What is a ‘sandwich’? The concept of an ‘open-faced sandwich’ suggests a structural flexibility beyond the ‘things between two pieces of bread’ definition; yet several fooderies this year have chucked out the whole concept altogether and put out FESTIVE OFFERINGS that can in no way be described as a sandwich AT ALL. One such is Pret’s Festive Winter Salad, £4.95 and consumed in the traditional way, with a maroon plastic fork at an office desk.

The base of the Festive Winter Salad is classic and simple. Roasted (according to the packet) butternut squash and (presumably steamed?) broccoli. Though not immediately festive, broccoli is at least festive-adjacent as it is in the same cruciferous veg family as sprouts; and butternut squash likewise is not necessarily Christmas-y in the same way as cranberry and turkey, but is still seasonal enough.

Atop this strong fibrous vegetable base rests:

  • a few leaves of spinach
  • a gentle flecking of Wensleydale
  • dried cranberries
  • caramel toasted pecans (NICE!)

Next to it:

  • ‘apple sprout slaw’ (quite nice although I didn’t taste any sprout whatsoever, only tart apple and vinegar, which was nice)

more bafflingly:

  • pomegranate seeds (they’re a superfood? I guess???)

worst of all:

  • a small tub of MUSTARD DRESSING?!

Look, it’s a nice effort Pret but this is just too many things. Cheese, cranberries and toasted nuts: absolutely. Base of butternut squash: sure. Broccoli? I mean, also sure? Spinach? Might as well get some more green things in. Pomegranate seeds? What kind of theme are we looking at here? Pomegranate seeds are not only attractive, they have a very tart pithy flavour and you can’t just scatter them hither and yon with no attention paid to the dish’s balance or complementary flavours. Yes, pomegranate and squash go together in theory, but not in the same world as WENSLEYDALE I mean honestly. The same is true of the mustard dressing. Mustard does not go with butternut squash. It does not go with toasted pecans. It barely goes with broccoli. It may go with some cheeses, but that cheese is not Wensleydale. Its inclusion in the same plate as the apple ‘sprout’ slaw is baffling (there is ALREADY a vinaigrette!!!).

You can sort of see how each individual ingredient made it in:

Mustard goes with broccoli, as in a particularly ambitious mac and cheese.

Broccoli goes with toasted pecans, as in a side dish at Ottolenghi.

Toasted pecans go with Wensleydale and cranberry, as in a bite-sized appetiser tart from Tesco Finest festive range.

Wensleydale and cranberry go with spinach, as in a salad your mum knocked together for the Christmas Eve afternoon bring-and-share party with the neighbours she forgot about until ten minutes ago, which is also ten minutes after the party ostensibly started.

Spinach goes with butternut squash, as in a BBC Good Food ‘weeknight dinner for <£1 a serving’ vegetable coconut curry recipe.

Butternut squash goes with pomegranate seeds, as in an ‘easy Ottolenghi’ recipe in the Guardian that will never be served at the actual restaurants.

And pomegranate seeds go with apple sprout slaw, as in a wide-ranging but ultimately unfocused Festive Winter Salad from a chain lunch eatery.

Pret, you are not Ottolenghi. It is fine to not be Ottoleghi. Just be Pret.

It is okay to be you.