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Pudding Club Gluttony

Of course, the Retail Therapy was only a side-show to the main event of the weekend, our annual trip to the Pudding Club. We made the short drive over the Cotswolds to the picturesque village of Mickleton, to the Three Ways House hotel. I always rate a hotel by whether it provides flannels, a box of tissues, and something to read in the bedrooms, and this one passes those tests with flying colours. The reading matter is Cotswold Life Magazine, a rather up-market, aspirational “lifestyle magazine”. I can’t say that I’m currently in the market for dinner at the Michelin 2* restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, but it was mildly interesting to read about its tips policy. 

After settling in and speed-reading the magazines, I met back up with the group in the bar for a pre-dinner drink and gossip. Surprisingly soon, it was time to change for dinner. I’ve learned the hard way that, when at the Pudding Club, it is absolutely essential not to wear anything at all tight or constricting around the waist. So trousers are out. I very seldom wear a dress, but there are times when one is appropriate, and a gluttonous all-you-can-eat-and-then-some event is one of those. I’ve got a brown woollen sweater dress which stretches in all directions, which was ideal under the circumstances.  But what to wear with it? I’ve discovered that tights are definitely a bad idea, and stockings are no better, due to the requirement for suspenders which are extremely uncomfortable around the waist by one’s third pudding of the evening! Last year I discovered the magic of hold-ups which fit the bill admirably. Unfortunately I laddered my one and only pair when at L’s wedding last autumn, but I was able to find another pair in Marks and Spencer in Stratford just before we headed off to Mickleton, so that was all right.

Once we were all in our (very stretchy) finery, we met up in one of our rooms for more drinks before dinner. One of the group had been given a huge bottle of gin as a present the previous day, so there was a choice of red wine, white wine, and gin – though we all felt very self-conscious smuggling bottles of booze and our tooth-mugs through the bar! Then it was time for all 63 of the Pudding Club guests to congregate for a complimentary glass of elderflower cordial (hence the desire to pre-load with something stronger!) for the Main Event. 

There was no starter, no bread rolls, and just a very light main course with a choice of mushroom risotto, haddock fish cake, or braised blade of beef. I had the beef and it was absolutely delicious. The red cabbage, swede and carrot accompaniment was also very good, as were the Dauphinois potatoes. That’s my favourite way of cooking potatoes, but I had to hold back since we’d all been warned not to have too many potatoes, as that would damage our ability to stuff ourselves senseless on puddings. 

Then came what we’d all been waiting for. The puddings were paraded in one by one, to the accompaniment of cheers and banging of spoons on the table. It’s a different selection of puddings each time. This year they were : 

  • Lemon roly-poly with lemon sauce and custard
  • Passionfruit roulade with extra cream
  • Sticky toffee and date pudding with toffee sauce and custard
  • Ginger syrup sponge with custard
  • Chocolate and orange pudding with chocolate sauce and custard
  • Bread and butter pudding with custard
  • Apple crumble and custard

There are also some strict rules that have to be followed:

  1. You can only go up to get a portion of pudding when your table is invited to by the maitre d’
  2. You can only have one pudding in your bowl at any time
  3. Therefore you have to finish your portion of pudding before you go for another. If you don’t clear you bowl, the entire table is barred from having any more until your bowl is clear!
  4. After six rounds, it’s a free-for-all, and anyone left standing can have more servings as and when they want
  5. At the end of the evening, you all vote for our favourite pudding. You can only vote for one pudding, but you can cast as many votes as you had portions of that pudding. So someone being really gluttonous and having multiple helpings of a pudding can really skew the result.

I’ve never seen the third rule put into practice before, but it was this time! One of the women on our table (who was not one of our party, I hasten to add – we all know better!) found the ginger syrup sponge too sweet and tried to leave it. She was spotted, and we were all told that none of us was going anywhere until it was eaten. Since this was only the second round and we all had lots of room left, there was a huge amount of peer-pressure on her and her friends to clear her plate. They did so amid much protesting, but rules are rules and they were clearly stated up front.

I managed the first four puddings. The lemon roly-poly was quite heavy, but very lemony, and I was glad I’d taken a good amount of custard to cut through the suet pudding. The passionfruit roulade was gorgeous – passionfruit mousse rolled up inside a thin meringue crust. I love passionfruit, so I thought that was going to be my favourite. That was until I had the sticky toffee and date pudding, which was just fractionally even yummier. The ginger syrup sponge was very gingery, but was overly sweet – not surprising, as out of each four-pint pudding bowl, one whole pint was golden syrup!

I then sat out a round, thinking I’d go back the following round for some chocolate orange pudding. However, one of the group had a serving of that while I was sitting it out, and the smell of Terry’s Chocolate Orange was overwhelming. It was so sweet and chocolaty that my stomach just rebelled, and threatened that I would Seriously Regret It if I tried to eat anything else at all. So that was that. Four puddings is respectable, and I don’t think I’ve ever managed more than that. At least two of my group managed seven rounds – respect! 

The votes were very close, with my two favourites, passionfruit roulade and sticky toffee & date, being the two front runners. In the end, passionfruit roulade one by just one vote – the critical vote being that of one of our group who loved it so much she had two helpings, and therefore cast two votes for it. 

It was a huge amount of fun. Good company, good food and such a massive overload of calories that it’s a very good job we only go once a year!