Restaurant-quality food at home is here to stay – Stephen Jardine

The pandemic has changed so many things. Two years ago, if you’d walked into a restaurant and asked to take the food home in a foil tray so you can heat it up and plonk it on a plate, you’d have been shown the door if you were lucky.

Tom Kerridge was one of many famous chefs to start offering restaurant-quality food delivered to people's homes during the pandemic (Picture: Steve Parsons/PA)
Tom Kerridge was one of many famous chefs to start offering restaurant-quality food delivered to people's homes during the pandemic (Picture: Steve Parsons/PA)

But that was before a virus forced every restaurant in the land to close. Faced with continuing costs but disappearing income, chefs had to find a way to stay in business. With the rest of us stuck at home and bored of cooking for ourselves, the solution was obvious.

No chef opened a restaurant to do takeaways. They were interested in the bigger picture – creating a menu, devising a wine list, offering personal service, suitable music and nice surroundings.

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But if the choice was between providing food for people to eat at home or not being able to feed their own families, then something had to give.

What helped was that everyone was doing it. From Tom Kerridge to Angela Hartnett and Michel Roux Jr, the biggest name chefs in the land stocked up on takeaway containers and switched on the ovens.

Two years on, the phenomenon of restaurant-at-home meal kits shows no signs of slowing down.

Of course for some it was only ever going to be just a stop gap. The sheer logistics involved in fulfilling orders and dispatching them to all corners of the country meant some chefs were delighted to stop home delivery as soon as they could open their doors.

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But for others it has been a useful way of making up for two years of heavily dented income and maintaining their relationship with their customers.

It’s also allowed consumers to experience some of the best restaurants in the land without leaving home. A new website called Dispatch has emerged to bring them all together in one place and with a simple click you can order Jose Pizarro’s ox cheek paella or Yotam Ottolenghi’s kitchen mezze.

Your food arrives by courier in a fully recyclable insulated box and all you have to do is follow the reheating instructions and try not to drop it on the floor.

Here in Scotland, restaurants like Continis, Café St Honore and Ondine are still embracing at-home eating alongside their traditional service, offering maximum choice to customers who may still be hesitant about restaurant dining or who can’t get a babysitter and don’t want to cook.

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Over the past two years, I’ve tried more than my fair share from Kyloe’s Steak Me Home meat feast to a Keralan seafood extravaganza from one of Birmingham’s best Indian restaurants. The phenomenon has opened up all kinds of new possibilities.

I even turned to it for Valentine’s with a special scallops, lobster and chocolate fondant dinner from the French-inspired modern brasserie chain Cote. They have built up a considerable market share based with well priced and cleverly packaged meals and knowing exactly what the customer wants. They even have an apres ski kit featuring fondue for those unable to hit the slopes this winter.

At the start of the pandemic, at-home restaurant kits looked like a quick solution to a desperate situation but as restaurants and customers have evolved, there is absolutely no doubt they are here to stay.

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