While we’re certainly enjoying the return of being able to dress up and venture out to a beloved restaurant, the past year has given many of us a taste for having food from our favourite spots delivered to the comfort of our own home. How better to feed that appetite than to order from one of London’s Michelin-starred fine-dining establishments? From Gymkhana’s indulgent Indian fare to River Cafe’s seasonal Italian classics, here The Glossary‘s Restaurant Editor Hilary Armstrong reviews the finest at-home food deliveries.
I have had meals at Simon Rogan restaurants – Aulis, Roganic and the two Michelin star L’Enclume in the Lake District – that have run into three or four hours and three or four times that many courses. So, it was with some trepidation that I unboxed my delivery from Simon Rogan at home. Would I even have the tableware – never mind the skills – to execute such gastronomy?
In fact, Rogan’s nationwide home delivery concept sticks to an eminently achievable three courses at a very approachable £45 (optional extras include cheese and wine flights). This is not to be a note-perfect recreation of the L’Enclume experience – I suspect it borrows from his more casual restaurant Rogan & Co – but a mini dinner party à deux, elevated by Rogan’s chefs, skills and suppliers. It’s the next best thing to having a private chef.
Before we even begin, we demolish the flaky, buttery Parker House rolls and homemade butter. Lockdown may have made bakers of us all, but this dinky little restaurant loaf beats my best efforts. Ham hock terrine to start is Rogan’s modern British take on a classic French recipe and a lesson in how to plate like a pro. On its own, it looks tasty, but once we’ve piped on dozens of mustard emulsion dots – not as easy as it looks – and garnished it with pickled vegetables, micro herbs and a drizzle of verdant celery oil, it would not look out of place in a Michelin star restaurant.
Similarly, the main course of guinea fowl with roasted hen of the wood mushrooms involves far more components than I would ordinarily combine: pine, morels, pickled walnuts, chervil… I rarely – OK, never have these ingredients to hand. There are lots of individual sachets to snip open in succession, but all are numbered and, remarkably, I don’t forget anything.
Dessert could not be simpler: a sunny yellow verbena posset served with bee pollen, blackberries and camomile cake added by me at the end. I feel so proud of my kitchen prowess, I forget I’ve done practically nothing. Note: meals change weekly and are produced in limited editions, so do book ahead.
PRICE: From £45 for two
My final meal before the first lockdown last March was at the new look Gymkhana in Mayfair, which has just reopened following a kitchen fire. It was a memorable lunch, not only for the people-watching (there are always a few ‘faces’ at Gymkhana) and the Michelin star Indian food, but also for the fact my friend and I shared food from the same plate, if you can imagine such a thing now.
JKS Restaurants, the innovative restaurant group behind Gymkhana and other restaurants as diverse as Bao and Lyle’s, have proved themselves adaptive this last year, pivoting quickly to home delivery. Ambassador General Store, their online shop, brings together three of their Indian restaurants: Brigadiers, Trishna and Gymkhana. Some readymade parcels are available such as a Gymkhana feasting box for four, £180 (including drinks and playlist), and a Trishna seafood box for two, £80. I take a pick and mix approach, however, sticking largely to Gymkhana signatures such as wild muntjac biryani, £25, and kid goat keema pao with crunchy shoestring fries, £16, but taking a detour to Trishna for an order of garlic butter pepper crab, £22.50 (I can’t resist).
Everything is beautifully packaged and labelled, with instructions cards and colour photos to follow. I’m given a few basic tasks: rolling naans, grilling marinated chicken thighs for the chicken butter masala; and chopping an onion to garnish the warm keema buns. My crowning achievement, however, is the biryani, its layers of braised venison shank and fragrant basmati baked in a bread tin in the absence of a clay pot. Even though I nearly forget the fresh mint leaves and fried onions (I quickly stuff them under the puff pastry towards the end of cooking), I can safely say it’s one of the most impressive things ‘I’ have ever made. It’s not quite as easy as ordering an Indian takeaway, but it’s worth the extra effort. This is a concept that will thrive long after the pandemic.
PRICE: From £105 for four
I’d never really understood the whole internet ‘unboxing’ trend until I received a home delivery from the River Café’s new online shop. Everything is so perfectly parcelled up, from the bright blue tissue paper (the colour of the first cookbook) to the neon pink stickers (the colour of the restaurant’s wood-fired oven), that I want everyone to see it. Five whole artichokes alla romana, a thick slab of freshly baked focaccia, a perfect little pear and almond tart… every single component elicits a gasp of pleasure.
‘Box Set One’, £140, one of six menus, centres around two huge tranches of turbot, ready seasoned, cooked and garnished with fresh herbs. There’s nothing left for me to do but heat it through for 20 minutes in a hot oven. The rest, a large milky mozzarella di bufala with smashed chickpeas and roasted pumpkin and sides of Datterini tomatoes and braised spinach (all packaged in environmentally friendly cardboard or reusable glass jars) can be served at room temperature.
The meal isn’t inexpensive – the River Café never is – but the ingredients are first class and the dishes are just as generous as they are at the restaurant (so much so, we wonder whether our meal for two is intended for four). The restaurant’s rustic style translates beautifully to a domestic setting: one doesn’t need advanced plating skills or avant-garde tableware to make this food shine. Exceptional produce speaks for itself. It’s useful to know one can now have their ingredients as well as individual dishes and wines delivered across the country.
It may not quite equal the thrill of securing a coveted Sunday lunch slot on the River Café terrace but your own patio table, set with bowls of crab linguine, some beautiful borlotti beans, San Daniele ham and a bottle of chilled Vermentino will come a very close second. We can’t recreate the buzz, but we can recreate the Bellinis. Cin cin!
PRICE: From £100 to £160 for two to four people.
DELIVERY: Nationwide (selected items only available within M25)
Michelin-star restaurant Hide, helmed by Ollie Dabbous, is one part of a Mayfair mini empire comprising two restaurants, a bar, the wine boutique Hedonism and a new café on Mount Street. Hide has drawn on the connectivity between the sites to create a versatile online delivery arm in Hide at Home that has something for everyone. I struggle to think of anything a hungry foodie could want but not find on the site, from kombucha to limited edition Jacques Selosse Champagne, pains au chocolat, to penne pasta, avo toast to lobster rolls and tins of caviar. The delivery service doesn’t attempt to recreate the restaurant experience; rather, it conveys its unapologetically extravagant spirit.
The three-course weekend set menu, £68, available for home delivery across London, changes weekly. Indulgent American comfort food must have been on Dabbous’ mind the week we order, for our menu includes macaroni cheese enriched with copious black truffle, fried corn-fed chicken and baked potato wedges, gem lettuce with herby green dressing and carrot cake semifreddo. It survives the journey very well. A quick whizz in the microwave is all it takes for the mac ‘n’ cheese to achieve the all-important #cheesepull on Instagram, while the chicken crisps up nicely in the oven. Dabbous knows just what kind of food will satisfy our stay-at-home selves; we can set the table with candles and china for this meal or enjoy it just as it is in front of Netflix. Either way, it works.
Menus change fairly radically each week; one could put in a weekly order and not get bored. The spring menus, for example, include Wye Valley asparagus with smoked eel rillettes and a soft-boiled egg, pork belly and homemade black pudding with quince chutney and wet polenta, and a lemon verbena and citrus marmalade trifle. Equally tempting, for those in town, are the picnic boxes, best enjoyed in the sunshine across the way in Green Park.
PRICE: £68 for two
DELIVERY: Within a seven-mile radius of the restaurant.
Good food can take you on a journey. That’s certainly the case for the at-home offering from Spanish chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho of Michelin-starred tapas bar and restaurant Sabor in central London. We order the £90 ‘Sabor en Casa’ box, a D.I.Y tapas spread for two to three that includes ham croquetas, tortilla, Galician-style octopus, garlic prawns, arroz negro, beetroot salad, braised pig’s cheeks, and Basque cheesecake. There’s also an à la carte option, and a menu of such essentials as mini tortilla pans and bottles of Sangria. I regret not investing in the former: my frying pan is so huge, my attempt at Sabor’s runny-inside tortilla comes out as flat as a pancake (albeit a very delicious pancake).
For ease, I course out the tapas dishes and prep two at a time, so I’m not flitting constantly between kitchen and table. As meal kits go, this one – eight different dishes in all – demands a little culinary exertion and generates a fair bit of washing up. Chef Barragán Mohacho makes it easy, however, and I send her muchas gracias for preparing the octopus, so I don’t have to.
All I have to do is boil it in the bag for three minutes. She even supplies the seasoning. I balk at the quantity of salt crystals and sweet smoked paprika but tip the lot on anyway and, my goodness, the flavour absolutely pops, exactly as it does at the restaurant. Chef knows best.
My trip-ups aside – I could have got the pan hotter for the gambas – the Sabor kit enables me to recreate precisely the full-on flavours of a meal at Sabor which, in turn, recreates the flavours of Spain. It’s the next best thing to a summer holiday.
PRICE: From £90 for two.
Chef Tom Aikens won his first Michelin star (two actually) at 26. He won his latest at 50, for his new restaurant Muse in Belgravia, a hidden gem that few have yet had the chance to dine at, given the 25-seat restaurant opened just two months before the pandemic struck. Until it reopens in May, the best way to sample Aikens’ food is in the form of a ‘makeaway’ from his delivery line Musette, exclusive to luxury restaurant kit service Finish & Feast.
Aikens is a notorious perfectionist. It’s quickly apparent that our three-course dinner is not going to be a five-minutes-in-the-microwave job. Fearsome Great British Menu judge that he is, he has us wielding a piping bag for the very first dish, a colourful medley of salt-baked beets, red, yellow and candy-striped, layered over chilled beetroot and cucumber salad piped with dots of cool yoghurt dressing. I could, of course, just throw it all together but by following the instructions to the letter – I lay off the apéritifs for this – I assemble a stylish Scandi-esque salad that I’d proudly serve at a dinner party. Linseed, fried capers and dill salt aren’t my go-to ingredients but they’re the flashes of brilliance that distinguish Michelin cooking from, well, my cooking.
The main course demands even more focus as I juggle pans, whisking butter into orange sauce, searing cod loin, and browning rosemary-scented endive with caramel powder (a new technique to me). It all comes together in minutes, a restaurant-worthy dish with flavours I’d never think to combine. By dessert, my confidence has grown and I’m piping again. It’s a showstopper: a delicate tart case, piped with pumpkin mousse, white chocolate and pumpkin ganache, and coconut cream and garnished with cocoa nibs and toasted coconut. The meal’s a success and I may just have picked up some new tips and tricks along the way. A Michelin star meal kit for a special occasion.
PRICE: From £90 for two.