So restaurants in the UK are still closed. I’m somewhat loath to call this “Lockdown 3.0” as if it’s some kind of software upgrade. If anything it feels like the opposite of progress; a year on and this dreaded pandemic is still very much with us. But, unlike the first lockdown in the UK, many more restaurants have got in on the home kit action. Until restrictions lift again and we’re able to review restaurants properly we’re suspending our ‘normal’ reviews and our usual grading system. Instead, we feature three or so home kits we’ve tried each month.
There’s just one small caveat: each of these restaurants featured here change their menus regularly and so this can only give you a flavour of what to expect. Follow the links included below to find out more information.
This month we road-test the home kit offerings of Orrery, Bar Douro and old Palate favourite Odette’s…
55 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London W1U 5RB
Deliveries and collections available. A three course meal kit for one (with bread, amuse bouche and petits fours) is £60. Order via the D&D website here: https://at-home.danddlondon.com/
Sometimes when presented with a dish in a restaurant I infuriate my fellow diners with my knee-jerk observation, “the first bite is with the eye.” Of course this is harder with a delivery box but first impressions still count. Orrery’s box is well-insulated with ice packs and even wool. Purées come in little piping bags ready to snip and each ingredient is coded ready for your cooking-by-numbers fun.
I found the instructions very easy to follow… for dishes that had instructions. A method wasn’t provided for the cauliflower and coconut velouté amuse bouche but it didn’t require much culinary common sense to realise it just needed gently warming up in a pan. It’s posh soup for crying out loud.
As always, these home kits seem to generate a mountain of washing up which only makes you appreciate service in a restaurant all the more. Do they present great value then when you have to plate up, wash up, pay for electricity etc? It’s a tricky one, but for £60 Orrery’s seemed fair for the quality of the food.
The seafood raviolo with lobster bisque required minimal preparation and was a delight. I’ve never quite mastered (nor bothered really) to make a bisque from scratch before and here the hard work has already been done for you.
The only dish that required any kind of cheffy skill was the Tournedos Rossini – the instructions left a little room for discretion here and omitted the all-important advice to let the beef rest after pan frying. I’m not sure what they did to the beef in the Marylebone mothership beforehand but it melted like butter. The truffle and madeira jus was rich and luxuriant. The foie gras and shallot needed just a minute or two in the same frying pan as the beef, wallowing in those lovely buttery juices. I was really rather impressed, both by the ingredients and how easy it was to emulate a restaurant-standard dish.
A dessert of plum and almond bakewell held its own, did not dry out when warmed up and was delicious too. All in all, a successful home kit experience.
Arch 35B, 85B Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0NQ and Finsbury Avenue Square, Unit 3, 1 Finsbury Avenue, London, EC2M 2PF
A ‘feast’ meal kit for two is £60. Deliveries every Friday by Restokit. To order: https://www.restokit.co.uk/collections/bar-douro
With only a vanishingly small prospect of foreign travel even this year, I’ve found myself pining for the red rooftops of Lisbon with a white port and tonic in hand.
I’ve been a fan of Bar Douro for a while. It was just a year ago – what seems like a whole other life – that I was propping the bar at their newly-opened Southwark branch. So I was overjoyed to discover they deliver feast boxes via Restokit, as well as other Portuguese odds and sods like pastel de nata.
The ‘Bar Douro Feast’ is described as suitable for two diners but it could easily feed the five thousand. £60 goes a long way here. The only small disappointment in the delivery experience was having it pushed back by a week due to the unavailability of certain ingredients and delays in the supply chain (hashtag sunlit uplands).
Whilst warming up the other bits in the Tardis-like box, I nibbled on sourdough bread from Snapery Bakery with the most wonderful extra virgin olive oil from the Douro and gossamer-thin slithers of salty pata negra.
Croquettes de Alheira required just a little shallow frying in a pan of vegetable oil for a couple of minutes (they supply an abundance of oil). These are crammed full with alheira – a smoked Portuguese Jewish sausage made with shredded chicken, parsley and onions. They’re surprisingly ‘meaty’ and delicious with dabs of lemon mayonnaise.
A chicory salad in a roast almond butter and orange jus was super easy to assemble and yet gave the impression of a restaurant-quality dish. The astringency of the charred chicory was off-set by the sharp acidity of the shallots and citrus making for a bittersweet wintry dish, whilst the almonds added crunch and nuttiness for texture and balance.
Next, the octopus rice – a “Malandrinho’ style of rice dish which is not far off a risotto. Soft and unctuous, this was a triumph too. But I was even more impressed by the braised beef cheeks with esparregado (aka creamed spinach). This was a generous portion that just required boiling in the bag for 10 minutes and decanting to a plate.
The Portuguese have always had a predilection for egg-based desserts. Included in this feast was a whole Toucinho do Céu with a diameter of about 15 cm. This is an almond cake made with extra egg yolks and pork lard – almost like a carbonara in cake form. It hadn’t gone as stale as a coaster but remained moist for a couple of days. It’s well worth holding some back for a tea time treat the next day.
130 Regent’s Park Road, Primrose Hill, London NW1 8XL
A three course meal kit for one (plus bread, amuse bouche and petits fours) is £45. To order: http://odettesprimrosehill.com/odettes-at-home
Bryn Williams’ lovely Odette’s in Primrose Hill has been in my little black book for at least a decade. When I want to go somewhere I know I’ll have a good time, that’s a little quiet and understated, it’s a go-to choice. They’re relatively new to the home kit ‘scene’ this year, but do they deliver?
In a literal sense, no, as at the time of writing this you can only collect your box from the restaurant, so unless you fancy crossing London this is probably only an option for people in the local ‘catchment area.’ But I do recommend it if you can get there. You can always combine your collection trip with a walk round Primrose Hill itself, perhaps buy a take-away coffee and support the local independent businesses in the area. Everyone’s a winner.
This was perhaps the easiest of the three kits featured this month in terms of prep. We’re talking elementary level warming up and assembly here, zero mise-en-place, and yet it yields great results.
To accompany my Martini (Martini not provided) I warmed up miniature cheese and onion tarts with pickled mushrooms and tore off chunks of soda bread with whipped butter – the butter just needed a little loosening up at room temperature.
A starter of sea trout, potato salad and a perfectly pickled cucumber was fresh, sharp and tangy.
For a rustic main, a confit duck leg just needed bunging in the oven for a few minutes whilst warming up a pearl barley ragu in a saucepan. A salsa verde was the finishing touch, though my presentation could never match that of the restaurant. It was a comforting, winter-warmer of a dish.
The dessert was even simpler: a very rich concoction of chocolate, caramel and blood orange that was ready for immediate consumption (indeed, patience is required for this one). And to round it all off, seasonal rhubarb financiers. It wasn’t quite the secret garden round the back of Odette’s (how could it be?) but it wasn’t far off either.
This set of home kit reviews was last updated on 1 February 2021.
Photos (and attempts at cheffy presentation) by J A Smith.