What do you get, how much is it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now (although it's coming back soon). So when many of our favourite chefs and restaurants - who had never previously offered delivery - began to do so, with some getting really creative in the face of lockdown, we were intrigued.
One of the most popular features on Manchester Confidential 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. Without restaurants, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
So 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 - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
What? Adam Reid's Great British Menu
Despite my job as a professional eater and my hobby of, er, eating, I never did manage to have dinner at The French. I would have got there eventually if it wasn’t for that pesky virus. Despite being repeatedly overlooked by the spangler-sprinkling tyre guide, Adam Reid’s incarnation of the historic French restaurant at The Midland always makes the top dining lists. His no nonsense manner and cooking wizardry have made him the golden boy of Manchester’s dining scene.
He really doesn’t want you to burn your house down or get injured, which is nice
He took his time putting together an ‘at home’ package because he wanted to make sure it was absolutely right before charging people for it. So when the Great British Menu winner announced he would be delivering nationwide a limited run of meal packs via Twitter, it sold out in nanoseconds. I was one of the frustrated ones who wasn’t glued to my phone at the time. The week after, I was ready, I set a timer and kept one eye on my phone. It felt like getting Glasto tickets.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
At £90, it’s on the pricey side but you get loads for your money. There are four good-sized courses for two - all dishes are from his appearance on The Great British Menu. There’s Pollen sourdough and a generous tub of beef butter, ‘tater ‘ash,’ cod with smoked roe sauce, ‘that’ banquet chicken and a treacle tart dessert. With the other lockdown packages I've tried, I felt the need to cook extra veg or spuds, not so in this case. The food is delivered on Friday to be cooked on Saturday, although you could break the rules if you wanted. If you’re going to wait, you’ll need to make plenty of space in your fridge.
I decided not to order the wine package (£75). Tempting as it was, I had plenty of wine at home as I’ve been using lockdown to improve my tasting skills. It looks a good package though, with three wines from renowned English winemakers Gusborne, I’ve heard great things about their Blanc De Blanc fizz (champagne in everything but name). There’s also a Pinot noir and a dessert wine. A recent addition is a pouch of rhubarb Negroni for £55.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
I’m a dab hand at these things now - I’ve done everything from boiling taco fillings in a bag to beheading and disemboweling pigeons - but even I blanched at the length of cooking instructions included in this one.
Knowing logistics are everything, I made a brew and read them cover-to-cover twice - a pleasurable experience as they are written in Adam’s dry Manc style. He really doesn’t want you to burn your house down or get injured, which is nice.
There is some deep-frying involved - something I get jumpy about - so I allocated that job to my more stoic boyfriend. One of the poached fish fillets did fall apart, as we left it in too long while we were busy with the hot oil. Everything else is basic reheating - all the fiddly work is done for you. Even with the meticulous instructions, I didn’t put the chicken in early enough so there were slightly bigger gaps between courses than intended. The chicken also took a bit longer to cook than the instructions allowed for, maybe an extra 15 minutes before the juices ran clear. As always, I’d exercise common sense and not just submissively follow instructions.
Is it any cop?
This was our favourite meal of all the posh lockdown boxes. There is some effort involved but it’s worth it. Tater ‘ash was the perfect easy start to the meal. The accompanying bread might have benefitted from a minute in the hot oven but who really cares when it’s slathered with more butter than any doctor would advise? Adam urges you to use it all - we used about two thirds and it was still half an inch thick.
I adored the cod dish, it looked stunning on its polka dot sauce - an effect so easy to produce at home. Roast chicken might not seem fancy but the inclusion of an outrageous garlic and herb butter to anoint it with at the end of cooking made it sing. Our carving skills leave a lot to be desired - it didn’t look pretty but it might be the best roast chicken I’ve ever eaten. All the accompaniments weren’t just decoration, they added flavour, texture and substance. The biscuits for topping the treacle tart arrived broken but we got creative with presentation and enjoyed Jackson Pollock-ing those gorgeous grated butters all over the top.
I reckon it’s a lot harder than it seems for chefs to put these packages together. They’ve got to think how cheffy techniques will work in a standard home kitchen, consider that most people don’t have a lot of pans or fancy kit, time it all so the diners/chefs get to enjoy the food while it’s hot, and ensure it all arrives in one piece. Adam has obviously spent a great deal of time thinking this through and it shows. This is the closest it gets to fine dining at home.
Adam Reid at The French, 16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
Follow Kelly Bishop on Twitter @thekelpage and Instagram @keliseating
Value for money
Beautifully prepared, top quality ingredients, the price is fair
Packaging and delivery
The only thing that didn't arrive pristine were the biscuits
A very long list of instructions seems overwhelming but ultimately makes life easier, you don't need any fancy equipment or tons of pans
Quality and quantity
Probably the most substantial of the more expensive meal boxes, I didn't feel short-changed in the slightest