What you get, how much was it and how easy to prepare?
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now. So when many of our favourite chefs and restaurants - who had never previously offered delivery - began to do so, with some getting really creative in the face of lockdown, we were intrigued.
One of the most popular features on Manchester Confidential has always been our honest, unannounced and impartial restaurant reviews. Our readers come to us for the lowdown, confident that we know our stuff and will tell it straight. Without restaurants, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
So we’re launching a new series, giving you the scoop on some of the many delivery options that have sprung up. We’ll buy it, eat it - cook it if we have to - and let you know how it was. We’re not going to be scoring these ‘reviews’ - it doesn’t seem right - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
What? - Joe's 29 minute meals, Higher Ground
Back in February, I spent a privileged evening with our editor glugging wine and nibbling canapés at the opening event for Higher Ground. Our Neil Sowerby sang its high praises when he went to review it a few weeks later.
Joe’s done all the shopping, chopping and clever stuff for you
I’d eaten Joseph Otway’s sustainability-focused food at Where The Light Gets In about six months before that and I was already a fan. It was the next restaurant on my must-visit list when COVID-19 bellowed ‘Oh no you don’t!’ So when they launched 'Joe’s 29-minute meals,' a finish-at-home box from Higher Ground, I was all over it.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
The box (£35 - plenty for two) comes with four Helles lagers from Cloudwater (who also take care of the delivery) and a typed list of instructions from chef. There are three larger takeaway containers of prepped food (eg. potatoes, pork stew) and three smaller ones (e.g. wild garlic dressing, roasted garlic) and some raw ingredients: half a courgette, a sprig of Isle of Wight tomatoes, a bunch of fresh sorrel.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
Otway provides a sort of mise en place, leaving you to finish the dishes and plate. There’s a fun Instagram live cook-along at 7pm on a Friday which I tuned into, having already made a start on the ‘cooking’ because I was hungry. I’d already upended the small tub of roasted garlic cloves into the salad when Joe mentioned to squish them up a bit first on video. No matter, I consider finding a whole roasted garlic clove in a salad a superior version of finding the golden coin in your Xmas pud.
The cooking involved is basic: stick the tomatoes in the oven with some olive oil and seasoning, gently heat the five-hour braised pork on the hob, grate a courgette and chop a bit of sorrel. It’s easy, but the results are greater than your efforts because Joe’s done all the shopping, chopping and clever stuff for you.
Well within the 29 minutes we were sitting down to grilled asparagus with whipped cod roe, deeply flavoured pork slow braised in milk with roasted tomatoes, crispy potatoes with wild garlic and sorrel and a really unusual wheatberry salad with mushroom dressing.
We washed it down with a bottle of Maison Des Belles Lies Bourgogne Aligote (a bit pricey at £31), one of the natural wines that HG are selling and biking around the city at no extra delivery cost. Nothing like the rust-coloured fizzy vinegar that natural wine is reputed to be - it was light, crisp and elegant and paired especially well with the cod roe. We supped the beer a few days later and found them a refreshing antidote to a sticky IPA.
Is it any cop?
For restaurant quality food with unusual and impeccably sourced ingredients AND a four pack of lovely local lager, this is astonishingly good value. It seemed a treat and worth getting the candles out for - unlike a Domino's. The menu changes subtly every week and I wouldn’t hesitate to order again - this week there's beer-marinated chicken thighs on the menu. The only thing missing is a dessert or a bit of cheese to finish the meal with but you can order a hunk of posh cheese from their online shop along with some wine if you want to.
Higher Ground, KAMPUS, access via Minshull Street, Manchester M1 3DA
All reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship.
Lockdown delivery reviews will not be scored but assessed on the below criteria.
Value for money
Dinner for two people including four full size beers? A bargain.
Packaging and delivery
Advance ordering system is a bit convoluted - you have to click local delivery, add payment for that (a quid) to your basket then click the text links. Delivery is only Thurs-Sun for now. Drop off was perfectly socially distanced - rang bell, dropped in porch.
We found it very easy, but there is some chopping involved and a few pans needed.
Quality and quantity
We were full and had a bit of leftover cod roe to enjoy the next day but some people might want a dessert. Impeccable sourcing.