A taste of Christmas: the great mince pie road test

Mince pies are a British festive staple. Janice Leung Hayes oversees our panel as they put seven of the most popular varities to the test

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 December, 2013, 9:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 January, 2014, 6:35pm


MINCEMEAT – THE SWEET, spiced mixture of dried and candied fruits used to make the small mince pies eaten during the Christmas season – used to actually contain meat. Right up until the late 18th century, mince pies were large, made with meat and were served as a main course.

In The New and Easy Method of Cookery, published in 1759, cookery teacher and author Elizabeth Cleland calls for “a large ox tongue” in her “minc’d Pie”. Since the first renditions of the pies, believed to have appeared in the 16th century, they have always included spices such as cinnamon, mace and nutmeg, as well as dried fruits such as dates and citrus peel.

These days, while the meat is gone, animal products remain in the form of suet, which is still often used in the making of mincemeat. Mainly a British tradition, mince pies are often mass produced and available at supermarkets, although to traditionalists, only home-made will do. They’re popular during the winter holidays because despite their small size, they’re quite substantial, especially if they contain suet.



The pies, both handmade and commercial, were tasted by a panel of five judges – Joshua Ng of food writing duo Twins Kitchen and one of the founders of Common Ground cafe; chefs May Chow from Little Bao and Jack Carson from Restoration; and representing the Brits were food blogger Alejandra Wilkinson and Rachel Read editor. Seven brands were sampled.

It was the first time Carson, an American, had tasted a mince pie and it may be the last. He compared them to Fig Newtons. “It’s what old people with no teeth eat.” Read admits that she has never been a real fan of mince pies, but when she does eat them, she looks for “that moreish, cosy, spiced quality”.

The blind tasting took place at Common Ground, with all pies bought on the day. Each taster could allot up to 50 points, with up to 10 points given for aesthetics and 40 for flavour. They were served with brandy butter, although the scoring reflects the pies without condiments.


HK$200 per dozen for small mince pies, or HK$325 per dozen for large ones;

“Love the pastry. Balance of flavour is good” - 42/Joshua Ng

“Quite tart. Apples. Unusual flavour, not traditional but it works. Nice pastry” - 38/Alejandra Wilkinson

“Very chunky. Good size” - 36/Jack Carson

“Good acidity, well balanced, not too sweet. Overall nice flavours with citrus peel, spices and brandy” - 42/May Chow

“Not typical mince pie-y. Good ingredients, lots of fruit. Citrus taste” - 33/Rachel Read


Marks & Spencer Ultimate All Butter Mince Pies
HK$118 for four
Marks & Spencer, 28 Queen’s Road Central, tel: 29218323

“Good mincemeat, sugar crystal is good” - 34/Joshua Ng

“Liked the sugar crystals. Looks home-made. Crumbly. Good flavour” - 42/Alejandra Wilkinson

“Home-made, flat, egg wash, large sugar crystal. Flaky, a little dry, spice is nice” - 37/Jack Carson

“Crust is crumbly, pastry is like a biscuit. Has good orange and citrus flavours” - 35/May Chow

“Like the sugar crystals on top. Has that moreish quality” - 33/Rachel Read


Walkers Luxury Mincemeat Tarts
HK$70 for six
Oliver's The Delicatessen, shop 201-205, 2/F Prince's Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, tel: 2810 7710

“Too doughy” - 42/Joshua Ng

“A bit floury. Good pastry. Less sweet. Mass-produced” - 37/Alejandra Wilkinson

“A little dry, nice filling” - 39/Jack Carson

“Don’t like the crust, tastes like flour. But has good abundance of variety of spices, peel and brandy” - 34/May Chow

“Nice filling, not too sweet. Not buttery enough” - 38/Rachel Read


Waitrose Christmas Shortcrust Mince Pies
HK$39.90 for six
Great Food Hall, LG1, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 9606

“Runny centre, too sweet” -26/Joshua Ng

“Good pastry. Quite runny inside, good flavour but didn’t like the texture” - 34/Alejandra Wilkinson

“Best pastry. A bit runny inside. Nice spice” - 30/Jack Carson

“Slightly runny but nice overall flavour and crust” - 38/May Chow

“Nice pastry, runny filling” - 37/Rachel Read


Classified Mince Pies
HK$12 each
108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2525 3454

“Artificial dry fruit, good pastry” - 32/Joshua Ng

“Really good pastry. Homemade feel. Not very spiced” - 32/Alejandra Wilkinson

“[Looks] handmade, moist” - 30/Jack Carson

“Not bad but taste overpowered by currants” - 29/May Chow

“Too much pastry-to-filling ratio” - 31/Rachel Read


Mandarin Cake Shop
HK$21each for small, HK$42 each for large
M/F Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central, tel: 2825 4008

“Good pastry, buttery, very biscuity. Too sweet” - 33/Joshua Ng

“Very sugary. Not enough spices. Too much sugar. Pastry too flaky” - 22/Alejandra Wilkinson

“Too sweet. Flaky texture, nice pastry” - 27/Jack Carson

“Really buttery. Too sweet, no need for sugar on top. Not enough spices and alcohol” - 32/May Chow

“Can only taste raisins. Sugar overpowering” - 22/Rachel Read


Tai Tai Pie Pies Christmas Mincemeat Pies
HK$8.50 each
Great Food Hall, LG1, Pacific Place, Admiralty, tel: 2918 9606,

“Straight-forward taste with only one kind of fruit. Pastry is bad, dry” - 21/Joshua Ng

“Not good. Pastry too dense, overcooked and salty” - 11/Alejandra Wilkinson

“Overcooked pastry. Like store-bought pastry” - 12/Jack Carson

“Looked home-made, but pastry is hard and dry. No variety of flavour, just tastes like a lot of dried currants”  - 22/May Chow

“Pastry too dense. Only one type of fruit” - 11/Rachel Read