Hi, I’m Alice. I’m here on Nadia’s blog because Nadia gave me my first taste of jewellery-making back in July, through one of her online classes on Obby, and it’s now a minor obsession. But I have to own up to another obsession – food. Eating out never felt quite safe to me, even in those brief glory days between lockdowns, so I’ve sated my hunger through one of the only good things to have come out of the pandemic: restaurant DIY meal kits.
I’ve tasted my way through a few duds, so hopefully I can save you the same fate. Below are my personal top five (so far!) in no particular order.
Townsend, a modern British restaurant in the Whitechapel Art Gallery, had only been open for five weeks when the first lockdown hit. I think it’s really admirable how speedily they realised they needed to change things up to stay afloat.
A three-course meal from Town-send (cute name) for two people, including a bottle of wine, is only £40 – unbelievably reasonable in my experience (I’ve found London restaurant meal kits costing £40 for a main course!). There’s usually three choices per course. I’m on my third kit, and have had some amazing dishes. In Spring, I had a whole poussin in a saffron broth which was the closest thing I’ve had this year to eating in a fancy restaurant, and I got to eat it in my PJs at lunchtime, while watching Antiques Roadtrip. The cheesecake is the stuff of dreams, and the wine is that rare thing: a house wine that everyone likes.
Instructions are simple and easy to follow – most things just get heated in a pan on the hob. Portion sizes have been just right for me for a three-course meal, but the hungrier reader might want to kick off with some bread (or just add on a cheese course for a very reasonable £4.50 each).
They also sell produce and their own sauces and condiments online. The green sauce, elderflower cordial and olive oil are particularly good, and again, amazingly reasonable.
Three-course kit for two people with a bottle of wine, £40 + £5 delivery in London, £10 nationwide (both free on orders over £80)
Dishpatch sells kits from a range of well-known restaurants, representing everything from Thai to West African. Menus change each month.
We went for the November set menu, ‘The Italian Supper’, from Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano. I really like Café Murano in The Real World – great pasta, bread and antipasti, intimate setting, good value. The kit followed the trend, even though the intimate setting was my parents’ living room. The meal included focaccia with coppa ham, pumpkin ravioli, lamb stew, and panna cotta. Everything had that lovely rich, complex taste of slow-cooked Italian food – squishy, caramelised pumpkin, lamb you could cut with a spoon, focaccia oozing with olive oil. It was so good it was hard to talk or think about anything else while we ate.
The operation is slick – there’s a fancy website with amazing photography, the delivery process is polished, and you get a fancy brochure with the kit. Though it was a touch more complicated to cook than Town-send meals, because you need to juggle more pans, the result was worth it. Portion sizes are very generous indeed.
I also just like saying ‘Dishpatch’, because it makes me sound like Sean Connery (one of the sad losses of this year).
Meal kits for 2 people from £40, delivery £5.50 (or free with two or more boxes)
3. The Frenchie
A confit duck burger from the Frenchie stall in the Southbank Centre streetfood market is one of my favourite treats. They’re so luxurious that my ex used to say that a burger took three months off your life – and it was six months if you also had the triple-cooked duck-fat chips with truffle mayonnaise. There is literally no way this meal wouldn’t be worth those six months. It’s like selling your soul in deeply pleasurable increments.
The Frenchie is selling a kit which makes four burgers. You toast a brioche bun and slather it in caramelised red onion chutney and truffle mayo, heat up some shredded confit duck in a pan, pop some raclette cheese on top to melt, drizzle with truffle honey, then scoop the lot onto the bun, scattering duck scratchings and rocket salad over the top. And then, if you are me, you inhale it all.
This is unashamedly dirty food, and it makes me very happy.
If you like truffle, add a bottle of truffle mayonnaise. I want to carry it with me everywhere, like some people do with hot sauce.
Kit to make four burgers £25, delivery £8
4. Côte at Home
As far as I’ve found, Côte is the only chain restaurant that’s started doing meal kits – although they’re so simple to prepare, I’d actually call them very fancy ready meals. Very, very fancy. Kick off with pork rillettes and warm sourdough baguette, whip up Beef Bourguignon and potato puree in 20 minutes, and finish with crème caramel. How’s that for a Tuesday night?
There are great value set menus (currently £25.90 for two people, or £35.90 with a bottle of wine), and the food tastes very similar to a meal at a Côte restaurant. I particularly like the potato dauphinoise, and those rillettes, which do very nicely for a big lunch on their own. Portion sizes are pretty impressive. And I wonder why my waistline is growing.
Almost everything that needs heating seems to be oven-cooked, all at the same temperature, so it’s seriously easy to do, and the (recyclable) plastic sleeves mean there’s very little washing up.
You can also order individual dishes, charcuterie and cheese, meat, bread and pastries, drinks, and some pantry items. The bread’s particularly good.
Three-course kit for 2 from £25.90, delivery £4.95 (free on orders over £80)
Smokestak is a fancy barbeque restaurant, and the online shop sells the restaurant’s meats, pre-cooked and smoked and ready for you to heat. They also offer burger kits, sticky toffee pudding and pre-made cocktails
I opted for one of the feasting boxes. The contents have changed since I last ordered, but currently they each contain beef brisket and pulled pork shoulder, as well as very yummy condiments, like barbecue sauce and pickled cucumbers and chillies.
The meat was gorgeous – meltingly soft, gently smoky, very rich. The pickled chillies were a particular favourite, and since they came in their pickling liquor, they lasted ages. I used some of the pork to top a Spanish bean stew I made, some of the beef in burgers using my own buns – all very flexible.
You simply heat the meat in the oven, wrapped in butchers’ paper which is provided in the kit. It’s as simple as it gets, and someone else has done all that delicious slow cooking and smoking for you.
Burger kits to make four burgers from £27.50, feasting box for three to four £35, delivery £5.95 (free on orders over £75)
Why not try one of our jewellery making workshops? Take time out to be creative, learn a new skill and make something beautiful. We have a whole range of classes as well as a bead and ‘Make your own’ Kit shop.