Restaurants are finally back, albeit not quite as we knew them. But the brief break has inspired many top chefs to get creative, and now it’s possible to enjoy their finest food at home, too. No, not as a soggy takeaway, but as a ‘make-away’ — where they provide fully prepped, easy to tackle recipe kits that let you serve their best dishes at home.
Best of all, they’re available nationwide; so no matter where you live you can enjoy a tapas feast from a top London restaurant, grub from a Michelin-starred Yorkshire gastropub, or a steak from the high-end Hawksmoor restaurant chain, all without leaving the house.
All the shopping is done for you, too, with fancy ingredients such as Iberican presa pork or wild garlic.
Sudi Pigott gives her verdict on a selection of makeaways available in the UK, including Hame by Adam Handling (pictured)
Though you miss out on the joyful thrum of a lively dining room, and there’s a lot of multitasking, serving and clearing up to do, the results can be stupendous.
While some kits involve little more than snipping open a pouch and heating, or even boiling in the bag, others require more effort; frying, flipping or piping.
So, which make-aways can really turn your dining room into a gourmet paradise — without making you feel like you’re in Hell’s Kitchen?
FEAST BY TOM AIKENS
Musette by Tom Aikens, mains from £18, plus starters, desserts and wine, tomaikens.co.uk
What is it? The Great British Menu’s Tom Aikens is the youngest British chef awarded two Michelin stars (at age 26) and founder of Muse restaurant in London’s Belgravia.
Musette is his new ‘at-home’ offering: a rotating menu, seasonal ‘extra special meals’ and pre-cooked ‘sumptuous sharers’.
I chose roasted cod with shiitake mushroom broth, cauliflower puree and ricotta gnocchi, then 24-hour braised short rib beef with onion tatin and salt-baked beets, plus dark chocolate mousse to finish.
Easy to make? Instructions are clear and you can also scan a QR code to watch videos of Tom preparing the dishes. For the starter, I bake the pre-seasoned cod in the oven while searing the gnocchi in a frying pan and reheating the broth.
The beef only needs 20 minutes in the oven, and is the best thing I’ve ever tasted from a tin tray. Then I simply saute the pre-baked beets and my meal is complete.
The mousse arrives in a piping bag ready to squeeze out and layer with spoonfuls of chantilly cream, pistachio crumbs and praline.
It’s pricey, but cleverly done and is of serious restaurant quality.
Sudi was impressed with Sabor en Casa (pictured), revealing the food needed only straightforward finishing
PURE INDIAN DELIGHT
Kricket, £35 for a main dish for four, restaurantkitsuk.com
What is it? Kricket is a modern Indian restaurant that has become the darling of London’s Soho and locations beyond. While other restaurants offer three-course make-aways, Kricket sells just one dish: its popular tandoori chicken thighs.
Easy to make? The ingredients come with a colourful, helpful instruction leaflet. I grill the pre-marinated chicken while warming up the makhani, a sensational tomato sauce infused with cardamom, cinnamon and clove. Then I add the chicken for a final simmer and garnish with pickled ginger and fenugreek.
The dish has a vibrancy, freshness and depth of flavour that’s in a different league from most takeaways, but for the price I’d have liked sides.
STEIN’S TASTE OF SEA
Stein’s at Home, £50 for a three-course meal for two to three people including a bottle of house wine, rickstein.com
What is it? For all of us who’ve not yet made it to his Padstow fish restaurant in Cornwall, Rick Stein’s son Jack’s make-away service offers an enticing flavour of the sea.
There are three set menus, from £40 to £80. I went for the £50 meal of moules mariniere, Indonesian seafood curry, and Eton mess.
Easy to make? First up were mussels from Devon’s River Exe, ready cleaned. I re-heat ready-prepared, buttery shallot confit, throw in the mussels and pour a good glug of crisp Stein house white into the pot. A perfect briny trinity.
Sparklingly fresh sea bass, cod and prawns, for the Indonesian curry, arrive in plentiful ice packs. I just gently simmer the fish with the curry sauce and coconut milk. This is fantastic, with carefully balanced spice.
The Eton Mess is also superb. Soft centred, yet crisp-shelled meringue that arrives ready broken for assembling with chantilly cream and passion fruit. A perfect fish supper.
Sudi said Hawksmoor At Home (pictured) made for a memorable and boozy night in with posh steak and ready-made martini
FINE DINING AT HOME
Hame by Adam Handling, mains from £20, adamhandling.co.uk
What is it? The first true fine-dining chef to launch a make-away, Adam Handling’s flagship Frog restaurant is in London’s Covent Garden. His ‘Hame’ (Scots for ‘home’) menu is designed for delivery.
You order dish by dish, not from a set menu, and can scan a QR code on the menu card to see Adam prepare each one. I can’t resist Adam’s signature cheese doughnuts (£20), beef Wellington (£80 for two) and tarte tatin (£30) — but wince at the cost.
Easy to make? The doughnuts arrive as a ready-made dough, which I divide into 16 balls and leave to prove on a baking sheet before deep-frying in a saucepan.
After cooling, I squirt in Lincolnshire Poacher cream cheese that’s delivered in a piping bag. Totally sensational. The Wellington arrives uncooked, already encased in pastry, and ready for the oven.
The kit also includes a thermometer to check you’re getting the timings and temperature right, saving a lot of worry. I heat red wine jus gently in a pan and warm indulgent clotted cream mash in the oven.
And the tarte tatin served six generously and only required reheating. A pricey yet perfect treat meal — for a special birthday, perhaps?
TAPAS TO SAVOUR
Sabor en Casa, £90 for four, saborrestaurants.co.uk
What is it? Nieves Barragan is the chef at Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant Sabor. Her £90 Asador set menu has tapas including prawn croquetas, Spanish tortilla, and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). There’s also the Counter Menu, £58, with six dishes.
Easy to make? The food needs only straightforward finishing — but juggling the dishes is challenging. The croquetas are ready rolled, with the oil for deep-frying provided and taste divine.
The tortilla mix comes in a pouch and just needs cooking until set, though I would have preferred a thicker tortilla. Then there’s boil-in-the-bag Galician octopus with a smoked sweet paprika garnish.
Churrasco de Cordero — milk-fed Pyrenean lamb slow-cooked in Sabor’s wood-fired oven — only required reheating and dolloping with chimichurri (parsley and garlic dressing).
More ambitious is Arroz
negro, a rice dish with squid ink that has already simmered for hours in the restaurant. I reheat the pre-cooked rice with baby squid before adding the bisque plus a pouch of ‘secret magic sauce’.
Fiddly — but outrageously good with its deep, sweet taste of the sea.
Sudi was unimpressed with Black Swan at Oldstead (pictured) describing the menu as clumsily seasoned ready-meals
Townsend, three-course meals for two from £40 including wine, whitechapelgallery.org
What is it? A thoughtful menu of British seasonal food from the restaurant at the very trendy Whitechapel Gallery in London.
There are three appealing set menus, all including wine. I chose a pork and prune terrine to start, followed by a fillet of trout then baked cheesecake served with creme fraiche.
Easy to make? The ready-to-eat terrine is underwhelming despite accompanying pickled cucumber and fennel seed crackers. The trout, though is truly delectable.
I poach it in ready-prepared fish stock while cooking courgettes and peas in more poaching liquid, before adding a white wine sauce.
The cheesecake is good, if not quite up to my late mum’s standards, though I liked the tart gooseberry compote accompaniment. The Chin Chin Vinho Verde went perfectly with the meal.
Andrew Edmunds dinner box, £55 for two plus £5.50 delivery, dishpatch.co.uk
What is it? For those who can’t get to Andrew Edmunds’ restaurant in Soho, London, there’s this three-course dinner box from chef Tom Trubshaw. The meat/fish menu includes dressed crab with fennel salad, organic Swaledale braised lamb with pickled red cabbage, plus summer pudding.
I tried the vegetarian dinner box with black chickpea, squash hummus and radishes, crisp polenta, roast carrots, red onion, carrot puree and salsa verde, plus summer pudding and creme fraiche.
Easy to make? The black chickpea and squash hummus starter just needs plating up and has an admirably light, creamy and nutty texture. I eat it with the fabulous leaf-on, plump radishes provided.
The main of roasted carrots, red onions and polenta cakes requires reheating in the oven and serving with ready-prepared carrot puree.
I find it rather dull and uninspired. The menu is saved by a superlative, summer pudding, that comes ready to turn out.
NOT QUITE THE TASTE OF YORKSHIRE
Black Swan at Oldstead, £75 for a three-course menu for two people, blackswanoldstead.co.uk
What is it? Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks runs The Black Swan, in North Yorkshire, named 2020 best restaurant in Britain by TripAdvisor.
Now he’s offering a super simple make-away that contains two three-course meals, largely using produce grown by The Black Swan and local farmers. Dishes are ready-to-eat or only require heating up.
My delivery includes Black Swan tomatoes and Amalthea goats’ cheese tart, chilled courgette soup, chicken and lovage gratin and slow-cooked pork, financier cake.
Easy to prepare? Sadly, this feels as if not enough thought has gone into the dishes. The unremarkable tomato tarts have greyish pastry. I reheat the gratin in the oven, which tastes comforting yet unexciting. But I can’t eat the cold soup. It tastes of decaying veg.
The slow-cooked glazed pork belly is tasty and is served with smoked butter, Old Winchester cheese mash and boring white cabbage choucroute.
Desserts — tangy blackberry cheesecake and an almond-rich raspberry and blackberry financier cake — are decent enough.
Essentially, these were clumsily seasoned ready-meals.
POSH STEAK AND EVEN A READY-MADE MARTINI
Hawksmoor At Home, £120 for two including ready-mixed martini, red wine and lager thehawksmoor.com
What is it? The steak experts offer two menus designed especially for your barbecue. I opt for a Porterhouse steak for two, roast potatoes and broccoli with Gentleman’s relish butter.
Easy to make? The dry-aged, traditional grass-fed Porterhouse steak is superb: substantial, rich, fatty and smoky, as exceptional as Hawksmoor devotees would expect. If you don’t have a charcoal barbecue, use a ridged skillet indoors and strictly no oil.
Hawksmoor suggests cooking slowly to get the colour and char all the way around the outside of the steaks. This means it remains juicy inside and not overcooked.
Meanwhile, I mix the bone marrow provided separately with the gravy and veal stock on the hob to make a sauce.
There are Koffmann’s potatoes (that is legendary chef Pierre Koffmann and his wife Claire’s potato company: Claire has worked selling potatoes to chefs all her life) to oven roast with beef dripping, plus broccoli with spicy anchovy, also known as Gentleman’s relish, butter — a winning combination.
Most thrilling of all is the 200ml bottle of Martini mix, which I chill in the freezer for 90 minutes before serving in frosted martini glasses.
The box also comes with two cans of beer and a good bottle of red wine to accompany the monumental steak. While pricey for a barbecue, it made for a memorable and boozy night in.