What do you get, how much is it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is slowly returning, but 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? The Ottomen
There's a lot of good street food in Manchester. The trend has boomed for real over the past five years with the popularity of outdoor dining, drinking and dancing spaces like Grub, Hatch and new kid on the block, Escape to Freight Island. This, coupled with our new normal in which it’s deemed safer to literally dine out, means the food truck probably isn’t going anywhere (just like the rest of us) any time soon. Some of the more industrious vendors jumped right onto a home delivery service - quite the opposite of street food, ironically - as soon as lockdown happened and many are still doing the delivery thing alongside their recommenced pop ups. We adapt to survive.
This lot fed two amateur, competitive eaters for four solid days
I first discovered The Ottömen when Grub was over at Mayfield Depot. My band was playing a show at The Star & Garter and we legged it over for food and a quick beer after soundcheck. It was the perfect fuel for leaping around on stage: wholesome, protein-packed veggie food - much better than a greasy bag of chips which is all too often the staple sustenance for touring bands. Although I don't envy anyone in the front row who copped a load of my garlic breath.
Sultans of, er, Stockport The Ottömen (AKA James and Nick) take influence from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine inspired by their travels - the clue's in the name. This is absolutely my kind of food. I had been poring over the online souk of their website for weeks, trying to make my mind up what to order, when I spotted this neat Vegetarian Mezze Mega Bundle - there’s a vegan one too but, sue me, I like cheese.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
For £50 including delivery, the veggie mezze provides - wait for it: mountain herb hummus, Turkish ‘Esme’ salsa, Turkish pickles, two types of falafel, marinated halloumi, bulgur wheat and poached lentil salad, ‘otto badadas’ (spiced potatoes), gheimeh adas (vegetables and dal), a giant three-cheese fattayer (like an eye-shaped pizza with tons of topping), roasted red pepper yoghurt with tahini and smoked garlic, four battered spiced potato wadas, four hunks of lentil, chickpea and potato paratha, a pack of five khoubz flatbreads, chill sauce, tahini sauce AND six sweet borek pastries filled with apple and (a partridge in a) pear (tree) and served with an oat milk and burnt orange dipping custard. If you prefer to pick and choose, the online shop has all of these things and more available individually with prices from £1.75.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
The package comes with a double-sided sheet of A4 with nutrition and cooking information for pretty much everything they do. So you need to work out what’s what (tubs are labelled but not always very legibly) and find the matching instructions. Much of it is to be eaten cold and you’ll need to clear a shelf in your fridge for it if you’re not feeding a family on the day it’s delivered - this is a LOT of food but generally has a use by date of at least three or four days after delivery. Everything can be warmed through in the oven or on the hob in around ten minutes. It’s as easy as borek.
Is it any cop?
Frankly, it’s a-mezze-ing. I was seriously impressed with the sheer amount of food for starters (and mains, ba-dum-tish!) This lot fed two amateur, competitive eaters for four solid days. We had the giant fattayer with pickles and a bit of salad on the Friday it arrived, a mezze to end all mezzes for dinner on the Saturday, the curry-esque bits on the Sunday, and giant wraps stuffed with, well, everything else on the Monday - we even had some of the halloumi with breakfast one day, there's loads of it. We have spent the same amount of money on a sole, hearty Friday takeaway on several occasions over lockdown with minimal leftovers.
The overall quality and creative flair of the food is great, but my favourites were the Esme salsa - fragrant with pomegranate and rose petals, the spicy potato paratha - more like a veg stuffed pastry than the Indian flatbread I was expecting, and the bad-ad-as(s) potato dish - like a cross between a really good patatas bravas and a proper potato curry. I cook food like this a lot at home but all of these dishes had their own character with unusual spice blends (they grind them themselves, don't you know?), herbs and fruits that I wouldn't think to use so it still felt like an adventure. Bil haná wal shifá indeed.
The Ottömen - online delivery only for now but keep an eye on their socials for news of pop up events in the future.
Value for money
Packaging and delivery
The lads are passionate about the environment so most of the packaging is veg ware, compostable or cardboard. This becomes more and more significant every time I order a kit like this - some contain a heartbreaking amount of plastic and polystyrene. Top marks for the lack thereof here.
Very little effort required. Great if you can't-stand-tin-openers (I'll get my coat).
Quality and quantity
A huge amount of food but with bells and whistles that make it way more interesting than the kind of mezze you might grab from the chiller cabinet.