Think Outside of the Christmas Dinner Box

Turkey is great, but there are so many other options….

Here in Britain, we take it for granted that our festive tables will be adorned with a perfectly golden turkey, but it hasn’t always been that way… Turkey is an American import and there are lots of delicious home-grown alternatives to the hackneyed Christmas turkey. Here at Bishopstrow, we are champions of local produce and, to help you find that perfect turkey alternative this Christmas, we thought we’d give you a little history lesson on festive feasting throughout the centuries…

Why do we eat turkey at Christmas?

Last Christmas saw the UK consuming approximately 10 million turkeys. That’s roughly 1 turkey to every 6 UK citizens: madness! But turkey hasn’t always been such a popular Christmas treat in the British Isles… Turkeys are believed to have first arrived Britain in 1526, brought over from America by Yorkshireman William Strickland. His six birds, purchased from American Indian traders, were brought back to Bristol and sold for tuppence each at market. Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy a festive turkey when they were first brought back from America.  By the eighteenth century, turkey had become so popular that birds were being bred on a large scale in Norfolk. By 1720 up to 250,000 turkeys were being walked from Norfolk to London to be sold at market. Though turkey had risen in popularity, it was still the reserve of the rich. In 1930 it took a week’s wages to buy your Christmas turkey and it wasn’t until the 1950s that turkey became a more widely available Christmas treat. Nowadays it takes, on average, just 1.7 hours’ worth of wages to put a turkey on the Christmas table.


If turkey isn’t traditional, what is?

Prior to the turkey making its foray into British festive feasts, a traditional medieval Christmas dinner would have consisted of any roast meat. For the poorer in society this may have been beef or ’umble pie (a pie made from offal and cheaper cuts of meat). For those that were slightly wealthier, a roasted goose or woodcock (a small game bird) with all the trimmings was often enjoyed. For the upper echelons of medieval society, the ubiquitous Christmas meal might have included roasted swan (with the permission of the king), pheasant, a roasted boar’s head, or even peacock.


So why have we confined ourselves to turkey!?

Who knows!? Turkey is great and all, but there are so many delicious alternatives out there. Let’s take a leaf out of our medieval ancestors’ book and bring some variety back into Christmas! Here at Bishopstrow, though we do offer the obligatory turkey, we have endeavoured to make our festive menus as varied as possible to make your Christmas in Wiltshire as scrumptious as possible! How about the Pan Seared Fillet of Gurnard on our Festive Lunch Menu. Or how about a hark back to the traditional festive fare of roasted goose with the modern alternative of Orange and Clove Glazed Breast of Duck from our Festive Dinner Menu? Or perhaps the Rare Roasted Beef Wellington on our Christmas Day Menu might take your fancy? Whatever your tastes, there are plenty of alternatives to turkey that you can eat this Christmas.

If any or all of those delicious festive fancies have got your juices flowing, then why not book a table at one of Bishopstrow’s delicious festive dining occasions? Please call 01985 212312 to make your reservation at one of the finest restaurants in Wiltshire, or email us on for further information.

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