Britain’s seven deadly puddings
The Passionfruit Charlotte pudding is a fruit mousse served with generous chunks of sponge cake. (Three Ways House Hotel)
It was hardly the behaviour you would expect from a typical British club.
After a chorus of spoons clanging in furious unison and a welcome more suited to a boxing ring than a restaurant, the last of seven giant puddings was brought into the room. Sixty guests waited impatiently for Craig Mathews, the master of ceremonies, to signal the start of the sugary eating marathon. Welcome to the Pudding Club, a most unusual celebration of British desserts.
The Pudding Club began in 1985 when a group of friends met in the tiny Cotswold village of Mickleton. Lamenting the fact that old favourites such as spotted dick (a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit and served with custard) and bread and butter pudding (slices of buttered bread covered with raisins and baked in an oven) were being gradually replaced on restaurant menus by foreign imports such as Black Forest gateau and New York cheesecake, they congregated at the Three Ways House Hotel and shared a selection of seven of Britain’s best-known traditional puddings. When they chose a favourite at the end of the night, the Pudding Club was born, and in the following years, curious visitors have come along every Friday to enjoy these indulgent evenings.
Today you can stay in one of seven themed Pudding Rooms at the hotel, including the Syrup Sponge Room (decorated in toffee and gold colours), the Chocolate Room (with a bed designed to look as though you’re sleeping inside a box of chocolates) and even the Spotted Dick and Custard Room (with custard-coloured walls and a 101 Dalmatians theme). An evening at the Pudding Club costs £50 (£86 for a couple) and advanced bookings are strongly recommended.
The Pudding Club attracts a mix of regulars and first-timers, including a growing number of international visitors. The Japanese have a special fondness for British puddings, and the Pudding Club has also held meetings in Tokyo and Osaka. “British puddings have certainly made a revival and I’d like to think we have been instrumental in that,” said Jill Coombe, the owner of the Three Ways House Hotel.
Guests are encouraged to try each pudding before a vote decides the Pudding of the Night. Each week there is a different selection of seven, with hot, steamed puddings such as chocolate sponge dominating in the winter and chilled options such as the fruit-filled summer pudding in the warmer months. There is no limit to the amount of times guests can go back for more. The current record stands at a gut-busting 23 portions of pudding in one sitting.
It’s probably best not to dwell on the dietary implications of attending the Pudding Club. There is a pint of golden syrup (a rich treacle) in each of the big sponges and more than a gallon of fresh cream is used to make four Eton Mess puddings (a mix of broken meringue nests, cream and strawberries). The Passionfruit Charlotte (a fruit mousse served with generous chunks of sponge cake) and Summer Pudding (fresh berries in juice-soaked bread) don’t feature on many diet plans either. As a consolation, at least there are miles of glorious countryside nearby in which to walk off those calories the following morning.