Gathering together around the ritual of food and wine is one of my favourite things about Christmas. Over the course of December, I'll get together with most people I know at some point for a meal. Working with a bunch of lovely foodies means that the team Christmas lunch is something to look forward to indeed.
I work in the leafy inner-suburb of Muswell Hill, which has more boutiques, cafes and delis than you could ever need. Yet, for all that muesli money, there's very little in the way of nice independent restaurants or decent pubs. So for our Christmas lunch we went to the Woodman pub at Highgate tube. The Woodman used to be a run-down spot for ageing and under-age drinkers, positioned unfavourably at a junction on grimy ol' Archway Road (A1).
It got 'done up' almost two years ago and now it's a cosy, but spacious, unpretentious pub, with a great kitchen, well-picked wine list and massive outside area. The menu has French, British and Mediterranean influences and the Christmas menu reflected all those.
I had braised Lamb shoulder with aman bayaldi (slow cooked aubergine and other med veg) with olive mash. Joyously, massive bowls of traditional trimmings were placed in the middle of the table so that even non-traditionalists could enjoy pigs in blankets, red cabbage and roast potatoes and parsnips.
To finish I had a chocolate cheesecake, which was unsurprisingly rich and luxurious and had a lovely, caramelly biscuit base.
Most people will have had their Christmas meals by now, but bear the Woodman in mind if you're ever up in that neck of the woods (literally - Highgate and Queens Wood are both within spitting distance of the Woodman!) - it is a welcome change from the chain pubs and restaurants of Highgate Village and Muswell Hill.