Whilst restaurants are re-opening for outdoor service on 12 April, and expected to fully re-open from 17 May (unless something goes hideously wrong), home kits and food deliveries are still an option and we suspect will remain popular.
As with our last sets of home kit reviews in March and February, there’s a bit of a health warning with these: the restaurants featured here change their menus regularly and so by the time this article ‘goes to press’ (so to speak) the information below may no longer be accurate, but they should give you a flavour of what to expect. Like any of our restaurant reviews, we paid for the meals ourselves and the restaurants had no idea they were being reviewed. However, as there is no service or ambience to assess, they’re exempt from our usual restaurant grading system (well it wouldn’t be fair would it?). And this is just our subjective opinion. Follow the links included below to find out more information on each one.
This month we road-test the home kits of Parsons, Dinings SW3 and Gunpowder. All are available for nationwide delivery.
39 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9BA
The cod-en-croûte menu is £60 for 2 people. Order via Dishpatch: https://www.dishpatch.co.uk/feasts/cod-en-croute. This review is based on their recent sea trout-en-croûte menu which has been updated for April but is very similar.
Where would we be without the consistently-brilliant Parsons? The Covent Garden restaurant always impresses me with its fantastic seafood, ambience, lovely service and ample wine selection.
Uncorking a crisp Albariño from the fridge, scooping taramasalata from the tub onto seaweed crackers and diving into Orkney scallops baked in their shells: there are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon in lockdown. The scallops required just 14 minutes in the oven and were as plump and sweet as you would expect, coated in a parsley crumb from the mini Tupperware container provided.
The main course – a huge sea trout-en-croûte with Avruga caviar sauce – was meant for two but could easily feed three. This ‘trellington’ was an utter delight: the sea trout was moist and flaky, the cream cheese and caper lining delicious, and the pastry spot-on. They even provide the egg wash for you, which is a nice touch. Perhaps it didn’t need the full 40 minutes in the oven as advised in the instructions, as it came out just slightly on the singed side, but all ovens are different of course. Perhaps more time observing the oven and less time quaffing Albariño would’ve averted that mini disaster but hey ho.
For me, any meal at Parsons proper isn’t complete without their staple steak sandwich for dessert (a lovely nod to the Portuguese tradition) but in some ways I’m glad the dessert in the home kit was just a chocolate cremaux. I say ‘just’ – I mean them no disservice as it was, in fact, delicious – but after that humungous sea trout wellington, I could only handle something light. I’ll save the steak sandwich for my next visit to the restaurant, which shouldn’t be that far away (they’re opening for al fresco service on Thursdays to Saturdays from 15 April).
Lennox Gardens Mews, Chelsea, London SW3 2JH
The ‘dinner kit’ is £75 and the ‘celebration kit’ is £150 per person. The sake tasting collection is £47. Order via Restokit: https://www.restokit.co.uk/collections/dinings-sw3
Dinings had already established itself as a high-end (and arguably over-priced) sushi joint in Marylebone. Its follow-up, Dinings SW3, continues chef Masaki Sugisaki’s approach to izakaya dishes which blend Japanese and European cuisine. Two things here would normally be of immediate concern: first, fusion. Secondly, the use of a postcode in the name, and a swanky one at that. This is still a pricey food kit and to some extent I was glad just to have it at home, to judge it on the food alone, than in the company of the restaurant’s Sloane customer base. Perhaps that’s one advantage of these deliveries.
Proceedings began with yuzu kosho cured sea bass ceviche with cured heritage tomato, shallots, marinated ikura caviar and coriander cress. This involved a bit of careful plating up but was a full-blown flavour sensation, as well as a riot of almost luminous colour.
For a second starter, wagyu beef carpaccio with truffle ponzu, ponzu jelly and truffle salsa melted in the mouth with its heady flavours. The truffle salsa itself certainly didn’t take any prisoners, nor did the ferocious raw onion in the salsa. Remarkably, the strong scent of these cold ingredients ponged out my kitchen for some time (thankfully we’re in lockdown and no-one was visiting).
The potted native lobster slider was a fun intermediary course; a delightful little picnic snack you could take with you to the park with friends now it’s legal to do so.
Salmon teriyaki (with salmon sourced from Scotland) was characteristic of Sugisaki’s ‘east meets west’ philosophy: salmon sourced from Scotland served with cavolo nero simply warmed in the pan with a Moromi miso for piquancy and a teriyaki sauce which wasn’t cloyingly sweet. A light, balanced and flavourful dish.
And then to finish, soft, pillowy mochi ganache in two forms: one matcha and white chocolate; the other salted caramel. If I’m honest, I could take or leave these pastries but overall this was an impressive, if expensive, meal kit.
4 Duchess Walk, London, SE1 2SD and 11 White’s Row Spitalfields, London E1 7NF
The Kashmir lamb roast kit is £55 for 2 people. Order via Dishpatch: https://www.dishpatch.co.uk/feasts/kashmir-lamb-roast
There’s nothing quite like an authentic Indian meal to blow away the lockdown cobwebs. Gunpowder, in its brick and mortar form, is now in two sites and its fiery cuisine has been recognised by a Michelin Bib Gourmand since the 2015 inception of the Spitalfields original. The Kashmir lamb roast kit, available via Dishpatch, lived up to expectations.
Whilst the lamb cooked, beetroot ‘chop’ croquettes with a dip made from green chilli, ginger, turmeric and mustard made for an exciting starter. The croquettes with their cumin seeds and chopped coriander had a texture surprisingly similar to their meaty counterparts, with delicate, playful spicing counteracting some of the earthiness you usually expect with beetroot. A fantastic start.
And then the tentpole event: Kashmiri lamb cutlets, roasted in ghee and consumed with glee. These were very simple to warm up at a high temperature and then left to rest for 4 minutes. The marinade coating was no mere fig leaf: beneath, the lamb cutlets had a decent amount of fat on them for flavour and the meat itself was beautifully tender. Cutlery was soon dispensed with. Frankly, the only way to get the most out of these is to follow your caveman instincts: use your bare hands, teeth and get stuck in (it’s lockdown, who’s watching?). For sides, broccoli in mustard malai, Tandoori new potatoes and a day-glo Makhani sauce all provided spicy explosions of flavour and varying textures.
To finish, a supremely gooey and rich triple chocolate brownie with cardamom custard delivered exactly what it promised.
Overall, this is a meal kit at the simpler end of the spectrum perhaps but that is in no way a criticism: I found it very easy to assemble and utterly delightful to eat.