M&S: Steak and Kidney Puddings

I do my best to eat a healthy balanced diet.

Most of the time.

Occasionally, I don’t so much fall off the wagon as swallow dive off it.

A few years ago, I was looking forward to an unrestrained orgy of nutritional self abuse when I found myself alone at home for the evening.  Unfortunately, all did not go entirely according to plan:

Dear Customer Relations,

My wife is gluten free. Actually, to be more accurate, my wife is gluten intolerant.  The food she eats is gluten free.  If my wife eats gluten, she gets terrible stomach and bowel pain for 48 hours afterwards.  My daughter is coeliac. If she eats gluten, she becomes very ill indeed – for up to six weeks!

As you can imagine therefore, we go to great lengths to avoid the gluten which hides in everything from OXO cubes to soy sauce.  Of necessity, we have a very healthy diet of nothing but freshly prepared food.

It’s awful.

You see, I also have an eating disorder.

I’m a greedy b@$£@*d!

I love gluten. Pasta, pizza, crumpets, garlic bread, battered fish, spicy cous-cous, naan bread and, most of all, pies.  I love them all but they’re all banned at our house.

I therefore live a life of severe nutritional deprivation.

So, once in a blue moon, when my wife and daughter are both eating out with girlfriends or away on a late night shopping expedition, I get that rarest of opportunities – to abandon my gastronomic strait-jacket and indulge instead in a shameless orgy of glutinous self abuse.

Now it just so happens that Monday 11th February was one such occasion.

The ladies of my life were otherwise engaged and I was wandering around the M&S Leeds store fantasising about a seriously oversized steak pie with flaky pastry crust when my eyes fell upon a pack of your M&S ‘Steak and Kidney Puddings’.  Not just one, but two of the little darlings nestling in every box.  This was perfect. Not only could I rectify my gluten deficiency at a stroke, but I could also rekindle childhood memories of my mother’s home made steamed suet puddings.  I couldn’t resist.

I added a box of ‘Gastropub Thick Cut Chips’ and a token bag of fresh green vegetables (because I can’t shrug off my conditioning completely) and on the way home I picked up a couple of bottles of real ale to wash it all down.

Arriving home to a blissfully empty house, I resisted the temptation to slam my puddings in the microwave and instead followed the recommendation to steam them gently for 35 minutes.

I had a bit of a struggle getting everything on a single dinner plate but I told myself that I wasn’t actually going to eat all of it.  I could leave half a pudding and a chip or two. I was genuinely excited.  So, with my overflowing plate, chilled beer and a recorded episode of ‘Top Gear’ on the television, I was about as close to heaven as a bloke eating a billy-no-mates dinner can get.

Then I cut into one of my M&S Steak and Kidney Puddings.  The suet crust was every bit as stodgy as I remembered.  Clearly, steaming had been the right thing to do.

So far so good.

Then the pudding deflated.  Tyres and balloons deflate.  Your dinner isn’t supposed to.

Not so good.

All the air had escaped.  Yes air because, for the most part, that is all the pudding contained.  Air.  Gas.  Stuff that is neither liquid nor solid and therefore doesn’t need much chewing and has the same nutritional value as nothing at all.

“Where was my steak and kidney?” I asked myself.  I know that this had all started because I wanted gluten but I was actually expecting to get some serious animal protein to go with it.

Leaking from the collapsed and now alarmingly flat pudding was an anaemic coloured liquid.  Personally, I like my beef gravy to be an encouraging dark brown colour. Light beige just doesn’t cut it.

This wasn’t good at all.

I cut open the pudding to see if there was anything else in there.

The contents looked alarmingly like the little sachet of ‘Whiskas Oh So Meaty with Gravy’ cat food I had opened for my small, hairy friend only a few minutes before – except there was much more meat in the Whiskas sachet and the cat food was broadly the right colour.  As the cat is quite a lot smaller than me, it didn’t seem fair that she got more meat that I did.

I tried the second pudding.  Same result.

I must confess that at this point, I was every bit as deflated as my puddings.  My indulgent feast had turned into a forensic post mortem as I dissected the limp remains of my culinary fantasy.  I should have used a dictaphone and a camera like they do on in ‘Silent Witness’.  At least that way you would know for certain that I am not making this up.

Be that as it may, I estimate that the largest piece of ‘meat’ in either pudding measured 7mm at its widest point.  Taken together, the solid contents of each pudding would have fitted on a standard desert spoon.  I did eventually manage to find the toenail clipping sized shreds of kidney and I can promise you that the amount of kidney in both puddings combined would have failed to cover a penny coin.

These meagre contents tasted of nothing very much at all and there was a disconcerting lack of the fibrous structure one normally associates with lean meat.  Instead, the lumps had the spongy texture of tasteless marshmallow.  Or lung perhaps.  What it wasn’t was steak.  There was NO steak in either pudding.  None.

Sadly, it didn’t occur to me to note batch numbers before the packaging disappeared into the recycling but I’m sure you can work this out from the date and location of purchase in any event.  I hope you won’t tell me that this was a faulty batch that ‘slipped through the net’.  That might be unwise when there are so many concerns about the integrity of processed food supply chains at the moment and disconcerting quanities of Shetland Pony keep ‘slipping through the net’ and turning up in all sorts of unusual places.

It would be refreshing if you were to admit to, and apologise for, selling a thoroughly disgusting, cheap and nasty product and undertake to replace it with something that deserves to carry an M&S label.  Something that not only tastes of steak and kidney, but actually contains some.

If you need a recipe, I’m sure that my mother would be able to help.



I did not have long to wait for the reply.  It obviously doesn’t take very long to make no effort whatsoever when composing a reply to a disgruntled customer.  I was in the USA when the email arrived, hence the EST time against the date.  In fact, I had written my email to M&S on the plane over as a means of distracting myself from the hundreds of screaming children playing hide and seek in the aisles. 

From: Marks and Spencer Customer Service <no-reply@marksandspencer.com>

Date: 18 February 2013 06:52:26 EST
Subject: Your M&S

Dear Anthony,

Thanks for taking the time to contact us about the steak and kidney pudding.  I’m sorry you’re disappointed with the quality of them.

We have rigorous control agreements with all our food suppliers to ensure that our food quality is maintained to the highest possible standard. Despite the care we take, we’ve clearly not been successful on this occasion.

Please send us any available packaging from the product or the receipt so we can follow this up with our suppliers and send you a gift card to replace the steak and kidney puddings.

Our address is:

Retail Customer Services
Marks & Spencer
Chester Business Park
Wrexham Road

Alternatively, you can take the packaging or receipt into your local store where our staff will forward it to us. They will, of course, offer you a refund for the steak and kidney puddings.

Thanks again for getting in touch. If we can be of any further help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Please be aware this email is from a ‘no reply’ email address. If you would like to respond, please contact us via our website https://www.marksandspencer.com/contactus and we will be happy to assist you further.

We’re keen to know what you thought of our reply. If you’d like to share any feedback, please let us know by clicking on the following link: www.mandssurvey.co.uk/480

Kind Regards


There was a distinct lack of any undertaking to make better steak and puddings from my anonymous correspondent and the word sorry was only used once which was clearly nowhere near enough.  I had to serve another volley:

Dear Faceless Customer Relations Operative,

Thank you for your anonymous reply to my email on the subject of Marks and Spencers Steak and Kidney Puddings.  I give it one out of ten – for managing to send it to the right email address.

It might have received a higher mark if you had actually bothered to read my email first.  It is always helpful when the reply reflects, in some small way, the content of the original communication.  For instance, there is no point in asking me to send you the packaging when I had in fact already told you that it had been recycled.

I almost gave you an extra mark for using the word “sorry” once in your email but alas, it had all the sincerity of Hannibal Lechter saying he was becoming a vegetarian so you missed out there too.  You might have earned several marks if you had replied in the same spirit of my original note.  A little narrative background and the occasional tongue-in-cheek remark would have been greatly appreciated.

However, most disappointing of all however is the fact that you gave me the impression that you are going to do nothing whatsoever about your disgusting steak and kidney puddings.

Perhaps I should get in contact with Steve Rowe (M&S Executive Director – Food).  Strictly speaking, the buck stops with Steve.  Effectively, they were Steve’s steak and kidney puddings.  He’s only been in the job since October so he should still be really keen.

I also hear that Steve is a cigar smoker so I think we would get along really well.  I bet he would read my email before replying.

In the meantime, please let me know what is going to happen about the dreadful steak and kidney puddings.  You know when I bought them and from which store so you have all the information you need to DO SOMETHING.



Alas, my efforts were in vain.  M&S still wanted me to retrieve the packaging from the recycling plant:

From: Marks and Spencer Customer Service <no-reply@marksandspencer.com>
Date: Tue 26/02/2013 15:43

Subject: Your M&S

Dear Anthony

Thanks for taking the time to contact us again about the steak and kidney puddings. I’m sorry you’re unhappy with my response.

In order to follow this up with the correct suppliers we need the packaging return to us or to your local store. Without specific information, we’re unable to feed this back to them.

I’m afraid we’re unable to advise you what action our suppliers are going to take regarding the steak and kidney puddings as this will be looked in to internally.

Thanks again for getting in touch. If we can be of any further help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Please be aware this email is from a ‘no reply’ email address. If you would like to respond, please contact us via our website https://www.marksandspencer.com/contactus and we will be happy to assist you further.

We’re keen to know what you thought of our reply. If you’d like to share any feedback, please let us know by clicking on the following link: www.mandssurvey.co.uk/480

Kind Regards

Tanya Thackeray

Marks & Spencer Customer Services

It was time to give up. M&S Steak and Kidney Puddings remain an insult to cooking.

3 thoughts on “M&S: Steak and Kidney Puddings”

  1. Anthony,

    Just to say that was first class, an absolute

    Just managed to halt a small trickle of pee whilst
    laughing my brains out. It made my day and I truly
    thank you for that!


    PS I came accross this page seaching for the perfect
    pud and must say was going to purchase via M&S.
    With great joy,and thanks to your timely review I will invest
    the money on a couple of pints of guinness.

  2. OMG. Hilarious. In stitches. Just found a horrible beast looking creature in my m and s Italian salad. Not sure if it’s worth complaining.


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