On the menu

Tried and tasted: best DIY restaurant meal kits

Enjoy some of your favourite menu items at home

 
Burger and Lobster
Burger & Lobster

A whole lobster provides an instant sense of occasion, in part because few home cooks would attempt to prepare one without expert assistance. Enter Burger & Lobster and its new nationwide delivery service.

For £32, the London-based restaurant group will send you a 650g lobster which has been halved, prepped and packed on ice, so all you have to do is steam or grill it and drizzle the rich garlic-and-lemon butter over the sweet flesh. You can supplement your crustacean with bottled cocktails, lobster croquettes, Nebraskan beef burgers, chips, a selection of puddings  –  and a pair of lobster crackers, should you require them. burgerandlobster.com

 
Chuku’s Chop, Chat, Chill meal kit
Chuku’s Chop, Chat, Chill meal kit

The words Nigerian and tapas are rarely found sitting side by side, and yet north London restaurant Chuku’s now delivers its Chop, Chat, Chill meal kits nationwide. Not just a celebration of Nigeria’s food, but also its music, film and art, the kit offers access via a QR code to three fantastic curated playlists as well as some hand-picked films and artworks to enjoy before you even get going on your meal.

Once you do, however, the fireworks really begin. The kit effectively amounts to four generous wraps with your choice of chicken, beef or tofu as filling. Such a description doesn’t capture the depth and complexity of flavours which go into the wraps however, nor the heat either. Each of the sauces would be a chili kick in its own right, but consumed together and in full you could probably blow your own hair off.

The wrap also incorporates the restaurant’s superb jollof quinoa, and a salad, whose honey dressing is again hot enough to melt through iron. Incredibly tasty though. The meal ends with a yam yam brownie, which is at once rich and light – a clever sleight of hand, and the perfect end to a glorious (and gloriously spicy) meal kit. £25; chukuslondon.co.uk

 
Arros QD Grill at Home mixed box for two people
Arros QD Grill at Home mixed box for two people

Arros QD is a restaurant whose name focuses attention directly on its rice dishes, arros being the Catalan word for rice. Specifically, it is about its paella, that traditional Spanish dish that can be ordered in tourist traps all over Spain but originated on the east coast of the country, in a little town near to Valencia. 

Despite the name, some of the most interesting things on Arros QD’s menu are its non-paella dishes, including its magnificent grilled offerings. The restaurant’s mixed grill box, which true to its name has a bit of something for everyone: some Mediterranean red prawns, a rack of Korean-style marinated pork, and a glorious ribeye steak with chimichurri sauce. The restaurant also offers a fish box if you are pescatarian rather than carnivorous. £79; appaway.eu 

Finish & Feast presents Musette by Tom Aikens
Finish & Feast presents Musette by Tom Aikens

At 26, Tom Aikens became the youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars. Once accused of being snooty – Aikens’ Muse restaurant opened to sneering headlines in The Sun and the Daily Mail asking “is this the most pretentious restaurant menu ever?” – his at-home boxes delight with their simplicity and accessibility. 

His collaboration with Finish & Feast (on pause in October but back from November) opens with a beetroot dish, before moving to a fishy main and ending with a carob tart. But below the appearance of effortlessness lies a depth and complexity that is hard to fully grasp until you are constructing it for yourself. Take for example that beetroot starter. It serves the vegetable up three ways: crushed with cucumber and piped into the centre of the plate, then thinly sliced into discs and finally liquified into a dressing and poured over fried capers to top it all off. Just a handful of ingredients but all masterfully assembled. 

The same is true of the main course which features a pan fried cod loin, with confit potatoes, a caramelised endive and an orangey butter sauce. Simplicity itself! Yet intricate too. The dessert of white chocolate and pumpkin ganache, coconut and cardamom cream and pumpkin mousse looks regal almost, with its crown of dried coconut slices. Aikens has two other boxes on offer, one more meaty and one more vegetarian, but it is hard to look past this fishy feast. £98; finishandfeast.com

Iberica feast
Iberica Feast at Home

The problem with eating tapas with friends in a restaurant is that it can be quite hard to get full. Unless you are in Spain of course, where tapas is generally cheap and plentiful. Back in Blighty though, it is often a pricey way to eat out, meaning one can walk away with a stomach as empty as one’s wallet. 

Fortunately, Iberica’s feast presents no such issues. The box comes packed with so much food that you will genuinely struggle to polish it off in a single sitting. And the quality on show is also top notch. Take, for example, the jamon. This is not your everyday Spanish ham, but proper weapons-grade Juan Pedro Domecq 100% ibérico bellota jamon. The proper stuff. 

The other dishes are equally good, from the huge octopus tentacle, served a la Gallega-style with mashed potatoes and a piped paprika sauce, to the prawns with a creamy orange sauce. Add to this two types of bread, olives, bacon to munch, five different types of cheese, and two salads. 

All this, before you have even arrived at the main course - a spectacular lamb shank. This is the part of the meal that takes the longest to prepare, but the 45 minutes it needs on the hob and in the oven is the perfect amount of time to do your best to polish off the rest of the tapas. Though good luck squeezing in the lamb if you have eaten everything else. Also there is cheesecake waiting for you in the wings – be warned. £130; iberica.vmos.io

The Emperor’s Feast By Empire Biryani
The Emperor’s Feast by Empire Biryani

Harneet Baweja and Devina Seth, the founders of Michelin Bib-winning restaurants Gunpowder, have launched a new home delivery service, Empire Biryani. Cooked throughout South Asia, biryani is traditionally a celebratory dish and Empire Biryani’s version hails predominantly from the north of India and Pakistan. 

According to the chefs, the delicate cooking process for the biryani takes 36 hours - but luckily for customers the kit is merely a half-hour simple heat and serve process as it’s delivered pre-prepared.

The Emperor’s Feast is available in either vegetarian or meat, which included beef boti kebab, Hyderabadi baby aubergine salan and the star of the show, the lamb biryani. Topped with a delicious edible shortcrust pastry, the lamb was succulent and the rice was beautifully infused with the flavours of the meat. If you do have room after stuffing yourself with rice and lamb then there’s also a triple chocolate brownie with cold cardamom custard to tackle. 

Available for nationwide delivery, The Emperor’s Feast costs £50 for two people but could easily feed three. However, if you’re greedy like we are then maybe just split between two. £50; empirebiryani.com 

Home-X chateaubriand surf and turf edition
Home-X chateaubriand surf and turf edition

Chateaubriand is a beautiful centre-cut piece of beef tenderloin, which is usually enough to serve two - if not more. The one delivered here as part of an extremely elegant do-it-yourself surf and turf meal, is the brainchild of the well-known chef Nico Simeone.

The whole thing arrives in a chic branded box, the contents of which are 99% recyclable - a nice touch being embraced by more and more home delivery kits. Even the best box can be instantly undermined by the guilt of throwing away a mountain of plastic. No such issue here.

Arranged around the paired bottle of wine are the surf and the turf – a glorious 28 day-aged chateaubriand, which just needs to be seared all over and then popped into the oven, and some king prawns with confit garlic, dill and parsley butter which only want a quick fry. To round the meal out are spicy potatoes sprinkled with ’nduja, and a side of deep purple carrots whose flavour is deepened further by being cooked in beef fat.

The whole meal ends on a high with a chocolate and orange fondant with orange zest, which feels like the poshest Terry’s Chocolate Orange you will ever have. A box that is unapologetically rich and buttery from start to finish. £75; home-x.com

One Fine Dine
One Fine Dine 

The usual trade-off with DIY food delivery boxes is that the more complex the food, the more work you have to do in the kitchen. One Fine Dine short-circuits that equation by delivering food that genuinely looks as though it could have been served up at a three Michelin-starred venue with an absolute minimum of fuss.

The three-course menu offers several impossible choices; do you start with the Cromer crab and crayfish, with mango salsa or the roulade of confit duck with heritage carrot salad? For your main course do you turn to the sous-vide Cornish monkfish wrapped in pancetta or the roasted cannon of Langley chase lamb? And to finish, a dark chocolate fondant is pitted against One Fine Dine’s prosecco-infused take on an Eton mess. £195; onefinedine.com

Après Food Co. meal kit
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

Hoppers

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

Santo Remedio

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 before 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

Bocca di Lupo

Bocca di Lupo, the award-winning Italian restaurant in the heart of Soho, has kept up the home delivery service it started during lockdown, offering such delights as Capunti pasta with sausage ragu 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 gets the party started. boccadilupoathome.com

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