roast Wrap
The M&S vegan Christmas offer is a pretty looking red pepper tortilla wrapping a mix of grains and roasted chestnuts with spinach, and a grape and cranberry red wine chutney. Unfortunately this wasn’t my favourite of the options. It sounds great, but I couldn’t taste the chestnuts, in fact I couldn’t taste much of anything. I did get a hint of red wine from the chutney, but the thing that I tasted the most from this wrap was actually probably the spinach, which is a shame when it’s a leaf that doesn’t have much flavour itself! It’s one of the healthier options for a grab-and-go lunch, and part of the lack of flavour might be down to that sadly (though I know from other experience that healthy doesn’t have to mean flavourless, Rola Wala being case in point). One of the nice things about opting for this sandwich is that 5% of the profit from each pack is donated to Shelter. Which now I think about it makes me feel a bit bad that I bought this reduced at £1.50. Sadly though in terms of the sandwich alone I think I’d have been a bit disappointed had I paid the full rather steep price for it.
Pret’s Very Merry Christmas Lunch
Pret have been one of the best options for grab and go vegan food for a long time, so it’s no surprise that their Christmas sandwich is a hit. Crunchy grilled carrots and crispy onions add some texture to the vegan stuffing filling mixed with a Christmassy port and orange cranberry sauce. The caramelised pecans are also a lovely addition. It’s an indulgent sandwich and for someone who usually brings a packed lunch to work it really felt like a treat. Pret also donate 50p from each sandwich to the Pret Foundation Trust to help the homeless, which feels particularly pertinent in Oxford which has sadly such high, and growing, levels of street sleepers.
Caffe Nero Falafel wrap with Chestnuts and spiced slaw
Probably my least favourite of the festive lunches I tried. It was a bit disappointing on sight when I opened the packet and there seemed to be more wrap than filling. It tasted like their regular falafel wrap with a mulled wine flavoured slaw, which was the best bit, though it didn’t quite all come together as nicely as some of the other lunches I tried. Perfectly edible wrap though and it’s great to see Nero catering for vegans with their festive specials. Another redeeming point for the chain coffee shop is that their mince pies are vegan. Costa do a gluten free, vegan mince pie too, but it’s tucked away at the side (and actually costs a little more), whereas Nero’s are pride of place in the cake cabinet, saying these aren’t just for those with special dietary requirements, they’re for everyone. It was a lovely treat which you so often can’t get from a coffee shop, and though I ate it cold it would probably have been even nicer warmed through.
Boots Parsnip Fritter and Butternut Squash sandwich
I wasn’t expecting it, but the Boot’s limited edition festive vegan sandwich was the winner for me. It was really tasty, with all the flavours being very well balanced. There is an awful lot going on between the parsnip and carrot fritter, butternut squash, chickpeas, chestnuts, spinach, houmous and vegan mayonnaise, as well as cranberry sauce, but everything goes together so well and nothing is too overpowering. While the Tesco Finest sandwich possibly edged it on flavour alone (but only by a small margin), the thing that made the Boots sandwich a winner for me was the fact that it’s included in their £3.29 meal deal, so you can get a big smoothie and snack for just a few pence more. This makes the sandwich way better value than any of the other festive options, and it’s one I’ll reach for next time I need lunch on the go during the Christmas period.