4 courses for 2 with a bottle of wine
Not applicable for takeaway food, but Miranda praised it to the skies and would have scored the food 10/10
(She clearly hasn't read the scoring criteria recently - Ed)
Finding a good restaurant that’s open on a Monday has always been a bit tricky. Though of course, finding a restaurant of any standard that’s open at all at the moment is obviously impossible. Thankfully, myriad eateries across the capital are offering the chance to enjoy their wares in your own home, from the stylish small plates of Six by Nico to Contini’s classic Italian. However, the Monday issue persists, given most restaurants are only offering their at home service at the end of the week. This does of course make sense. Even in the run up to Christmas it’s perhaps uncommon to kick-start your week with a gourmet feast (though it’s something I’d recommend.). Since it happened to be my Mum’s birthday on 21st December though, a Monday meal was a must! Fortunately, Chef Neil Forbes and his team at Cafe St Honoré were able to provide with their excellent Cafe at Home menu.
The premise is pretty simple. You pick up that week’s selection of freshly prepared dishes plus your chosen wine, and when you’re ready to have it at home, you just reheat and/or assemble. Our starter of potted crab and shrimp – easily prised from its tubs and plated up - was gorgeously creamy, and given a welcome citrus kick from the accompanying lemon dressing. Coming with salad leaves and croutons, even the messiest chef could surely not let this look any less than pretty. The main of slow-braised Scotch beef was rich and tender, in a fabulously flavoured jus. This style of cooking meat works terrifically for an at home menu. It arrived in little metal containers which you could pop straight in the oven, and, if you kept them covered, there was no way you could feasibly overcook the dish. The veggies – honey roast parsnips, butter-braised cabbage and horseradish mash – were delicious too, perfectly complementing the beef.
For dessert, the caramel tart comprised a silky filling encased in light, buttery pastry, although it was eye-poppingly sweet! I assure you it had nothing to do with the tooth extraction I underwent a couple of weeks later, but, if my dentist is reading, I’d like it to be known for the record I only had a couple of spoonfuls. If you have a sweet tooth you’d be in heaven, but it was a bit saccharine-y for my taste. You probably, therefore, won’t be surprised to hear I usually order a cheeseboard instead of dessert when out for a meal anyway, so I was looking forward to the I. J. Mellis cheese – not least because I worked there as a teenager. While it was delicious, I have to say the portion was a bit meagre: a small piece of Stilton taken from the bottom (i.e. rindy bit) of the cheese. Not to worry, we had plenty of artisan cheeses in already, and they all went excellently with the mulled wine poached pears and crumbly oatcakes.
The experience overall was brilliant. Sure, you have to do your own washing up, but not much of it given how expertly the dishes are packaged and put together. And that includes all the different glasses you’ll have used for your paired wines! Since you don’t need to pay restaurant prices, and can keep any unfinished bottles (I know, who am I kidding?), you can match a wine of your choosing for each course should you wish. When we ordered back in December, it was part of the deal that you purchased a bottle of wine with the menu – in our case a lovely bottle of Chateau La Gontrie Bordeaux – and the whole package was priced accordingly. It looks as though now you order the food on its own, but there’s still an excellent wine selection which you can choose from if you fancy a bottle (or more) to wash it down. Apparently, some customers have expressed a desire to have Cafe at Home continue even once Cafe St Honoré opens its doors again, and I can’t say I blame them! Plus, social distancing will most likely need to ensue for the foreseeable, so perhaps with the reduced number of covers available this would be a good option for both restaurant and diners. As this new lockdown has proven though, looking optimistically ahead to hospitality venues reopening can be futile. So, let’s enjoy the at home option for now, and hope that in doing so we’ll help ensure the future of dining in, when the time comes.