Waitrose already provides posh food for the masses and has now gone one step further with the launch of its own premium range, Waitrose 1.
I was invited to the launch event which was a great opportunity to try the foods and speak to some of the product developers and specialists.
Held on the second floor of London’s Oxo tower with amazing views as the sun set over the Thames, my expectations were high. I’d been told it was a drop-in event, so I went after work, and assumed that since I wasn’t being asked to go at a particular time there wouldn’t be a presentation as such. Instead, I found a room showcasing different products on ‘stations’ – first I came to the dessert and cocktail bar (actually, first I was offered a glass of champagne by a waiter proffering a tray) and had a chat with a friendly PR about the amazing cakes. My eye was particularly drawn to a dessert called a 'chocolate and orange wave', which comes in a chilled pack of two.
I didn’t get to try this one but the rhubarb and custard flavour was available for testing. I’m not keen on rhubarb but the filling – a mousse-like texture – was so creamy that I was converted.
I moved on to the pizza station and watched a few people having a go at making pizza bases, and spoke to a Waitrose representative about their new range of pizzas. They use a sourdough base, which some pizza restaurants use like Franco Manca in London; you can get sourdough bases in supermarkets as well, usually in their premium ranges.
The new Waitrose pizzas come in three sizes and the toppings on offer will change seasonally; one they are launching now is the wood-fired spicy sausage and broccoli pizza (£4.79). I'd be quite tempted to try that one.
I also tried some of the Le Cret Gruyere, made in a Swiss village, which was also really good.Moving on to the cheese stand I tried several varieties, including a Belgian beer cheese. The beer is added to the vat as the cheese is made. I don't like beer but thought it was delicious and the cheese had a nice texture - slightly rubbery which I actually quite like rather than a crumbly cheese!
I also tried burrata, an Italian cheese made from shredded mozzarella, mixed with cream, and formed into a ball again. I’d never had it before and it was so creamy that I don’t think I could eat much in one go.
Alongside the cheese I tried some bread, and was told that flavoured breads do sell very well. I’m not sure how popular their latest one will be – it tasted very good, but not everyone would want to try bread containing cauliflower! A cauliflower cheese mixture is baked into the bread; the cauli gives the bread a different texture – more open with holes. The cheese flavour came through strongly and occasionally I could tell I was eating a piece of cauliflower!I spotted someone carving an Iberio ham and had a very interesting conversation about the provenance and process. It's cured for a minimum of two years and hand carved, which is why it costs £9.99 for a 75g packet - good for a posh dinner party perhaps!
Finally I stopped at the chocolate stand and initially tried to resist, as I’m supposed to be on a sugar-free diet, but just couldn’t. Waitrose has a new range of salted caramels, showcasing four different salts with very different flavour profiles, so of course I had to try all four and compare. They were amazing, and if anyone wants to give me a box of these I can put aside my no sugar diet for one day! (In actual fact I’m meant to be sugar free 5 days out of 7 and can have two days off, according to the practitioner I’m currently seeing).
There was also a range of dessert truffles in pretty pastel colours and I decided I couldn’t possibly try all of them as I’d had too much chocolate already, which was a shame as they sounded intriguing – I’ve never had a sticky toffee pudding or pineapple upside down cake chocolate truffle before! I did try one, the jaffa cake truffle. I was expecting a fairly standard smooth truffle in a chocolate orange flavour, but what I found was a little centre of orange in the middle of the truffle, in a jelly-consistency that did remind me of jaffa cakes. I’ll definitely look out for these ones coming into the shops too!The products are premium prices so for most people – even most people who already shop at Waitrose – I think these would be a special treat, for a dinner party, special occasion or just a nice way to treat yourself, rather than part of the weekly grocery shop, but I can imagine them selling really well.