‘Keeping the kitchen alive’ - demand soars for at-home meal kits

Last Brasserie chef and owner, Iain McCarten and partner Bonnie Doonan. Pic: Newman PR Associates

Last Brasserie chef and owner, Iain McCarten and partner Bonnie Doonan. Pic: Newman PR Associates - Credit: Archant

Food lovers keen for a taste of fine dining at home are helping restaurants weather the coronavirus pandemic as demand for at-home meal kits grows.

Owners Natalie Stuhler and Dan Lawrence at the Socius Restaurant at Burnham Market. Picture: DENISE

Owners Natalie Stuhler and Dan Lawrence at the Socius Restaurant at Burnham Market. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Popularity of the kits, which are cooked or finished at home, have risen around the country, including those of existing pre-lockdown businesses - market leader Hello Fresh has seen its customer base double in 2020.

But upmarket restaurants have also adopted the trend, swapping a focus on perfectly presented dishes for prepped containers to heat or plate up at home.

In Norfolk, it includes Benedicts, the Ingham Swan and, during the first lockdown, Roger Hickman’s.

Natalie Stuhler, who runs Socius restaurant in Burnham Market with Dan Lawrence, said while it was quieter on the north Norfolk coast overall - with children at school and fewer second home owners in the area - orders were strong for the kits.

Dishes from the Benedicts Dine at Home menu. Photo: Benedicts

Dishes from the Benedicts Dine at Home menu. Photo: Benedicts - Credit: Benedicts

She said a background in wedding catering had prepared them well for a change of approach at the popular restaurant.


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“We were at an advantage - when you are cooking for a wedding for 100 people in the middle of a field with just an oven and a hob top you have to be prepared,” she said. “We know how to take food to that point.”

She said meal kits helped those tired of cooking all week, and said when they designed the menus they made sure to include dishes that people may not typically make.

Elsewhere, Iain McCarten, who reopened the Last Bar and Restaurant, on St George’s Street in Norwich, in August, has created a three-course menu of dishes to finish at home after customers got in touch to ask if they were on offer.

Dishes from the Benedicts Dine at Home menu. Photo: Benedicts

Dishes from the Benedicts Dine at Home menu. Photo: Benedicts - Credit: Benedicts

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He said: The economic climate is incredibly tough for everyone right now, us included, and I’m sure it’s frustrating for customers too who just want to get back to normal and enjoy a nice meal out.

“So many customers have been asking us for takeaway that we decided to give it a try and we’ve pulled together a three-course menu featuring some of The Last’s classic and current dishes.”

He said meal kits could offer more refined dishes than in other takeaway formats, and said it was the closest thing to fine dining people could enjoy in lockdown.

He said it was essential for businesses and “keeping us going and keeping the kitchen alive”.

Here are just some of the restaurants in Norfolk offering meal kits.

• Benedicts Oven Ready Meals

Ranging in price from £12 to £30, chef Richard Bainbridge has created a series of menus to finish at home, with dishes including sirloin, halibut and an Alpine cheese soup starter, as well as a barbecue box.

• Socius @ Home

The menu for November 22 includes dishes such as lamb belly and garlic mash (£13) and roasted duck breast (£17).

• Jive

The Mexican restaurant is offering do-it-yourself donut (£10), bean burrito (£10) and beef burrito (£10) kits.

• The Wildebeest and The Ingham Swan

The restaurants have menus ranging from £22 to £30 which include dishes such as a thyme and rosemary fillet of beef and chorizo roast cod fillet.

• The Last Bar and Restaurant

Their three-course menu (£20) includes a beef and oyster pie as one of its main dishes.

• Shiki

The Japanese restaurant in Norwich has recently launched a Sunday sushi kit, filled with everything you need to create your own, ranging in price from £32 to £50.

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