Award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster, Jay Rayner is best known as the long-running restaurant critic for The Observer, regularly appearing on television including MasterChef, and has his own hit podcast Out To Lunch. We join him as he shares the best restaurant delivery boxes available across the UK that you can order, cook and enjoy from the comfort of your own home...
The pandemic was always likely to inspire innovation. For the restaurant sector that has been the meal kit: much more than a recipe box full of raw ingredients and instruction cards; a little less than a ready-to-eat take away. The model has provided more ambitious restaurants, which previously wouldn’t have dreamed of providing their dishes to be eaten at home, with a revenue stream in drastic times.
Northcote at Home
Northcote, a boutique hotel in Lancashire, has led the field with a changing set of boxes which are big on generosity, and low on faff. At the heart will be a shared main course – a venison wellington perhaps, or a truffle-stuffed crown of chicken – which merely needs a trip through your oven. Desserts, which might include a whole lemon meringue pie, are a particular high point. Alongside, there’s always a loaf of their brilliant bread, plus chocolates. This one will feed you well and stock your fridge. Do also check out the offering from their sister businesses, the Game Bird at the Stafford Hotel and the Sicilian restaurant Norma, both in London.
Around £100 for two.
Clay’s At Home
Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen in Reading is a relatively new business run by a husband-and-wife team, Nandana and Sharat Syamala, who were simply trying to survive lockdown. Along the way they’ve deservedly become something of a cult success for the likes of their keema biryani and bhuna venison. Main dishes are around £14 for substantial portions and there are a lot of meat-free options, including their pumpkin and butternut squash curry.
If a meal kit requires some cooking it should be fun, and the kebab kits from this Iranian restaurant are exactly that. You get pouches of pre-marinated chicken and lamb, and big flat skewers to impale them upon for grilling. The side dishes, including table-sized flat breads and yoghurt dips, are terrific too, and at £25 to £45, there’s no questioning the value.
Bocca di Lupo at Home
Chef Jacob Kenedy’s take on a rustic Italian repertoire is a joy, and stretches from rugged pasta dishes including his fabulous hand cut pesto and long cooked beef shin ragu, through to whacking steaks and pastries. The menu changes regularly and costs anywhere between £60 and £90 for two, depending on the contents.
Fancy some BBQ? With an Afghan-cum-Latin American flavour? This is the place. Mursal Saiq’s intriguing menu includes long-smoked beef brisket or lamb ribs alongside an entirely vegan offering of hearty stews. All of them come with naco flatbreads, a cross between naans and taco, and a bunch of pickles and relishes. Cooking mostly involves reheating vac-packed bags in pots of boiling water, but all the heavy lifting has been done for you. Meal kits cost between £40 and £70.
Looking for more food inspiration? Jay Rayner’s podcast, Out To Lunch, in which he interviews big names like Paloma Faith and Derren Brown over a few courses, is available now from your favourite platform.