Posh condiments are on the rise, but are they better than Heinz and HP?

British food is bland. It’s a common put-down and, if we’re honest, has kernels of truth. But while grey meat and over-boiled vegetables are mostly history, there’s one thing we’ve always done well in this country – something that certainly can’t be accused of lacking flavour. 

Condiments have always been our strong point. From brown sauce, with its powerful blend of tomatoes, dates, molasses, vinegar and tamarind, to some of the world’s strongest mustards that head straight up the nose and into the brain. Our traditional cheeses go best with powerful pickle, we like vinegar, gravy or curry sauce on our chips, horseradish with our beef and mint sauce on lamb. Cheese on toast needs Worcestershire sauce. And tomato ketchup with, well, everything. The food writer Felicity Cloake has tapped into this with a book entitled Red Sauce Brown Sauce, coming out in June. 

Though traditional brands like Colman’s, Heinz and HP (now owned by Heinz) still reign, a new generation of condiments has penetrated the market. Fancy versions have long been available at supermarkets like Waitrose and in high-street delis (think Stokes ketchup), but today’s must-have sauces have taken things to the next level. 

There are offerings from top chefs including Tom Kerridge, trendy Danish fermenters like Empirical Provision (as well as Noma releasing a £23 bottle of garum) and even HM the Queen recently launched a ketchup and brown sauce, supposedly her two favourites, available at the Sandringham shop. 

Intrigued, I got my hands on a few examples. Could these high-quality, artisan bottles impress me, someone who thinks Heinz ketchup is the peak of civilisation and HP unrivalled in the brown sauce world? 

Those fancy sauces put to the taste test

Empirical pasilla sauce 

€9.50 for 250ml, empirical.co 

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