Five meal kits from top restaurants to cook at home

How successfully can meal kits replicate the restaurant dining experience at home? We try out kits from Dishoom, Hoppers, Padella and more.

Published 30 Nov 2020, 08:00 GMT, Updated 1 Dec 2020, 09:02 GMT
Indian chain Dishoom has distilled its beloved bacon naan roll into a set of pots of ...

Indian chain Dishoom has distilled its beloved bacon naan roll into a set of pots of cream cheese, tomato-chilli jam, coriander and dough balls, plus a package of smoked Ayrshire bacon. 

Photograph by Charlie McKay

For much of this year, the UK’s restaurants have been coming up with innovative ways to diversify, whether by adding al fresco tables, launching takeaway services or creating meal kits that allow diners to prepare their signature dishes at home. The latter promises restaurant-quality food that wouldn’t travel well as a takeaway, in the comfort of your own home. Portioned up, and sometimes pre-cooked, the kits come ready to heat up and assemble. But is the semi-DIY approach better than a takeaway? We road-tested five options, all of which are available nationwide.

Shoryu

I order a ganso tonkotsu ramen kit from Japanese restaurant Shoryu, which has branches in London, Manchester, Oxford and Japan. Although a ramen fan, I’ve never been tempted to make a 12-hour bone broth from scratch, so this is the perfect compromise. Following written instructions, I dilute the creamy, concentrated stock and heat; refresh the noodles in hot water; and lightly brown the precooked char sui pork belly in a frying pan. The soup is umami-rich, but slightly too thin — adding less water next time is the obvious fix. And while the garnishes are a little sparse, you can add extra veg from the fridge (as I did). The pork, however, is perfect — not too fatty and beautifully caramelised around the edges. Ramen kit for two £20.

Hame

Fine-dining chef Adam Handling’s UK-wide meal service, Hame, offers video demos via QR codes — a huge help given the delicacy of these dishes. Adam talks through the crab, radish and pink grapefruit starter, and although I’m missing the salad leaves, I end up with something visually resembling a restaurant dish. It tastes tangy and refreshing, with a moreish brown crabmeat dressing, and requires little effort. The main of cod, mussels and butter leaf isn’t quite as simple, with several processes to handle. The fish cooks at the same time as the confit potatoes, and the light mussel sauce and pickled mussels need to be heated too. I cook the cod for eight minutes as instructed, but it’s not enough. So, mindful that all ovens are different, I double the cooking time and am left with cod that’s still wonderfully translucent in the middle, topped with a decadent seaweed butter. It’s delicious, although it’s definitely special-occasion food, not a hassle-free weeknight takeaway. Mains from £20.

Dishoom

Indian chain Dishoom has distilled its beloved bacon naan roll into a set of pots of cream cheese, tomato-chilli jam, coriander and dough balls, plus a package of smoked Ayrshire bacon (vegan version due soon). The accompanying video, featuring Dishoom co-founder Kavi Thakrar, is brief and easy to follow — while the bacon cooks in the oven, the dough dry-fries for less than a minute before going under the grill. Fillings added and naan folded, I tuck in. It tastes just like the restaurant version, the cheese and sweet-savoury jam offsetting the salty bacon, all in fresh, fluffy naan. Best of all, there’s a spare dough ball in case of mistakes, or, in this case — another brunch. If only I had some bacon left. Bacon naan roll kit for two £16.

Hoppers' paneer kottu roti, a dish of chopped roti, shredded veg and marinated paneer, involves stir-frying all the perfectly portioned ingredients and coating in a kari sauce.

Photograph by Hoppers

Hoppers

Sri Lankan restaurant Hoppers has three hugely popular branches in London, but is new to the meal kit game, having launched its Cash & Kari offering in November. The multi-dish kits come with lengthy written instructions (videos are available on the Hoppers Instagram too) and involve a fair bit of coordination when it comes to timings, but the end result is well worth it. For the bone marrow varuval, I roast the prepped bones in the oven before adding to the sauce I’ve heated on the stove, while simultaneously frying the roti. The sauce is thick and perfectly spiced, with a depth of flavour even the most adept home cook would struggle to recreate. The paneer kottu roti, a dish of chopped roti, shredded veg and marinated paneer, involves stir-frying all the perfectly portioned ingredients and coating in a kari sauce. It’s ideal comfort food, and subtly spiced, but I can’t help going back for more of that varuval sauce, using the kottu roti to mop it up. Dessert, meanwhile, is a rich chocolate ganache-style pudding that comes with the instruction to ‘avoid sharing if you can’ — well worth following. Meal kits from £25 for two.

Padella

Having just recently experienced the delights of Padella, the London Bridge institution that opened a roomy second branch in Shoreditch branch this year, I’m keen to attempt to recreate the magic at home. Both the kits I order — pappardelle with eight-hour-braised long horn beef shin ragu, and fettucine with cured nduja, mascarpone and Amalfi lemon – come with lengthy instructions. But they can be distilled into a few key points: cook the pasta for two or three minutes, heat up the sauce with a splash of pasta water in it, serve sprinkled with parmesan. The end result for the ragu is deliciously savoury, but a little too broken-down for me; I’d have preferred slightly more bite to the beef. The nduja fettucine, meanwhile, is tangy and a little spicy, with a moreish, silky sauce — almost exactly like the restaurant version. Pasta dishes from £14 for two.

A version of this article was published in Issue 10 (winter 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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