We enjoyed a coffee and cake at the coffee shop in the Merchants House. Table service and friendly staff.
” It was the wife’s birthday and I was a bit short of ideas. Not least because I currently have no kitchen as such but a brand spanking new Aga that I’ve never used before where a kitchen will one day be. Getting a takeaway seemed a bit cheap but trying to prepare any proper meals at the moment is nigh-on impossible. So I had a word with Chris who had mentioned plans to trial a cook-at-home scheme and he gave me an option. I collected the food from the restaurant and was handed a series of vacuum-packed bags with labels on telling me a) what they were and b) what to do with them. Chris gave me a few pointers and that was that.
The meal that was created was:
Rump pave steak with a brandy and white truffle sauce
Maple-glazed carrots, parsnips and yellow carrots
Sun-dried tomato and cress granish
Sounds a bit impressive and complicated, doesn’t it? Well…
Ease of preparation
Bear in mind I was making this on a brand new Aga which I haven’t used before (it only went on this week) and isn’t as easy to control the temperature on i.e. couldn’t get it to the recommended temperatures on the labels. It was a doddle. The hardest thing was getting the gratin out of the packet! All I did was shove the veg in one roasting tray, the gratins in another and stick them in the oven (which idles at 240). I gave them about 15m and they were fine (I could have given them a little longer in fairness). Once they went in, I heated the pan, completely forgot to dry the steaks first and shoved them in, blood and all, and gave them about 90s each side. Took the pan off the heat and left it with a lid on. Boiled salted water in another pan, stuck the broccoli in for 30s, drained and left in the pan off the heat with a lid on. Gently warmed the sauce and served.
Plenty for two. With a little additional meat, it could easily stretch it to 4 and give a fancy restaurant-look presentation.
I believe the idea is to charge about £15 for a two-person main course (£20 for 2 courses), which is I suppose about the price of a main for one in a restaurant. Bear in mind what you get for similar dine for £10 offers from well-known supermarkets and the quality. This is restaurant-quality fresh food at not much more than fairly ropey processed food. No contest.
Awesome. Even with my throw-it-on presentation, it went down a storm. I didn’t use too much of the sauce, so I put the rest in a tub and stuck it in the fridge and will use at a later date. It truly was a restaurant meal in our own home with the added bonus of not having to arrange baby-sitters, taxis and all the other grief that being a parent entails when you want something fancy to eat. Two days later and we were both still savouring the experience. Suffice it to say, brownie points were well and truly won.
I understand they plan to include presentation boxes with a guide on how to get that restaurant-look on your plate, offer various menu options and possibly even some sort of loyalty scheme. All in all, this idea is gold-dust and, if there is any justice in the world, cannot possibly fail. Collection only at the moment, but I quite liked the idea of popping in to the restaurant to pick up the supplies. It reminded me of the episode of Fawlty Towers when he has to go and get the duck a l’orange and ends up giving the car one hell of a thrashing…
Keep your eyes peeled for the launch of this service and try it for yourself. Because believe me, like me, you’ll be trying it more than once…”