What do you get, how much is it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now. 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 launching a new series, 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 - Sunday Service from Sam's Chop House
Originally founded in 1868, Sam’s Chop House has always been a perfect place to meet, eat and drink for Mancunians and visitors to the city. The classic menu of home-cooked, hearty British pub grub has remained popular through generations in the face of ever changing trends. Along with its famous corned beef hash (now also available to cook at home), steak and kidney puds and massive beer battered fish n chips, the menu boasted one of the best Sunday roasts in the city. It was always my first choice for a family get together with something for everyone.
They will deliver anywhere, the furthest so far being the vale of Glamorgan, apparently
Very few places have delivered a Sunday lunch until now. Sam’s have never done a delivery service of any kind so we were excited to see them adapting quickly to keep filling the city’s belly with great food. There’s a Deliveroo menu which includes their chippy tea and steak and kidney pud amongst other things, but more intriguing is the Sunday Service roast dinner which is delivered in their own refrigerated van, part-cooked and ready to be finished at home.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
When we ordered, the Sunday roast was £18 for two courses with either beef, chicken or mushroom Wellington. It’s now £1 more if you order for one, and chicken has been taken off the menu while new dishes including BBQ packs have been added. The price also includes dessert (sticky toffee pudding) as well as gravy, vegetables, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. We added cauliflower cheese for £3.95 and a bottle of wine from their excellent sommelier’s selection. Postage was around a fiver for the city centre and they say they will deliver anywhere, the furthest so far being the vale of Glamorgan, apparently.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
Everything is prepped so it can be ready in about 15 minutes. There are instructions online if you don’t get a printed sheet for everything you order - we only got one for the Wellington. The spuds, meat and cauli look after themselves in the oven while you play hob DJ with three saucepans for veg, gravy and carrot mash. You also need to sear the meat in a frying pan before it goes in the oven. The Yorkshire puds just need a minute to warm through. It’s by far the easiest roast dinner I’ve ever made.
Is it any cop?
I was sceptical how well the part-cooked meat would turn out but carefully following instructions resulted in beautiful pink in the middle, browned outside meat that carved like a dream. The mushroom Wellington was expertly crafted, buttery and felt luxurious but it went down in approximately three mouthfuls and we wished for a bigger portion. It’s notoriously difficult to reproduce home roast spuds in a restaurant setting, never mind for delivery. There’s nothing like a crisp exterior giving way to a fluffy inner, and this was nothing like... you’ve heard that joke before. They were good, but not quite as good as I wanted them to be, infinitely better than frozen Aunt Betty's though. The cauliflower cheese was sensational with a touch of smoked cheese. I’d buy that sauce in bulk to dip everything into; chips, Doritos, bread, biscuits, my index finger...
To wash it down, a 2013 Chateau Brun Pomerol at £22.99 was an absolute steal. Sam’s sommelier George Bergier needs little introduction and his wine list available for delivery is full of corkers at good retail prices while some restaurants are still charging a lot more than that. It was an easy drinking merlot for a Sunday afternoon, all baked plums and vanilla.
I’d have liked a similarly fruity dessert, given the choice. Sticky toffee pudding is not my go-to dessert - especially after a hefty roast dinner. Sweeter than Dolly Parton eating marshmallows in a bath full of golden syrup, we waited for the mid-afternoon sugar slump and poured fridge-cold double cream over oven-warmed pudding. Despite my slight reticence, it was heart-flutteringly good.
Unfortunately though, we had a couple of issues. In the interest of showing our readers a couple of different options, we ordered one beef and one veggie roast. There’s a lot of trumpeting on the website about the beef dripping spuds and red wine gravy - described as 'where the magic happens' - included with the beef dinner. We received one tub of potatoes and one tub of gravy to share, neither of which were labelled as vegetarian. We’re not vegetarians, but I can see this being an issue if you were. We received our order on the Saturday evening and emailed Sunday morning (a bit late, admittedly) to ask about the gravy and spuds but didn’t get a response.
A few days later, we received a courtesy call to ask if everything was ok with our order. I explained the confusion and Jenna was apologetic and reckoned we’d probably been sent veggie versions of both but that we should have been given a choice. It did feel a shame that the meat eater had to miss out but things are extremely challenging for the hospitality industry at the moment and it wasn’t a major problem for us. Nonetheless, she offered a 50% discount on our next order if we called her back on the mobile number she contacted us on. Excellent customer service to call and offer an apology. I will probably order again but I won’t be taking her up on the discount offer, times are tough enough for these businesses adapting and learning rapidly in exceptional circumstances.
Issues aside, it ticked a lot of my boxes. Easy, plentiful and really satisfying. In a time when big, comforting hugs are off the menu, this is the next best thing.
Sam's Chop House, Back Pool Fold, Manchester, M2 1HN
Value for money
A fair price for two fine courses. Really well-priced wine selection too.
Packaging and delivery
Friendly delivery driver, social distancing applied, quite a bit of plastic but reusabale.
The easiest Sunday lunch I've ever made.
Quality and quantity
Excellent quality meat, great wine, good portion of beef and extras, Wellington a bit on the small side.