One defining thing I’ll remember about the age of restaurant meal kits will be the sudden anarchic decadence of our fridge. Where once, I would peer in and see cheese, milk and the customary museum exhibit of open pickle jars, now it is stray pots of Sparrow’s rabbit rillettes, a bottle of Quality Chop House mustard dressing and, oh wow, some Patty & Bun mayonnaise that I’m pretty sure has been in there since Barnard Castle was just a nice market town.
A clear-out is (obviously) long overdue. But I like the way these restaurant-grade comestibles hang around, incongruously nuzzled up beside the Frubes and baked beans, lingering like totems of happy eating memories. And the latest of their number is a pot of anchovy aioli, from a mostly very impressive finish-at-home dinner, ordered from sibling south-east London Italian restaurants Artusi and Marcella. It was a briny, heavily garlicked wonder (and I may have even dipped some cold chips into it the following day).
Things were a bit more mixed to start with. Left on the front doorstep, the “Feast For Two” brought a hefty white box, brimming with neatly labelled pots, printed cooking instructions and a sheaf of the unbinnable ice pack bags that we now apparently collect. It’s good value (£55 for four courses) and attractively put together, but it had been a little while since my last one of these luxe ready meals. And, I think, remembering my last interaction with Marcella — an
Aperol-drenched group birthday dinner in The Before Times — I couldn’t help but feel reassembling dinner components was something of a downer.
Burrata — served with a wet mix of dressed winter tomatoes and pickled cucumber — was well-sourced and tart, if lacking in a little dynamism (and accompanying bread). Ox cheek ragu was more like it; a dense, dark, wine-rich swamp of warming comfort, messily tossed in with fresh egg tagliatelle. Then came the main: a beautiful XL middle white pork chop, seared in a furiously hot pan, accessorised with king cabbage, thickened jus, and the saline hit of that high-gloss anchovy aioli.
A carb — some crispy potatoes, maybe — wouldn’t have gone amiss. But Artusi Home Delivery (which also features lasagnes used as a blank canvas for the adventurous likes of spinach, walnuts and golden beetroot) is a cool, uncomplicated burst of freewheeling Britalian, thoughtfully conceived and stylishly presented. Two intensely rich, walnut-sprinkled chocolate mousse puddings — eaten hours later in the sort of elasticated loungewear that is generally frowned upon in actual restaurants — only hammered that feeling home. The new world is not without its benefits.