What do you get from the new at-home brand, how much is it and how easy to prepare?
What - Lay The Table: Sapporo sushi
With restrictions across the nation finally beginning to ease, the general consensus is that it’s time to start packing away the home dinner kits and embrace face-to-face (hands, space) dining once more - albeit the alfresco kind for now. Cucina Di Vincenzo for example are shutting up shop in their deli and calling a ceasefire on their weekend takeaways and Maray are calling it quits for their wildly successful "Maray at Home" service.
But, whilst it’s back to the norm for many, there’s a new company on the scene that wants to keep the best bits of home-dining alive as we move forward into a more recognisable restaurant scene.
California rolls are stuffed with sweet crab and cucumber, studded with a voracious shade of orange caviar
If you’ve ever had the soul-crushing experience of waiting hours for a takeaway, flinching at the sound of every single car door only for it to turn out you’ve been thoroughly catfished by lukewarm Tupperware dripping with condensation, then this company might be for you.
Lay the Table is a start-up hoping to become a restaurant-at-home specialist. Solving the problem of independent outlets that have discovered the benefits of providing takeaways and meal kits during the pandemic but whose food is often let down by outsourced delivery companies - you know who. They claim to have spotted a gap in the market for premium home deliveries and have already signed up two big Liverpool names to trial their delivery of chilled food and meal kits, ensuring it arrives in tip-top condition.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
Delivery runs right across the city all the way from Speke to Southport meaning us unlucky folks out in suburbia who usually have a Sophie’s Choice of picking between two 1-star chippies on Just Eat will also get to benefit from the Lay the Table service. Orders need to be placed in advance up to 12pm the day before and you can choose a one-hour delivery slot that suits you best, so there’s no need to stand and peek through the blinds to see if its arrived.
At the moment Lay the Table has signed up two vendors. Waterfront favourites Delifonseca Dockside (who are one of a handful of places choosing to continue their successful run of home meal kits) alongside the Japanese food specialists at Duke Street’s Sapporo. I ordered the special Sapporo platter (£29), katsu chicken (£8.50) and a side portion of wakame (£5).
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
Sapporo, known primarily for its live Teppanyaki cooking style, is renowned for its super-skilled chefs who slice, dice, flip and grill your dinner right in front of you. Perfect for office parties and date nights, their signature trick is to fling cubes of fried potato directly into your mouth whilst you clap like a seal - who wouldn’t love that? They do, however, also have a surprisingly big range of fresh sushi and with Lay the Table's refrigerated delivery van they can ensure this arrives at your front door having lost none of its freshness en route.
The one (minor) drawback to having such an organised delivery service is that it means ordering in advance. For sensible adults, this shouldn’t be a problem but if one, were to say, accidentally have a few too many post-lockdown wines the night before, the prior decision to have ordered a platter of raw fish may not be as exciting a prospect as first anticipated.
Luckily, there is no cooking whatsoever involved, as the sushi arrives ready made and chilled. As far as meal kits go, this might disappoint some who fancy doing at least some of the prep or presentation themselves. Surely that's all part of the appeal?
Is it any cop?
Katsu chicken maki - breaded chicken rolled in sticky rice - is a nice easy start, flavourful and surprisingly elegant given its component parts. A safe gateway drug into the harder stuff and, I imagine, a popular choice for many.
Next up, we roll with the 28-piece Sapporo platter. The most challenging part is the sashimi of salmon, tuna and sea bass which look stunning but are sliced a little too thick for my disposition. The thinner slices atop the nigiri are much more appealing - the sweet prawn and salmon our particular favourites with their mild flavour and melty texture I reckon they’d convince even the most ardent of sushi sceptics.
California rolls, the showboats of the platter, also go down well, stuffed with sweet crab and cucumber and studded with a voracious shade of orange caviar, their pristine presentation a testament to Lay the Table’s premium delivery efforts.
It’s early days for Lay the Table but with restaurants moving forward back into normality this could well be the missing ticket for restaurants who want to keep up their at-home dining without saying a prayer and sending their food off on the back of a moped. Our at-home sushi was restaurant quality in both flavour and presentation, the only downside to Sapporo at home? There’s nobody to fling it into your mouth for you.
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Reviews are different at the moment
One of the most popular features on Confidentials has always been our honest, unannounced and impartial restaurant reviews. Our readers come to us for the lowdown, confident that we know our stuff and will tell it straight. With restaurant dining sadly not an option right now, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
Instead, we’re giving you the scoop on some of the many delivery options that have sprung up. We’ll buy it, eat it - cook it if we have to - and let you know how it was. We’re not going to be scoring these ‘reviews’ - it doesn’t seem right at the moment - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
We expect to return to our usual style of reviewing with scores in June 2021.