Tried and tasted: best restaurant DIY meal kits
Enjoy your favourite restaurant menu items at home
José Pizarro’s Spanish steak supper from Dishpatch
Sometimes you don’t want the faff and fiddle of intricate food that has been broken down into its constituent parts and put into a box to be reassembled, with some difficulty, at your end. Sometimes all you really want is a good steak, some chips, a crisp salad and an artery-clogging dessert. That is what Spanish chef José Pizarro has done with this dinner box, which on one level is very simple, but offers a solid interpretation of the national cuisine it represents.
Spanish food often thrives due to the quality of its ingredients: a seafood paella is at its best when the prawns are juicy and fresh; the best jamon comes from pigs that have been painstakingly reared. The same is true of this meal box which has in it the elements listed above, though the steak isn’t just any steak, it is a 30-day dry-aged “Txuleton” cut, and the chips are triple-cooked. And that rich dessert – well that is a chocolate ganache, served with olive oil and shortbread.
For some people this may feel as though the price is unwarranted, but what you are paying for is Pizarro’s eye for good ingredients. And it is hard to beat an easy-to-prepare meal that tastes great.
Gymkhana Tandoori Chicken Feast from Restokit
Attempting to convert high-end cuisine to a home delivery box leaves restaurants with two real options: either you maintain the complexity of your food, which generally means more work for the at-home chef, or you simplify, meaning the construction of the dishes is less fussy, but you risk losing some of the magic.
With its Restokit-partnered Tandoori Chicken Feast, the popular Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Gymkhana strikes something of a happy medium, possibly leaning towards the simplified end of the spectrum, with an extensive menu that is nonetheless relatively straightforward to prepare.
Nothing here is terribly fiddly, there is just a lot of it, which means a bit of juggling of pots, microwave dishes and oven trays to get it all ready at the same time. Once you do, however, you will be rewarded with a banquet that centres around the titular tandoori chicken, here served alongside a delicious samosa chaat, the sweet yoghurt accompaniment to which is worth the price of entry alone. Then comes a buttery dal maharani, a makai palak – a kind of lush green spinach-based dish, then a bevy of naans, papadams, salads, chutneys and raitas to round the meal out.
The feast closes with a pair of syrupy gulab jamun – fried dough balls that are soaked in a sweet, sticky sugar treacle. But to remind you that this is fine dining, they are topped with silver leaf. It isn’t cheap, and the preparation is not without some faff, but for a taste of splurge-happy Indian dining at home, it is more than worth it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cash & Kari by 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.
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.
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.