What do you get, how much is 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 - The Pickle Factory @ Where The Light Gets In
It’s pretty safe to say Sam Buckley is a fearless forager, extremely passionate about seasonal and conscientious cooking. His brief and nervous appearance on The Great British Menu illustrated that he isn’t your average chef. He thinks differently. He talks differently. He’s a one-off.
A few high end restaurants in Greater Manchester have transformed their offering for delivery but, as yet, WTLGI is the only one doing so that has ever flirted with the possibility a Michelin star. I’m still waiting for Mana to launch on Deliveroo…
While this isn't quite as fancy as dinner at WTLGI, many of the elements that make it such an exciting dining destination are there
WTLGI was always a unique dining experience, it had a 'fine dining' price tag but despite shades of Sam’s cultivation in the kitchens of L’Enclume, it was a far cry from starched table cloths and crystal. So nobody batted an eyelid when they renamed themselves The Pickle Factory and started doing veg boxes for the local community.
Shortly after that, they launched dinner hampers for home delivery. One of the early menus had ‘an actual apple’ as one of the courses. That’s the kind of thing you might have seen on the menu at WTLGI, almost taking the piss out of the price tag while at the same time celebrating the most important thing of all when it comes to a good meal: beautiful, seasonal produce that hasn’t been mucked about with too much. The hamper offering has been different every week so far. The week I order, there's a French theme.
A few days before delivery, I get an email to say thanks for ordering and a rough delivery time. 'Dear Survivors, Picnickers & Friends,' it begins. It turns out I’ve ordered a Pickled Panic Picnic Pack - I just hope it contains more than a pack of pickled peppers.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
At £35 per person, it's not the cheapest meal box going but that’s about a third of the price of a meal at WTLGI and you get a substantial amount of food - dare I say maybe enough for two for lunch. In my hamper there are roughly six ‘courses’ with accoutrements and like any good one night stand, Sam even provides ‘something for breakfast.’ In this case, it’s a thick slice of almond-hued brioche which I toast and slather with butter and my mum’s gooseberry jam. You also get a fanzine-esque little booklet with the menu, some simple instructions, a write up about a local producer (this time it's Lancashire-based cheese suppliers The Courtyard Dairy) and, ridiculously charming, a recommended selection of French films - complete with colour pictures.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
There’s not much cooking involved: stick the ratatouille in the oven (I actually gasp when I open the box, it’s so pretty), gently warm the petit sale (that’s pork and lentils), dress the salad and upend the bavarois. There’s room for a bit of fun with plating, if you’re so inclined. For full immersive experience, you could pop on one of those French films and open a bottle of natural wine, which you can also buy from the WTLGI online store.
Is it any cop?
While this isn't quite as fancy as dinner at WTLGI, many of the elements that make it such an exciting dining destination are there. The novelty of unfamiliar combinations - I’d never eaten radishes dipped in butter, even if it is a French classic. The playfulness - a ‘homemade Boursin’ reminds me of a lava lamp with a creamy, wobbly layer topped with deep green garlic oil. The celebration of locally grown and seasonal ingredients and using every bit of an animal - the petit sale with melting pork and puy lentils is a deeply flavoured joy. A dessert of bavarois is a floaty-light foam full of the flavour of fresh strawberries. An accompanying triangular brown paper package of topping, humbly named ‘last year's corn’ - a sweet and salty biscuit crumb with a slight grittiness from the corn - is a perfect textural contrast to the floof of the bavarois. If you want to treat yourself to something completely different, quirky and full of love, this is a must.
The Pickle Factory @ Where The Light Gets In, 7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY
Value for money
Seriously sourced and cultivated ingredients made with skill and love never come cheap. It's worth it.
Packaging and delivery
I got the impression that the person who delivered my package was also a member of the kitchen team. Impeccable social distancing. Some plastic but minimal. The accompanying leaflet was a joy in itself.
Easy peasy. The biggest challenge is getting in there before it sells out.
Quality and quantity
My meal for one provided plenty to share a bit with my envious partner. Restaurant quality.