Is this one of the best value cook at home boxes on the market?
As if a global pandemic is going to stop a chef like Nico Simeone. Here’s a man who already lives life on the balls of his feet, ready to change direction at any given moment.
He launched the first ‘Six by Nico’ restaurant in Glasgow in 2017, swiftly followed by subsequent Nicos in Edinburgh and Belfast. Manchester was his first English site in July 2019, followed by Liverpool in November the same year.
With a bit of light music in the background, it was definitely starting to feel like the promised restaurant experience
The restaurant is named after his unique concept: a six course set menu at £29 per person, which totally changes its theme every six weeks. The idea works well and keeps the brand fresh. The quality of the food is high but not too fussy or demanding and the price point reasonable. It was all going really well until his restaurants were forced to close during the first lockdown.
Nico and his team didn’t waste any time creating Home By Nico; four courses (this time changing weekly) at £50 for two, with a bottle of wine included (reviewed by us in Manchester and Liverpool). Over 100,000 meals packed and distributed across their restaurants sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, London and Belfast.
By lockdown 2.0 this had evolved into HOME-X - a collection of six different boxed up restaurant experiences with UK-wide delivery, which launched last month.
The press releases surrounding the launch have been a little ‘Alpha’, overseen by Chef Nico’s childhood buddy Michael Sim, who calls himself (slight cringe) Six by Nico’s marketing ‘guru’. They refer to HOME-X as ‘a new e-commerce platform’, and mention they’d done a ‘detailed analysis of their online communities’. Guys, it’s a DIY cooking kit, take it down a notch.
What’s HOME-X all about?
Customers can visit the HOME-X website and choose between brands including Home by Nico (the one we tried), STEM wine club, Chateau-X (chateaubriand dinners paired with three sides and a bottle of wine), The Cheese Club, and even a vegan tasting menu called 24-Carrot. E-Eatery is to launch next month with at-home dining experiences created in collaboration with other the UK restaurants. Prices vary from £50 to £70 and range from two to four servings.
The sleek black HOME-X boxes include pre-prepared ingredients portioned in individual cardboard containers and come with full cooking instructions. It has all been designed to be as simple and hassle-free as possible.
The theme for Home by Nico’s first dine at home experience with HOME-X is ‘Bangkok – Thai street food’ and has been inspired by fragrant and fresh flavours of the bustling city.
The impressive black branded box contains all the ingredients clearly labelled and laid out in different compartments. It even includes a printed menu and an illustrated booklet with instructions and images of the finished dishes as well as notes on allergen content. There’s a starter, a main course (with garnishes), two side dishes, a dessert (with a few enhancements), a cheese course and a bottle of wine. At £60 for two this is great value.
Even the least confident cook could assemble this perfectly. The cooking and prep has all been done, you just need to heat and serve. Ever one for detail, Nico even remembers to start with the basics – put the wine in the fridge, take the cheese out and turn the oven on.
What do you get and what do you have to do?
The first course this time is Tom Yum soup with prawn dumplings. Easy enough to reheat gently in a pan and ladle into serving bowls. It’s a more gentrified version than you might find on the streets of Bangkok, but it packs a punch with vibrant flavours of lemongrass, smooth coconut and a decent chilli kick.
While you’re enjoying your starter, the Penang chicken curry should be heating up; bone in chicken leg crisping in the oven, sauce and veg simmering nicely on the hob. (Although Penang is in Malaysia, so Nico is stretching the theme here when he could have chosen from hundreds of genuine Thai dishes.)
Apart from geography, there were no complaints. It’s a great tasting dish with crunchy baby corn, pak choi and soft sweet potatoes bulked up by sides of jasmine rice (microwaved for two minutes) and a side dish of crispy pork pad thai which just needed dressing with prik nam pla sauce, sprinkling with crispy onions and peanuts and decanting into a serving bowl.
By this point, we’d taken the wine in and out of the fridge a few times and, with a bit of light music in the background, it was definitely starting to feel like the promised restaurant experience.
Coconut cardamom rice pudding (heat gently in a pan) was sweet and comforting, enhanced by accompanying salted bean curd caramel and an exotic fruit compote.
Portions are generous so we had the cheese course a few hours later. HOME-X has partnered with Iain Mellis, Scotland’s most respected artisan cheesemonger. This menu comes with a hearty wedge of Landana 500, a well-ripened nutty Dutch hard cheese with a crystalline crunchy texture. The Scottish water biscuits that came with it were terrific.
Would we recommend HOME-X?
Yes, absolutely. It was good value, easy to heat up and serve and there was plenty of it. It is what it promises to be; a restaurant experience in your own home. There's minimal washing up and all packaging, except the plastic film is fully recyclable or reusable.
Great, how do I get one?
Customers can sign up to create a HOME-X account via www.home-x.com. The Bangkok experience is available from now until Christmas 2020.