Reviewed by Louise Totton
Whenever anyone asks me what I’d like for Christmas, I’m always utterly stumped for a response – I’m one of those people who doesn’t really ‘do’ trinkets, have very little interest in pampering or beauty items and more than anything, hates clutter! To be completely honest, the number of presents that have been bought for me that end up in a charity shop come mid-January is quite honestly embarrassing! And actually, some of the very best Christmas presents I’ve had have been the useful ones, the ones that upgrade something that I already had, but has seen better days, and that are the things I will use every single day.
For me, the things I use most yet get upgraded the least often are in the kitchen, so having the opportunity to be treated to nicer and better versions of small kitchen appliances is a source of massive excitement! VonShef have some really lovely items on their website that really fit the bill here – standard kitchen appliances that look great and would be a really nice upgrade to what’s already in the kitchen. In fact, the website is so full of lovely things that I had a hard time choosing. I knew I needed a new toaster as mine has been on its way out for a while, and I need a four-slice toaster and the 4 Slice Champagne Toaster seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I am also a massive fan of frothy coffees, but they have tended to be a treat for when I’m out and about, so I knew the Black Milk Frother would be a lovely treat. Finally, after 15 years, my old trusty hand mixer has pretty much given up the ghost, so I decided on the 400W Black Hand Mixer.
First up, the toaster. I have needed a new toaster for ages but haven’t quite got around to getting one. Probably because the ones that I have always assumed would be decent can be very expensive, and I am quite particular with the requirements that I have for a toaster. I have coeliac disease, and whilst I would ideally have a separate toaster, worktop space doesn’t allow for it so a well-spaced 4-slice toaster is a must. That’s exactly what you get with the VonShef 4-slice Champagne toaster; it’s a great size and the slots are a decent distance apart, but it still looks really elegant and sleek sat in the kitchen.
The toaster has a champagne-coloured front and back with the top and the sides being silver coloured. The controls on the front are all silver to contrast with the champagne and the whole look is great, it somehow manages to be modern yet retro. The two halves of the toaster can be controlled independently so if you are making toast for two kids, one of whom likes well done crunchy toast and the other prefers light, floppy toast, that’s no problem. Each side has a browning control with six different settings as well as buttons to cancel the cycle, reheat an already toasted slice and also defrost. The toaster also has a high-lift function so you can lift your toast out of the slots to check its progress without having to cancel the cycle and start again.
When using the toaster, it is immediately obvious that this is a well-built little machine. All of the controls feel solid and robust, but the bit that I was most impressed with was that it fits in a full slice of Warburtons bread all the way! With my previous toaster, I had to turn the bread halfway through the cycle otherwise the top of it would be untoasted. No such problems with this one and the toast was cooked evenly over the whole slice. The variable controls are great too and work really well, so everyone will be able to get a toast that they like, from anaemic and floppy (my choice!) through to almost cremated (my daughter’s preference) and everything in between. As well as being a great height and width, the slots are also super wide, so they can accommodate the fluffiest crumpets and thickest bagels with ease.
Cleaning the crumbs out is a doddle, thanks to the two removable crumb trays which slide out really easily and smoothly, so you don’t drop any crumbs as you go. Everything about this toaster has impressed me – it toasts perfectly evenly every time, it has fitted every type of bread and crumpet that I have attempted and the controls are simple to use and well placed. At £32.99, I think this is a complete bargain and I honestly would have thought from using it that it was a machine that cost twice as much!
The next item I tried out was the Black Milk Frother (RRP: £29.99). This is an incredibly nifty little device that will allow you to have frothy coffees, lattes and even cold, foamy milkshakes at home without having to go out and spend a fortune!
The Milk Frother is pretty compact, taking up not much more space on your kitchen counter than a large mug although it is somewhat taller. It looks really stylish too, being all black but with a wave pattern etched into it. Using it is incredibly simple and it’s just a case of filling it with milk and selecting the setting that you want. There are four different modes – frothy hot milk, extra frothy hot milk, hot unfrothed milk or cold frothy milk.
The instructions that come with the frother are really comprehensive and clear and even include instructions for making different types of coffee (cappuccino, latte, macchiato and more). To use it, I found the best way was to make your coffee first then start prepping your milk. If you are going for frothy milk you need to make sure the whisk part is in place, if you’re just heating the milk, you don’t add it in. I was surprised just how quick it was to heat and froth the milk – under two minutes to go from fridge-cold milk out of the bottle to gorgeous, luxurious, foamy warm milk. Selecting between the four modes is easy and the single button cycles between the four modes with the LED indicator showing which mode is currently selected.
One thing to note is that you do have to be careful to wash it out as soon as you’ve used it as it can’t be immersed in water and washed like you might want to, so in order to get it clean, I found it best to wash it out straight away.
This machine turns a standard, at home brew into something far more special and a real treat and I loved it. I think this machine would make a fantastic Christmas gift for a coffee fan – it takes up an awful lot less worktop space than a coffee machine and means that you don’t need to buy expensive pods. It’s also an awful lot more versatile, and as well as making cappuccinos and lattes with it, I have also made the kids some lovely frothy hot chocolates and even chocolate milkshakes which they loved.
The last item I tried out was the 400W electric hand mixer. It’s available in three different colours: black, cream or red, all of which also feature stainless steel trim and we were sent the black one. When I opened it up, the first impression I had was that this is a substantial and reasonably heavy little mixer. Not too heavy to use, but just heavy enough that it feels solid and the build inspires confidence.
The controls on the mixer are all in a good and easy to reach place, there is a slide switch to select between the five speeds as well as a boost button for an extra whack of power and the eject button to remove beaters for washing. The mixer comes with two standard beaters, two dough hooks and even a balloon whisk attachment which is not something I’ve seen with one of these before!
It’s a great little mixer and I have loved trying it out. It has made light work of mixing cakes, making Yorkshire puddings and ultra-smooth mashed potatoes. It’s a complete bargain at £17.99, and whether you’d have it in mind as a Christmas present or as a gift to yourself before Christmas to make the Christmas baking and prep that little bit easier.
I have been really surprised at just how good the products from VonShef that I tried were. Every one of them was great quality and well built and I was impressed with how they manage to make such great products for the price that they do. They are a great choice whether you are looking for a practical gift for someone who is difficult to buy for or if you just need to update some of your small kitchen appliances. All of them get a well-deserved 5/5.
For more information or to buy, visit www.vonshef.com.