What do you get, how much was 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? - WOOD at home
MasterChef winner-turned-restaurateur Simon Wood has launched perhaps the most creative and detailed cook-at-home menu going. It fully demonstrates the madness-meets-genius that the challenge of lockdown has brought out of our hospitality heavyweights. This is a totally unique experience and it’s not for the faint hearted. But you really should give it a try at least once.
It’s a bit like a grown up Kinder Egg for MasterChef fans
It’s important to note that this is NOT a takeaway. The food arrives prepped, but mostly raw, in multiple tiny, sealed pots and sachets ready for you to scratch your head and approach preparing dinner like you’re in the Crystal Maze.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
It’s £25 per person for three courses (three choices of starter, five mains, two desserts) with a £3 delivery charge. You can pay extra for sides and wine or beer if you like. It’s a bit like a grown up Kinder Egg for MasterChef fans. You get everything you need to plate up your masterpieces along with a booklet of fairly brief instructions. But beware, the actual skills needed to do this as well as proper chefs do cannot be delivered in a carrier bag.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
Spreading the pots out on the dining table, they look a bit like specimens for a science project.
We read and re-read the instructions before getting started. You need to figure out timings and logistics depending on the limits of your own kitchen. We’re alarmed to tot up that we’ll need at least four saucepans and four frying pans. However, it turns out we’re able to reuse some pans once we get going. If you’ve ever bought one of those tiny frying pans for cooking a single fried egg, you’ll be laughing. Attempting to heat up eight 5mm cubes of beetroot in a 24cm frying pan borders on the surreal. But then surrealism's bang on trend right now.
Citrus tutti frutti for dessert needs making at least 90 minutes in advance as it goes in the fridge to set. It’s an easy heat-on-the-hob job and our single portion actually provides enough for two to share alongside a mystery selection of cheeses. We’d forgotten to order sides so we decide to quickly rustle up some parmentier potatoes and stick some buttered cabbage in the oven while we tackle the starters.
While my partner is getting his Heston on, artfully plating up a slice of sous-vide belly pork with a smear of apple gel and a sprinkling of crispy crumbs, I’m more Gordon Ramsay fishing out a piece of cling film that I hadn’t noticed was wrapped around a slice of Lancashire cheese gnocchi I’d already started pan frying. This eventually sits atop my ‘risotto’ starter, which is actually cubes of celeriac, in lieu of rice, bound in a creamy sauce. This dish reappears on the menu as the veggie main course option - with two discs of gnocchi. The belly pork wins this round hands down.
My substantial rib-eye main course makes up for the starter. The recommended eight minutes resting time allows you to faff around with the rest of the components and attempt some fancy plating. Our efforts with this and the less complicated pan fried cod with cauliflower cheese demonstrate why this should ideally be left to the professionals.
Is it any cop?
We were expecting a fine-dining level meal, and - for our efforts - we did get one. What we didn’t bank on was how much fun it actually is putting it all together. We worked together like contestants on a game show and got a bit competitive with plating. It brings an enjoyable sense of challenge to making dinner and we giggled in the kitchen more than we have in a while. If you are ordering a meal for two or more and don't fancy the gameshow element, you might want to consider all getting the same thing. It will save an awful lot of kerfuffle and you might actually be able to sit and eat together.
WOOD Manchester, Jack Rosenthal St, Manchester M15 4RA
Value for money
A visit to WOOD in real life will set you back at least twice the cost of this. Factor in the fun and it’s great value.
Packaging and delivery
Hygiene level is through the roof, with everything freshly sealed in plastic tubs. But environmentally, this amount of single use plastic is mind blowing.
If you’re a reasonably competent cook, it’s not difficult per se. But you’ll need quite a few pans, a creative flourish and a chef’s mindset with timings. Likely to be overwhelming for some.
Quality and quantity
This is fine dining delivered to your home, the quality of ingredients and portion sizes reflect that.