FOOD REVIEW: Christmas Market, Commercial Road, Portsmouth
CHRISTMAS is one of the few times in the year where it is socially acceptable to eat unnatural amounts of food, filling your stomach to the brim on an almost daily basis.
Coincidentally, it's also the time of year where disorganised people (such as myself) are scrambling around looking for presents to give to family and friends.
Mixing the two seems like the perfect idea '“Â give yourself a food baby and you can use it to barge people out of the way in Primark.
It is for this reason '“Â in my opinion '“Â that the Christmas market in Commercial Road is so adored by Portsmouth residents.
You can get a bit of shopping done, sit down for a beer and a hot dog, and then rejoin the mindless slog of Christmas shopping.
Not to be outdone, I popped down to the market for some last-minute gifts '“Â and some top-notch grub.
My first port of call had to be the German hot dog stand. Sitting proudly in the centre of the marketplace, there's the usual array of hot dogs and burgers, all for a reasonable price.
I ordered a bratwurst sausage (Â£4.50) which comes in at around 6in long, complete with a bun and condiments of your choice.
Right from the first bite, I knew I was in for a treat. Say what you like about the Germans, but they know how to make a good sausage.
There was a real explosion of flavour as the rich seasoning sang in tune with the meat. It was cooked beautifully too '“Â a smooth golden brown on the outside but tender and moreish inside.
My only complaints lie with the bun, which fell apart under the weight of the sausage, and the ketchup, which seemed to pour out of the bottle way too quickly. But I haven't got a single bad word to say about the sausages themselves.
After a nice starter, I hunted around for a main course '“ for which there are plenty of options.
From the gourmet burgers to the Greek filled pita bread stand, you find yourself spoiled for choice, walking up and down the high street as you try to make up your mind.
Eventually, I settled on the noodle bar, prompting for the grilled mixed chicken noodles (Â£6).
I was impressed by the range of noodles '“Â and rice dishes '“Â that were available, and was given a box that was packed to the brim.
Inside the box, there was more than enough chicken for two boxes, much to my delight; I had feared that I would be given four or five pieces of chicken and that would be my lot.
The chicken itself was tender and flavoursome '“Â at the stand you can literally see the team cooking behind the counter, putting together masterpieces in flavour.
Alongside the chicken, the veg inside still held a little bit of crunch, which was nice '“Â and the noodles themselves were cooked beautifully.
I must say, however, that there wasn't enough spice for my liking; I had been hoping for a bit more heat, but found it to be quite mild by comparison to other noodle bars. That being said, this also means that it is suitable for children '“Â Christmas shopping can be quite a challenge when your youngster's tongue is on fire.
Having ploughed through the noodles and wandering round a few more shops, I found myself drifting back towards the gourmet burger stand, picking up a quarter pounder burger and chips for Â£4.50 '“Â a very agreeable price.
The burger itself was cooked beautifully, with succulent meat and a perfectly sized bun. It practically melts in your mouth as you eat it and was an absolute delight from the first bite to the last.
The chips were also fantastic '“Â crisp on the outside but light and fluffy inside. I couldn't have asked for a better compliment to the burger.
By this point I was feeling exceptionally full, and was incredibly impressed by the high standard of food throughout the Christmas market.
But still, dessert was calling me.
The options for sweet treats are perhaps not as varied as the savoury delights '“Â and many people seemed to be drawn to the pick and mix.
I instead chose to go to the '˜Finest Fudge' stand, buying three sticks of fudge for Â£10.
That's one for me, one for my partner, and probably another one for me.
From an enormous array of flavours, I decided to buy the millionaire's fudge '“Â designed to look and taste like its shortbread namesake.
Interestingly, the flavours did actually shine through, and each layer was distinct enough that you could really taste a difference.
While I absolutely adored the fudge for its sweetness, soft texture and size (it was a genuine mission to get through the whole thing) I am aware that it would perhaps have been too rich for some.
Overall, my thoughts on this year's Christmas market are overwhelmingly positive.
There's an abundance of choices for shoppers, with all the food coming in at a reasonable price, and the food will almost certainly live up to your expectations.
So if you have any last-minute Christmas shopping left to do, or are looking for somewhere different to go for dinner, it seems Commercial Road is the place to be.