Tried and tasted: the best restaurant meal kits to eat at home
Prepare and enjoy some of your favourite menu items
From award-winning burgers to Italian and Mexican feasts, restaurant-standard dishes can be prepared and eaten in the comfort of your own kitchen.
The Week has tried and tasted some of the best restaurant meal kits on the market.
Here’s what’s on the at-home menu...
Black Bear Burger
The humble hamburger might just be the perfect lockdown food. A good burger can conjure the “before times”, when the world was open and terms such as covidiot, lockdown and R-rate would have meant very little to any of us; times when you could pick a burger up before seeing a film with a friend, wolf one down on a day filled with meetings, or settle in at a hip joint like Black Bear for an evening of cocktails, craft beers and calories.
Those days come flooding back when you bite into one of Black Bear’s at-home offerings, which really are the pure essence of good burgering: a high-quality beef patty, springy bun sprinkled with sesame seeds, slice of cheese and a smattering of tasty sauces and garnishes. The team has also created a “how to” video on their site with tutorials to help you cook your burger just right. A culinary reminder of how the world used to be, and a vision of how it surely will be again before too long. blackbearburger.com
A good DIY restaurant box will endeavour to make your life easy, with enough pre-cooking and shortcuts that you only really need to heat things up. However, some restaurants’ offerings underscore exactly why haute cuisine is so very haute. You simply don’t get a Michelin star by putting a slice of steak on a white tablecloth. Aquavit’s pre-order hampers are a case in point: delicious award-winning food, but not without a little bit of work.
That said, it is not an enormous amount of work, but the four courses here will call on quite a few of your plates and saucepans, as well as several of your hobs, your oven and your microwave. They will also have you thinking ahead to the next course while you are eating the current one, to ensure you don’t have to endure long breaks between plates. That said, if you plan your evening to be shaped around the kitchen, with a nice bottle and a fun playlist, then this will be the perfect meal kit.
There are three boxes on offer, each designed to serve two people. We tried the meat and fish boxes, which each had some unmissable highlights. The meat hamper’s starter of black pudding wrapped in lardo with lingonberries was an absolute knockout, while the pinnacle of the fish box was the snap-fresh Houghton spring trout, served with a creamy Sandefjord sauce and pop-in-your-mouth fish roe. Four courses is very generous, and all of them are worthy across both boxes, but it might be a more balanced meal with one savoury dish fewer and a dessert of some kind to finish off. Still, the price is very fair and food of this calibre is definitely worth the small amount of fuss. aquavit.slerp.com
Après Food Co.
“Health-focussed food” may not sound like the most delicious prospect to those of us not currently enrolled in veganuary, dry January or any other kind of new year self purge. Yet these “nutritionally-balanced, restaurant-quality dishes” from the popular Clerkenwell restaurant, Après Food Co., definitely deliver on the promise. Similar to the food served in the restaurant, the meals all aim to eradicate as much processed and unnecessarily refined ingredients as possible. All the dishes are gluten free and dairy is kept to a minimum.
We tried out the 12-hour slow-cooked Sri Lankan lamb curry and the 15-hour slow cooked boeuf bourguignon. Both rich and tasty, with the meats taking on a great deal of flavour thanks to the slow-cooked treatment. You can pick as many dishes as you want from the extensive menu, or go for one of the three, five, or seven-day boxes, which nudge you towards specific collections (though still offering some choice).
Après Food Co. also makes great breakfast options, such as smoked haddock kedgeree and shakshuka with garlic potatoes. A great way to pad out your pantry with easy-to-prepare meals that may be health-focussed, but not at the expense of flavour or satisfaction. apresfood.com
Sartoria at Home
Luxury Italian restaurant Sartoria, in London’s Savile Row, has extended its reach to the whole country with a courier-delivered menu of fine Calabrian dishes. A quick glance at the menu might intimidate the novice: few home cooks would take on veal with tuna sauce, followed by lamb ragu with ’nduja and then cured black cod with onion jam, potatoes and cavolo nero - all topped off with a mercifully light pistachio cake. But each element of the meal comes prepped, marinated and portioned up ready for arranging (the veal), reheating (the ragu) or cooking from raw (the cod).
The extravagant four-course feast (plus bread and olives) could be comfortably divided into two meals if you wanted to make a day of it - or enjoyed in one extended sitting, with plenty of time for wine and conversation between courses. Several of Sartoria’s sister restaurants are also offering home delivery. danddlondon.com
If you live in south London and are looking for something local and delicious, Brixton neighbourhood restaurant Salon has launched an all new delivery service to bring its delicious seasonal menus direct to your door. Executive chef Nicholas Balfe has adapted some of the restaurant’s best-known dishes into a deliverable three-course menu, built around seasonal ingredients which have come almost exclusively from local growers and suppliers within a two-mile radius of the restaurant.
Priced at £59 for two, the monthly set menu begins with a selection of starters including Salon’s sourdough, whipped butter and cheese custard followed by a pork and prune terrine, and Cornish beetroot, goat’s curd and bitter leaves. An option of roast Jerusalem artichoke, Roscoff onion and watercress salad is available to those taking the vegetarian option, as The Week did. For mains, you can choose from either braised venison and potato pie, or a pumpkin cannelloni, cep béchamel and Berkswell for non-meat eaters. To finish, the chocolate ganache and coffee mousse goes down exceptionally easily. Hearty food, made with heart. salonbrixton.co.uk
If any restaurant group was going to cope with all things Covid, it was probably JKS. With outlets that cover so many bases - the Spanish Sabor, the modern British Lyle’s, the Asian joys of Bao and the Iranian kebabs of Berenjak to name but four - flexibility has long been one of its watchwords. Adding a home delivery aspect to many of the brands, including the ever-popular Sri Lankan/south Indian Hoppers, has been handled with aplomb.
The Hoppers kit – via the brilliantly named new outlet Cash & Kari – takes some punchy restaurant favourites and translates them to the home market without any noticeable loss of spice or flavour. While there’s a little bit of work involved in layering ingredients, flavours and spices to Hoppers’ usual standards – some assembly is very much required – instructions are clear, and even the most novice of cooks should be able to cope.
If there is a complaint, it’s that this step-by-step approach might deliver a near restaurant experience but also generates a LOT of packaging. Portions are VERY generous though and around £45 bought more than enough paneer kothu roti, breadfruit curry, sides and snacks to feed two hungry adults for two meals apiece. hopperscashandkari.com
When it first opened in Shoreditch, it only took one visit to realise that Santo Remedio was London’s best Mexican restaurant. Sadly, due to assorted local problems, one visit was all most of us got and they were forced to close. However, one hugely successful crowdfund later and Edson Diaz-Fuentes and his wife Natalie reopened in London Bridge, where they’ve been producing spectacular plates for the last three years.
They’ve risen to the challenge of the pandemic in a similar positive manner, with the creation of the Home Remedy kits, offering a choice of Duck Carnitas, Bone-In Short Rib or Slow Cooked Lamb Shank meals for two, with all the trimmings, that can be delivered anywhere in the UK. The Duck Carnitas kit cooked like a dream, thanks to easy to follow, very simple, colour-coded instructions and unboxing-to-table took around 25 minutes.
Reflecting Edison’s and Natalie’s sense of hospitality, portions are generous: the box created a hearty lunch for two and leftovers for a couple of other light meals plus some fun snacking. Everything is included from tortillas to black beans, salad dressings to salsas: a bright, fruity gooseberry one to cut through the duck, alongside a generous pot of their customary, borderline painful but hugely addictive fiery one. santoremedionationals.slerp.com
It’s not just the big boys and celebrated London restaurants that have pivoted beautifully in the global madness. Step forward husband and wife team Sharat and Nadana Syamala of Clay’s Hyderabadi, who’ve mastered preparation, vacuum sealing and packaging and, as a result, successfully taken their catchment area from Reading to the length and breadth of the UK. To which we can only say, well, lucky UK.
When researching this article, and polling social media for suggestions of who to include, a number of west-based food writers and the like raved about Clay’s Hyderabadi, e.g., “it’s our local but it’s AMAZING”, or “we had to move from the area and it’s the thing we missed most but they’ll now deliver anywhere!”. They were absolutely right. This gem is turning out food on a par with some of London’s finest, with unusual dishes and homestyle recipes from Sharat’s and Nandana’s families.
There’s a phrase that pops up a lot in mom and pop places across that US that “the secret ingredient is love” and it’s always seemed mawkish and nauseating. One spoonful of Clay’s tomato dal though and you’ll understand what they mean. Packaging and delivery are reliable, everything reheats with ease, either in a pan, via microwave or, rather brilliantly for those of us whose first experience of curry was Vesta, boil-in-the-bag. Rest assured, however, that Vesta this is not. This is first class, well priced, mood-improving, life-enhancing, unapologetically spiced soul food of the highest order. Fill your boots, fill your plates, fill your freezers. You won’t regret it. clayskitchen.co.uk
Back in the old days, this reviewer had the utter joy of watching a group of visiting Texans freak out a little over dinner at Smokestak. Talk on arrival had been of the “oh, look, ain’t it quaint, London trying to do BBQ” variety. A few bites in and they had to agree that David Carter’s Shoreditch restaurant was at least on a par with what Texas had to offer (and, privately, a couple grudgingly admitted Smokestak was better).
Carter’s creativity – seriously, the coal-roasted aubergine, with red miso, feta and toasted cashew is one of the finest sub-£10 spends in the capital – now extends to sending out his slow-smoked meats across the UK. Instructions are clear (although in the tiniest print known to man, in case you’ve not managed to get an eye test in lockdown), and the tested Brisket Bun Kit – £30 for four – assembled easily and deliciously.
Everything you need for this decadent sandwich is included, from four of the softest buns known to humanity, to the pickled red chillies and sauce. There’s even a little pot of beef dripping to brush on one side of the bun. smokestakshop.co.uk
Bocca di Lupo
Bocca di Lupo, the award-winning Italian restaurant in the heart of Soho, has come to the rescue of lockdown-weary Londoners. Its offerings for November were from the region of Puglia, with a meat, fish and vegetarian option. We opted for the meat dish, which comprised Capunti pasta with sausage ragù and an extremely generous portion of honey and rosemary lamb shoulder with pepperoni mollicati to follow.
The Capunti was expertly made and very fresh – with the perfect amount of bite that works wonderfully with the meaty homemade sausage sauce. The lamb effortlessly fell away from the bone with the lightest touch, and the roasted peppers were the perfect accompaniment to the rich meat. To finish off, the very naughty Tette delle monache might just succeed in bringing a smile to your face.
Regulars at Bocca di Lupo will know that it has, for many years served the Roman specialty – Le Palle del Nonno (Grandfather’s balls). Tette delle monache are cream-filled “Nun’s tits” of Apulia, pastry puffs with a delicate lemon scented pastry cream. The directions: “Eat; possibly erotically, certainly with abandon.” Well, when in Rome… The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the accompanying Alice in Wonderland-esque jam jar of perfectly punchy Negroni almost succeeded in transporting us to Southern Italy on a wintry Friday evening.
If you’re in the mood for Italian at home, these guys truly know what they’re doing. boccadilupoathome.com
Ampéli in Fitzrovia, London, has launched its first finish at home meal delivery menus for autumn, with a wonderful selection of dishes which you would find on tables across Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean.
There are sharing plates to begin with – including favourites such as Ampéli’s salt cod croquettes; pulled beef croquettes with harissa mayo; roasted cauliflower with labneh, green olive tapenade and pine nuts; as well as roast leek with almond dukkah and herb dressing. The pulled beef is a particular triumph – one of the best offerings this reviewer has so far sampled in a home meal delivery kit.
The main event – a choice of either roasted monkfish, braised fennel, courgette, ouzo aioli and fish soup or slow cooked lamb shoulder souvlaki, zhoug, citrus potatoes and feta dressing - is ambitious for a takeaway, but confident. To finish, Ampéli’s chefs have created a delivery version of their rizogalo. It’s a deeply comforting Greek rice pudding with cinnamon and punchy blackcurrant preserve. There’s also a mixed nut baklava cigar with mountain tea syrup.
To wash it all down, Ampéli has created an abbreviated autumn edit of the Ampéli wine list which is available for delivery along with each feast box, featuring dynamic producers from emerging regions of Greece. The food came beautifully packaged and the instructions and allergen information was clear and welcome. This is a great option for sharing, particularly as the dipping sauces travel so well and offer great variety within one meal. ampelilondon.slerp.com
Lyle’s provisions boxes
One of the most enjoyable things about eating at Lyle’s restaurant, when it is not closed due to lockdown, is the understatement of the space, the staff and even the menu itself. The whole experience is one of deceptive complexity, where the artistry is hidden behind a veneer of restrained table settings and simple decor. That same quality has been transposed perfectly to the restaurant’s magnificent new Provisions boxes, which arrive in refined packaging complete with everything you need for a Michelin-starred meal at home.
What’s more, it genuinely couldn’t be simpler to put together with crystal clear instructions leading you through each step and the majority of the cooking having been done for you by the kitchen. Really, you are just reheating, with the exception of the 14-week hung Dexter rib, which you can cook to your own preference. Like it bloody? Take it off the heat after a few turns. Prefer it well done? Keep it over the flame for as long as you wish.
The whole menu is filled with highlights, from the creamy pumpkin and whey soup to the unctuous quince sponge with vanilla custard, via a show-stopping crab and barley porridge, which instantly transports you to the seaside. The restaurant has two dinner kits to choose from - the classive Lyle’s Menu kit or the seasonal Game Menu kit. Both are very generous; this reviewer and his partner chose to split the meal over two sittings. At £140, the boxes aren’t cheap, but the price genuinely reflects both their value and quality. lylesprovisions.com
Founded in March just as the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK, Dishpatch is a delivery service that brings food from some of the UK’s best restaurants straight to your door. Initially, the idea was to sell restaurant suppliers’ produce so that it didn’t go to waste, but the service has now evolved and Dishpatch has partnered with an impressive collection of well-known restaurants to create DIY meal boxes that can be prepared at home.
The roster of participating restaurants changes each month but The Week tried out London restaurant Crispin’s Tuscan feast, which includes a burrata (the world’s greatest cheese in this reviewer’s opinion) which is served with ham, pear and basil oil, a Ribolitta - Tuscany’s famous bread soup - rich beef cheek tagliatelle with a side salad, and a pair of panna cottas with figs to finish off. Separately, the restaurant has set up the Crispin Wine Club, a flexible subscription service that brings you wines recommended by Crispin’s in-house sommelier Stefano Cazzato. A perfect accompaniment to your Tuscan feast.
Of course, if you’re not in the mood for Italian, Dishpatch also has a slow-cooked short rib from 10 Greek Street, a Thai feasting menu from Farang and a Mexican street food fiesta from Tacos Padre. Make sure to place your orders early because the rotating monthly menus sell out fast. dishpatch.co.uk
Moore House Cocktail Company
All the best restaurant experiences begin with a drink at the bar before sitting down to dinner. But how can you reproduce the experience of a chic cocktail lounge when stuck at home? Either by investing in a cocktail shaker and a huge cupboard of spirits, or with the help of the Moore House Cocktail Company.
Everything you need for a pre-dinner cocktail party comes in this handsomely designed kit, which includes cocktails in smart little bottles and dried fruit or garnishes appropriate to your drink. The only thing you need to do is add ice and shake (or stir if that is your preference).
The Week tested out an Old Fashioned, a Negroni, a Salted Caramel Espresso Martini and Spicy Margarita - all delicious, especially the Margarita which was not too sweet and dangerously moreish. Of course, it will help if you can serve each drink in precisely the right glasses, but even if all you have to hand is tumblers, the quality of the cocktails shines through. The only struggle will be reminding yourself to drink responsibly. moorehousecocktails.co.uk
Club Mexicana has a cult following across London and it’s gone from strength to strength from its pop-up roots, now with a dedicated bricks and mortar home in Kingly Court. The Mexican-inspired street food is 100% vegan and the team have developed a range of DIY boxes that can be assembled at home.
Nachos and a mega taco box offer a bump up on its sell-out signature options that range from Al Pastor to BBQ Short Rib and a Cheezeburger Taco kit. Accompanied with a range of plant-based toppings and seitan that comes marinated in secret spices, these kits provide a sustainable evening at home for those looking for something a little different. clubmexicana.com
Dirty Bones has been a long-standing member of London’s American dining scene and although closed for the majority of 2020, it has worked hard to bring unique dishes to the homes of many.
Inspired by New York City’s dining scene, the DIY kits bring a slice of America to the table with four unique burger kits: the Classic, the Hero, the Vegan Chili Cheese and the most famous of the bunch, the Mac Daddy; which is topped with a layer of mac ‘n’ cheese. If you’re after the full experience, order the lamb fries kit for an even more elevated evening of comfort eating. designmynight.com
Blacklock At Home
Blacklock is placed on a pedestal when it comes to its affordable and quality cuts. Steaks come saddled with flavour and the £5 cocktail menu is known to be cheaper than a return journey from zones one to three in London.
Blacklock has rustled up a handful of DIY boxes that can be delivered nationally for the coming months, bringing the experience to people’s homes when it’s not possible to dine out. Steak night for two, £56, includes chop sauce, beef dripping chips, kale and parmesan salad and a white chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Bar refreshments are also on offer, with eight serves of the classic old fashioned setting you back a mere £25. theblacklock.com
One Fine Dine
Turning out perfectly presented plates might look like it needs years of culinary training, but it turns out it can be done with just a microwave, an oven and a few simple instructions. Originally devised for exclusive private jets, One Fine Dine is effectively a DIY meal kit featuring top-level ingredients (think Oscietra caviar and Wagyu beef) that can be produced in even the simplest of galley kitchens.
The ingredients are delivered in clearly marked boxes, so you can quickly identify which elements go with which. It is then down to you to follow straightforward heating and plating instructions which are almost foolproof (almost - our chocolate fondant suffered slight collapse, but still tasted delicious).
It isn’t cheap, but the food looks and tastes spectacular. And given the simplicity of preparation it all feels somewhat like gastronomic witchcraft. One Fine Dine also offers a Christmas menu, starting from £60 per person. onefinedine.com
Church Road, Elystan Street and Kitchen W8
Phil Howard’s trio of west London restaurants have - Michelin-starred Elystan Street in Chelsea, Kitchen W8 in Kensington and Church Road in Barnes - contribute to an ever-changing food-to-order menu, consisting of classical European dishes, cooked to the restaurants’ exacting standards and ready to revive in your oven (main courses from £28).
A luxurious affair, the three-course dinner has an indefinable cheffiness that’s hard to reustle up in a domestic kitchen. Whether it was the richness of the soup, the piquancy of the coq au vin sauce or the delicacy of the fig and almond tart, the sample Sunday lunch would have been hard to pass off as the work of even the most ambitious home cook.
Theo Randall’s three-course Italian feast
During the lockdown, Michelin-starred chef Theo Randall teamed up with food delivery service Banquist to give home cooks a taste of his fine Italian cooking - and a video tutorial covering a range of culinary techniques. The chilled box arrives with everything you need to make an indulgent three-course meal: a spinach and ricotta gnudi (being shaped in the wine glass, above) with shredded burrata, beef fillet wrapped in copa di parma and panna cotta with raspberries and cantuccini biscuits. banquist.com
Berenjak Kabab Kit
If you’re in the mood for street food rather than fine dining, Soho-based Berenjak will send their delicious DIY Kabab Kits to anywhere in England or Wales. The £30 is designed to serve two, but the portions are very generous - expect to be lunching on leftover lamb koobideh and chicken jujeh the following day. Apart from the marinated meat, your delivery will include clay-baked lavash bread, ingredients for salad and a cooling, yoghurty mast-o-masir dip. It even comes with industrial-size skewers, perfect for the barbecue (although you may need to swap in your own if your grill won’t work with the oven door open). An excellent and very reasonably priced introduction to Persian cooking. berenjakbazaar.com
Of all the types of takeaway, burgers travel least well. Curry and Thai are fine lukewarm, and pizzas are even edible two days later. Burgers, meanwhile, demand to be eaten the moment they are cooked or they begin to sag and curdle. For this reason, Honest Burgers’ DIY kit is a tempting option, even if you live within the radius of an outlet that will deliver you a pre-prepared one. The kit includes everything you need: patties, buns, bacon, pickled cucumber, red onion chutney and even the rosemary and salt mix the chain adds, famously, to its fries. Though the kit doesn’t include the chips themselves - these you will have to cook yourself. But for £30 with enough of everything to feed four hungry people, this is an Honest burger for an honest price. honestburgers.co.uk
Pasta Evangelists is creating a series of menus drawn from regional Italian cuisine. Week by week, you can make your way through Sicily, Puglia and the Veneto to Liguria and Lazio, with dishes such as Sicilian fennel sausage with fresh rigatoni and Venetian crab ravioli with sage butter. The concept is simple - fresh, handmade pasta with top quality sauces - and the cooking even simpler. Most dishes can be on the table a few minutes after you’ve opened the letterbox-sized box. Prices range from £6.75 per portion. pastaevangelists.com
Pizza Pilgrims are taking away the hard part of making pizza at home with their frying pan pizza kits. Allowing you to ditch the scales and shove the yeast back in the cupboard, their letterbox-friendly kits contain 48-hour-proved dough balls and enough marinara sauce, Fior Di Latte, olive oil, fresh basil and parmesan for two pizzas. Feel free to throw whatever else you fancy (or whatever you have in your fridge) on for a restaurant-grade slice at home. pizzapilgrims.co.uk
Burger & Beyond
You can cook Burger & Beyond’s exceptional burgers for yourself thanks to their DIY home kits. Priced at £25 a pop, it’s more than worth the splurge with enough ingredients to make four of their epic bacon butter burgers. Each kit has everything you need, from their signature 35-day-aged mince beef right down to the pancetta bacon and pickled onions. burgerandbeyond.co.uk
Chin Chin Labs
Chin Chin is an Instagrammable dessert parlour that can be found down one of Camden’s cobbled streets and it has proven itself to be a hit with people from all over the world. Its outrageous desserts use everything from liquid nitrogen to vegan ice cream and, considering its popularity, you’ve more than likely come across it on one of your swiping sprees. During lockdown you can experiment with the restaurant’s most-loved concoctions by purchasing a starter kit, but we highly recommend kicking things off with a DIY hot chocolate. chinchinicecream.com
The Vurger Co.
If you live near Shoreditch or Canary Wharf in London and love The Vurger Co., you are in luck. The vegan burger aficionados are encouraging you to get creative in the kitchen thanks to their new DIY box for two. Containing two vegan patties, brioche buns, gluten-free cheese slices and everything else you need to make their signature burger (including a bottle of burger sauce and skin-on-fries), the packages will let you make their favourite dish in the comfort of your own home. Fridays; thevurgerco.com
Patty & Bun
Patty & Bun know what makes a good burger so there’s no need to go messing with spices in your kitchen thanks to a deliverable DIY kit. In exchange for £15-£33, you’ll open a box containing all the ingredients needed to a masterpiece, and thanks to nationwide delivery, anyone in the UK can bag a mouthful of the action. That’s not all though, with the option to choose from either meat or their vegan patty, there really is something for everyone. pattyandbun.co.uk
Mac & Wild
Mac & Wild have won the hearts of many with their venimoo burger and with good reason. Their under-the-wraps recipe still remains a secret but we can let go of that for now thanks to their nationwide delivery service that will see you using the best of the best ingredients-wise to replicate four of their beastly burgers at home. It doesn’t stop there either, as the Scottish restaurant has other bundles to sink your teeth into. We’re huge fans of the breakfast and BBQ packs. From £19; restaurantkitsuk.com
Northern Soul: ‘GIY’ kits
Believe it or not, but there’s a subtle art to making the perfect grilled sandwich, and if you haven’t yet achieved that, now’s your chance. Northern Soul are the crème de la crème when it comes to making two slices of bread into something special and they’re passing on everything you need to make a cheesy masterpiece at home. Each “grill it yourself” kit is packed with jalapenos, onion chutney and gooey mac and cheese. £30; northernsoulmcr.com