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All change at the Pudding Club

After a busy day exercising our credit cards in Stratford, we all met up mid-afternoon at the car to drive the short distance to Mickleton, the honey-coloured Cotswold village that is the home of the Pudding Club.

There were a number of changes this year. The long-term owners of the hotel sold it last year to an investment company which specialises in small hotels. So far, according to the staff, the main changes have been some new frescoes in the Reception and Bar areas, rather than wholesale sweeping changes. It has always struck me as a well-run and very comfortable if somewhat idiosyncratic hotel, so I do hope that the new owners work with what’s already good about the place, rather than turning it into an identikit corporate clone.

The other major change was that Craig, the long-serving Hotel Manager who has been the compère of the Pudding Club for many many years, took the opportunity to move on. He has been replaced by Sarah as the new host and Master of Ceremonies. However, the woman organising the Pudding Club evening had the happy thought of inviting Craig back as our guest – he said that it was the first time he’d ever sat down and eaten the puddings, and only now realised just how hard it is to eat all seven!

Sarah had instigated some small but welcome changes of her own. There were now just two rules to the Pudding Club:

  1. You can only go up to get a portion of Pudding when your table is invited to.
  2. You can only have one Pudding in your bowl at a time, so you have to finish the previous one before you can go up for the next.

She seemed to have quietly dropped Craig’s very harsh rule 3: The table won’t be invited up for the next round if anyone on the table hasn’t finished their previous Pudding.

The puddings this year were:

  • sticky toffee and date pudding
  • Lord Randall’s Pudding (essentially, a marmalade sponge pudding)
  • pear and ginger crumble
  • lemon meringue tart
  • very chocolate pudding
  • bread and butter pudding
  • spotted dick

All served with custard / cream / toffee sauce / chocolate sauce as appropriate. Sarah’s other innovation this year was to offer slightly smaller portions. You could still pig out and eat vast quantities (and some on my table did just that!) but it meant that those of us with smaller appetites could try more of the puddings.

You have to think hard about tactics. Do you start heavy and go lighter? Start with the light ones and go heavier? Use the cold dessert as a palate-cleanser half way through? Or just start with your favourites so that if you get full too soon, you at least haven’t missed out? That’s the technique I favour, as I know full well I won’t manage everything, so I concentrate on the ones I think I’ll like the most.

This year I was very impressed with myself that I managed the first five puddings. My downfall, as last year, was the Very Chocolate Pudding. It is so rich that my stomach rebelled and refused to countenance anything further. At the end of the evening we all vote for our favourite Pudding – you can only vote for one Pudding, but you can vote for it as many times as you had portions of it. This year Sticky Toffee and Date Pudding was the clear winner, boosted by multiple votes by people who had five or more portions of it!