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Photograph: Shuk
Photograph: Shuk

We tried all of London’s most hyped meal kits – these were the best

From Dishoom to Patty & Bun, these are the best DIY recipe boxes to order from London restaurants (and beyond)

Written by
Kate Lloyd
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Over the past 12 months, London’s restaurants have innovated like hell. When the city went into lockdown in March 2020 and venues had to shut their doors, many popped up on takeaway apps. Others gave themselves a makeover, transforming into shops. But the most boss move of all? Developing recipe boxes that Londoners could use to make their food at home.

Dishoom created a kit that helped you recreate its famous bacon naan, there were Honest and Patty & Bun burger boxes and all sorts of curry packs. Now there are loads of DIY kits. Some involve multiple pans, others require simply putting things together, all promise restaurant-quality food at home. 

Some of our favourite new additions to the scene? Berenjak’s gormeh sabzi – a lamb and bean stew, served with tahdig (crispy saffron rice) and salad – as well as all the slow-cooked meats you can choose to fill corn tortillas with via Tacos Padre’s at-home kits and the massive weekend kit from Shuk. Plus, we’re finding it fun to try kits from top restaurants around the country too. Read on to find your dream meal kit. 

London’s best restaurant meal kits

Sinking your teeth into a hunk of gooey, rich chocolate brownie is incredibly comforting. But when it’s fresh out of the oven? Even better. You could make it from scratch, but this is locked-down London in 2021, which means you can have all the ingredients sent to you in a cute colourful carton, portioned into little bags tied with pink ribbons. The Acai Girls (sisters Megan and Georgia Salamat) popped up as a delivery-only restaurant in 2020, sending out nutritious and photogenic açaí bowls, salads and waffles from their Battersea kitchen via Deliveroo. Apparently everyone fell in love with their vegan Oreo brownie, which is why you can now buy the make-it-yourself kit for £20. It’s pretty steep for what is essentially a fairly standard selection of ingredients (although, to be fair, the egg substitute aquafaba isn’t always easy to come by) – but would be ideal as a cute gift for a vegan pal. The brownies are super-easy to assemble, and come out exactly as they’re described: crunchy on the outside, super-gooey on the inside, and loaded with crushed Oreos. Seriously satisfying. Rose Johnstone

As far as meal kits go, this is easily the simplest to prepare. It’s also possibly the best value for money – and maybe even the tastiest. Aktar Islam is the chef behind Birmingham’s Michelin-starred restaurant Opheem. The fine-dining restaurant is famed for its boundary-pushing approach to Indian fare (take duck liver with pineapple, chilli and coconut, for example); but for his meal kit service, Aktar at Home, the pro chef has taken a simpler approach. It was definitely the right call. For £70, you get a selection of eight curries, plus fragrant spiced basmati rice, naan and sheermal (Hyderabadi-style milk bread). The first thing you’ll realise is that the servings are incredibly generous; it’s enough to serve four people twice (you can freeze it, don’t worry). The menu changes regularly, with a meat or vegan option available. I went for the vegan menu, and instantly found myself in a heavenly cloud of aromas as I heated up each curry in separate pans. The creamy South Indian chickpea curry in coconut milk with dried mango instantly sent me to the tropics, and the tangy khatte baingan curry was a spicy aubergine dream. When the UK opens up again, I’m heading straight to Birmingham… Rose Johnstone

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Despite consisting of an initially daunting 21 numbered tubs and bags of ingredients, this £45 Middle Eastern meal kit for two is easy to assemble and totally delicious. The main course, a boil-in-the-bag beef short-rib stew with vermicelli rice, is rich and hearty, and the inclusion of some satisfyingly nutty baklava and a sprig of fresh mint to make tea with is a nice touch. But the mixed meze spread is the star here: the pimped-up houmous, baba ghanoush with pomegranate seeds to sprinkle, zingy tabbouleh and pumpkin kibbeh are all outstanding, and I’m sure the halloumi would have been if I hadn’t killed it by frying it for too long. My bad; meal good. Sarah Cohen

EDITOR’S NOTE: This meal kit is currently off the menu at Arabica but they’ve replaced it with a whole host of other delicious kits – from a seasonal lamb feast to a vegetarian meze selection. 

Bancone’s most famous dish, ‘silk handkerchiefs’ with walnut butter and confit egg yolk, isn’t a traveller. But the West End pasta-slingers haven’t just got fazzoletti up their sleeves. Delivered every Friday within the M25, its drool-inducing Plateaway selection includes five different pasta dishes plus antipasti and desserts. Bucatini cacio e pepe was as simple as you like to chuck together; it came out super-cheesy, bold with black pepper, and with those little pasta hoses so chewy and eggily delicious that they barely needed the sauce. Then it was time for tagliatelle with wild-boar ragú and a sprinkle of pecorino: badly-needed comfort food with plenty of subtlety. Make sure you slacken the sauces with pasta water. And be aware: portions are billed as ‘for two’, but if you’re ravenous you could probably polish one off singlehandedly, so think about bulking out the meal with some BYO salad or prosciutto. James Manning 

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  • Restaurants
  • Taiwanese
  • Soho
  • price 1 of 4

There’s way more to Bao than the food – I’d give a lot to be sat at the Fitzrovia branch’s counter right now, scoffing pillowy Taiwanese buns without a care in the world. But you shouldn't pass up the opportunity for a baos’ night in, especially when it’s as easy as this little kit makes it. For £24 via Bao’s website, you get all the components to make six of the braised-pork buns that, in the before times, regularly gave Bao the coveted title of ‘longest restaurant queue in Soho’. Heat up the pork and fermented mushroom greens separately, slop them into the buns and garnish with coriander and peanut powder – that’s literally it. You’ll have pork juice running embarrassingly down your chin in less than half an hour. They deliver in London and nationwide, and there’s a daikon version for veggies. James Manning

This is it: the motherlode, a delicious gauntlet laid down by Soho Iranian spot Berenjak. Gormeh sabzi is a stew of lamb, herbs and beans, served with tahdig (crispy saffron rice), yoghurt-and-herb dip and a cucumber, tomato and onion salad. In terms of tradition, deliciousness and sheer workload, it’s essentially the Iranian equivalent of a full Sunday roast.

First, here’s what you don’t have to do: marinade a lamb shoulder, perfect your mast o sabzi and track down dried limes, fenugreek and a clay stew pot. Berenjak has kindly included all that in the truly enormous box, leaving you to simply rehydrate and fry a bunch of herbs; chuck them in the pot with a bunch of other stuff; whack it all in the oven for four hours; rinse loads of rice about seven times and steam-fry it on the hob for a perfect crunchy layer; chop and dress your salad; and get all the elements on the table. Phew.

It’s labour-intensive but well worth it – and you get to keep the clay pot, in case you ever want to brave making the dish again from scratch. Berenjak’s instructions are epic but thorough (there’s even a video), you’ll get four to five servings out of it, and the sense of achievement from cooking something totally unfamiliar and really difficult was quite a rush, at least for this dopamine-starved lockdown monkey. Pair with a bottle of wine and the music of Iranian psych-rock king Kourosh Yaghmaei for a ready-made Sunday afternoon. James Manning

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The folks at Persian restaurant Berenjak are so committed to giving you the tools to create an authentic kebab at home, the DIY kit includes bespoke metal skewers imported from Tehran. They look like swords and will make you feel like you are running a legit kebab shop, in a good way. The box comes with two massive flatbreads, mast-o-masir (a yoghurt dip), tomatoes for grilling, onions and herbs and packets of pre-prepared lamb and chicken, which is enough to make four very generous kebabs. The instructions are clear and there’s even a QR code which takes you to a YouTube video if you need more guidance. Wrangling those skewers feels like quite an achievement even though Berenjak have mostly done all the hard work. Most importantly: the end result is truly delicious and you will almost definitely have leftovers. Izzy Aron

Considering you’ve got beef-fat onions, ‘marrownaise’, pickled onions and Burger & Beyond’s Steak 2.0 sauce in these burgers before you’ve even thought about meat or cheese, ‘bougie’ is the perfect way to describe the contents of this kit. As well as the aforementioned ingredients, you get brioche buns, two types of American cheese and 35-day aged minced beef blend – enough for four burgs. I’m a pretty big eater, but I’m not about to take down four of these beefy bad boys, so I called in three hungry housemates to help. I found making all four burgers at the same time on my own a bit of a challenge – there are quite a few pans involved – so getting some back-up is a good shout. The instructions are perfectly clear, but with so many ingredients, there’s a lot going on. It was totally worth it for the end result, though, which all four of us agreed was damn tasty, if a little messy (some opted for the oft-shunned knife-and-fork option). Oh, and the price? £25 for the lot. George Blew

 

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There’s minimal cooking required to recreate this luxurious sandwich at home – just some roll toasting and sauce heating. The generous pack of lobster meat – enough for two portions – comes pre-boiled, ready to be mixed with the tangy dressing and piled into the brioches.

For maximum authenticity, the finished items can be placed in the Burger & Lobster-branded hotdog-style boxes that come with this £28 kit – a nice touch. But they’re not there to look pretty, these babies need eating, and what a treat that was: fresh lobster for Monday night dinner – lush. Sarah Cohen

First thing's first. These guys have won the 'best chips of lockdown' contest. You might not have been aware of the contest. But it has been ongoing for an entire year. Butler's Wharf Chop House, with their triple cooked chips, won the whole thing at a canter. The best chips imaginable. The steak also was incredibly tasty, made extra good by the special butter sauce you fry it in. Was it hard? No. You rub it in butter and cook it a bit in the pan. Shout out to the sticky toffee pud-pud desert also. Am not really a 'pud pud guy' but I thoroughly enjoyed eating this. Overall: a big, old-school meaty treat of a meal. Joe Mackertich

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Having missed its Korean-inspired K-Pop burgers almost as much as I’ve missed my family, the advent of the Chick ’N’ Sours meal kit (£50) is exciting news. Does it live up to those expectations? Well, mostly. The kit comes with each of Chick ’N’ Sours’s three trademark sides – including the face-slappingly spicy bang bang cucumbers – and you also get eight chicken wings and four tenders, paired with kung pao and hot sauce marinades. It’s a fair whack of food, even before you start assembling the main attraction: the mighty K-Pop, or its cheesy burger-in-law The General. So what’s the mild hesitation? Well, the chicken comes partly cooked but it still needs dunking in a deep pot of bubbling oil – and unless you’re in the business of dishing up dinner with a catapult, this remains the only kitchen technique directly inspired by medieval siege warfare. If you own a deep-fat fryer, you’ll know the drill; if not, be sure to bring a steady hand, the right oil and something to decant it into afterwards. And if you’re going with the £75 kit with the four sours cocktails, definitely save them until after the frying is done. Phil de Semlyen

Cafe Murano has various pasta and risotto meal kits that you can order any time, but every Friday, Angela Hartnett and team rustle up something extra-special. Though the contents are subject to change, the menu as we received it was a four-course Italian meal sealed in 11 boxes and pouches that felt like an impressive feat of logistics even before one contemplates the actual flavours. And the flavours were good: focaccia with pickled vegetables for the antipasti, pumpkin and ricotta cannelloni for the primi, lamb’s neck stew with braised cabbage for the secundo, and poached pear with pannacotta for pudding. It was delicious, and great value at £55 for two. And while it’s not quite the same as eating in a restaurant, I got a possibly slightly weird kick from following the relatively lengthy but entirely lucid preparation instructions. Andrzej Łukowski

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cafe Murano’s boxes are currently sold out but they’ll be back soon. 

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Corn tortillas knock their wheat-based cousins out of the park and you get 12 in this £35 Mexican meal kit, but they’re quite small and, although the quantity of food here is meant for four, it isn’t enough to satisfy my hungry household. But what we do eat hits the spot. The only proper cooking involved is frying the two long slabs of marinated hanger steak, otherwise there’s just heating the tortillas and ‘drunken’ beans and some light chopping. Of course we massively overload each taco, topping the beef with citrus mojo, salsa ranchera, pink pickled onions, chilli, avocado and coriander: a riot of flavours that ends up all over our hands. Fingerlickin’ good. Sarah Cohen

The hippest of London’s hip vegan masters, Club Mexicana has taken the meal kit concept as an excuse to have a party in a box. The £50 taco kit arrives in a shiny silver disco insulation bag whose awesomeness cannot be understated: if I was 20 years younger I would paper my walls with it, if I was 30 years younger I would crawl into it, and if I was Pharrell Williams I would wear it as a hat. You get 24 tacos, three of Mexicana’s signature vegan fillings (including ground spiced ‘beef’ and barbecue short ‘ribs’) and multiple dips and sprinkles, including red onion, dill pickle, limes, coriander, tomato, mayo and more. It feeds six very comfortably indeed. The instructions are excellently detailed, although it takes a few goes to get into the swing of the taco prep (it involves dry frying and improvising a steamer out of a tea towel). It all gets easier after a Margarita. This is perfect food for sharing, a kitchen-table version of the kind of communal eating we all love and miss so much. Caroline McGinn

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When one member of the household is a particularly good cook (definitely not referring to myself here), a DIY kit has to be seriously good to warrant the outlay. One of those deserving of your cash is put together by Hackney’s Decatur, specialists in Louisiana-style seafood.

A ‘shrimp boil’ kit can be ordered for two (from £37.50) or four (from £70) and comes with every ingredient you need to recreate chef Thom Browne’s Cajun-spiced heaven. ​Also available, for the bargain price of £16, are his super-fresh and tasty Maldon oysters that come with house seasoning and pecorino garlic butter – but beware, you probably need previous experience using an oyster knife (also available from Decatur’s website).

The kit and instructions have been put together with such care that the finish-at-home dishes are – crucially – hot, and to restaurant standard. A tricky thing to get right! The flavours really do take you to the streets of New Orleans and little touches like newspaper to serve add an element of theatre, whisking you momentarily from the current madness. We’ve got a feeling this one’s not a fad, and will live on way past lockdown and beyond. Samantha Willis

Whichever maverick thought to smother a pile of skinny fries with fresh chilli, spring onion, jalapeño dressing and moreish chunks of miso-glazed lamb belly has invented a new diner delicacy. This kit costs £13.50 and contains enough of these ingredients for a two-person feast.

The instructions were a bit woolly – how long do you fry the lamb for? – but the result rivalled the version we’ve eaten at Dirty Bones. The chips were softer – perhaps the restaurant fries rather than bakes them? – but the lamb was crispier and less fatty. Naked chips will never be enough now. Sarah Cohen

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Dishoom’s #iconic bacon naan roll is a delicious mash-up of greasy-spoon realness and Irani-Indian flavour. It’s not impossible to bodge your own version at home, but now you don’t have to: Dishoom’s DIY kit contains bacon, chilli-tomato chutney, cream cheese, herbs and, crucially, three balls of dough to make your own naans. You even get a spice blend to brew Dishoom-style masala chai.

There are enough ingredients for three rolls, which are totally delicious and pretty easy to assemble, though make sure the dough is at room temperature before rolling it – and be careful when you take the hot naan pan out of the oven (ouch!). The cost? £16 including a charity donation. There’s even a vegan version now, which comes with fermented mushroom sausages. James Manning

It’s safe to say that things like lobster ravioli and chicken supreme with truffle bouillon are not in my regular recipe rotation. That’s where the weekly-changing three-course lockdown menu offering from Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle comes in. I tried the ravioli and chicken, as well as pear tarte tatin for dessert. Each course comes in a plastic takeaway container and instructions on how to assemble it. It’s all relatively straightforward to prepare – cook the dumplings, reheat the chicken in the oven, heat the sauce – but wrangling all the different aspects does create a fair amount of washing-up. The portion sizes aren’t massive (this is Michelin-starred dining, darling), but it’s rich (and very tasty) food, so you aren’t left feeling short-changed. If you’re looking for a treat meal that you’d never normally cook at home, this is one for you. But be tactical: offer to do the ‘cooking’ so your lockdown buddy has to wash up. £55 (meat) or £50 (veggie) per person. Isabelle Aron

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I reviewed this place when it opened about a decade ago. I feel old. Back then I remember being blown away, not just by how good the food was but by its simplicity: great ingredients and excellent technique, basically. It’s the same deal here: two massive hunks of dexter short rib slippery on their bones, confit potatoes, garlicky curly kale, carrots, parsnips and horseradish cream – all for £55. Throw them in some pans and you’re done: restaurant-quality food in an obscenely efficient 20 minutes. My only concern would be for those who like to spend a bit more time pottering in the kitchen. Me? Dinner done early meant more time to stare into space considering the pointlessness of existence. Lovely stuff. Stephen Farmer

EDITOR’S NOTE: The short rib is no longer on the menu but 10 Greek Street is doing a winter duck pie, with beetroot and gorgonzola salad and a chocolate and peanut butter fondant, instead. 

If you can’t stand the heat from another set of fiddly instructions, there’s no need to get out of the kitchen. London Indian restaurant Gunpowder has launched a biryani meal kit (£30) and it’s so straightforward to follow, you’ll end up feeling like the emperor of the oven. Stick in a pre-made biryani and watch as its heavenly pastry lid turns golden. Side dishes – including a banging paneer masala – can simply go in the microwave or over a gentle heat with a splash of water. Is it even a meal kit? When the results taste this good – fluffy, fragrant rice and lamb, or a shahi mushroom option that might even trump the meaty version – don’t question it. Laura Richards

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  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Borough
  • price 3 of 4

If you’re like me and really don’t know what you’re doing in the butcher, Hawksmoor is on hand with something it is calling ‘steak kits’. That basically means: a steak, chips, veg, plus booze if you want it.

The cut I go for is a porterhouse. It doesn’t fit in my pan (and I don’t have barbecue or cast iron griddle, as the menu suggests I might). As a workaround, I contravene all steak orthodoxy and hack it to smaller bits that can actually squeeze on the hob. Fortunately, it works. The steak, because it’s a steak, is really quick and easy to cook. The beef dripping-blanched chips are a straight-in-the-oven job. You heat up a peppercorn sauce in one pan, creamed spinach in another. Four things, four receptacles – all you have to do then, really, is keep an eye on the time.

 Obviously, you will immediately remind yourself why you don’t go to steak restaurants very often. Your house will stink. You will feel full to a nauseating degree. You will feel guilty for spending £110 on a three-course meal for two (or £150, including drinks). You will feel kind of like an ageing hedge fund manager. But all of that… actually, maybe, in a good way? Every ingredient is this kit is of supreme quality. The meat is especially gorgeous. And in fact, I think I enjoyed the starter most of all: a delicate dish of golden, bubbling belly ribs, served with pickled slaw. One for a birthday treat, or just a particularly indulgent night in. Huw Oliver

Oi – cheese lovers! Haya has come out with a babka pizza meal kit. Now what is babka you may ask? Basically just a sweet, braided bread, except they’ve completely flipped the script . Their pizza combines a traditional rich and buttery babka dough with the savoury flavours of pizza. Pretty darn unique. Cooking it is as simple as 1,2,3. No seriously. You roll out the dough, smother it in shakshuka sauce (jazzed up tomato sauce), load it with cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar and gorgonzola) then splice and braid. Once it’s moulded into the desired shape you brush it with an egg wash (milk wash for me because I had no eggs) and pop it into the oven for 30 mins. Once your oozing masterpiece comes out the oven, slice it up (admiring the heavenly cheese pull as you go). Drizzle a bit of chilli oil or garlic oil on top to add some of the ol’ razzle dazzle. Et Voila! *chefs kiss*. Emily Canegan

 

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If you’ve ever spent your Sunday morning cocooned in bed, hungover as hell, gazing longingly at bright, clean Instagram photos of healthy West London brunch dishes, then we’ve got good news – you no longer need to leave the house to brunch like you’re in Notting Hill. Haya is a super-slick small-plates restaurant in W11 that specialises in Israeli-inspired dishes that are gorgeous to behold. One such dish is the lahooh pancake (£20, or £30 with a Bloody Mary).

The whole process was super-straightforward: you bake the cauliflower, sweet potato and broccoli, heat up the pancakes (two large pillowy discs, almost like giant crumpets), then get creative as you pipe smoked labaneh and green tahini in colourful swirls (pro tip: it looks like a lot, but use it all – it’s the tastiest bit!). Then decorate your creation with the veggies, pickled red onion, salad and pomegranate seeds. The result? A super-fresh and filling brunch that will give you that sunshiney feeling you crave on those Sunday mornings. Rose Johnstone

Where a lot of meal kits seem to lend themselves to a ‘special night in’ for you and a single loved one, this bad boy from Neal’s Yard-based pizza gurus Homeslice feels explicitly geared towards housemates: for £29.50 you get two mighty fine pizzas plus the ingredients for six Camden Hells beer cocktails. It’s also laughably simple to assemble: the ‘kit’ is basically just a pair of chilled pizzas that you cook in your oven for ten minutes, with a couple of pots of fresh toppings to sprinkle over afterwards. We enjoyed a fiery chorizo pizza; we really enjoyed a mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seeds and chilli flakes jobbie. The dough was deliciously chewy, the flavours were agreeably robust, the cocktails went down a treat. It’s not the fanciest kit in the land, but that’s kind of the point – it’s a pleasant night in for a few friends that won’t break the bank. Andrzej Łukowski

 

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Nothing has caused more excitement in this Time Outer’s flat than the arrival of the Honest Burgers kit (£24 plus delivery). In it: four patties, four brioche buns and everything you need to make it taste like you’re eating in at the restaurant. Think red onion relish (that even makes the fridge smell amazing), cheese slices and smoked bacon. (You have to provide your own chips, but they do give you rosemary salt to sprinkle on them.)

The instructions are so detailed that they even have a diagram showing how to layer your burger. And the results? Perfectly cooked burgers that tasted so much fresher than takeaway ones and were decadently messy to eat. Kate Lloyd

The best thing about this kit – ordered from Hoppers’ cleverly named Cash and Kari platform – is the understanding of how cooking should be done: with a snack on the go and a beer in your hand, obvs – you can add those in at checkout. Step one is frying up pre-prepared mutton rolls, which fast become golden, meaty vehicles ready to dunk in a pungent, potent chilli sauce. There are even banana chips to munch on while you cook. So the chances of making hangry mistakes for the main event are minimal – plus, the rest of the Sri Lankan package (£30, serves two) is a doddle, as you’re mostly just stir-frying and combining chopped veg and roti (with the option of adding in an egg, which I’d definitely recommend) with a signature lamb kari. The result is a fragrant, comforting bready dish ideal for the colder months. Laura Richards

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What a treasure trove of ingredients – enough to make two large bowls of classic ahi tuna poké and two of yuzu lomi lomi salmon. As well as the pre-cut fish, you get a hefty pack of sushi rice, which must be washed, cooked, seasoned and cooled, plus an exciting array of sauces, dressings and accompaniments.

After a bit of chopping and marinating, the various elements were ready to be assembled. The tuna bowl tasted more interesting, with pineapple and chilli salsa, wakami and crispy shallots, but the salmon’s yuzu dressing hit the spot. Hawaiian heaven for 32 quid. Sarah Cohen 

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Crystal Palace

If you’re in the market for a meal kit that will render your body immobile for several hours after eating it, look no further than Joanna’s. The restaurant’s a Crystal Palace stalwart, with an old-school New York vibe. It’s known to locals as the place to go if you want a bit of West End glam without the journey. Now – thanks to its at-home menus – you don’t have to even step out of your house to achieve that vibe. The three-course (and bread) boxes cost £59 and feature weekly changing dishes. Mine includes fresh bread with speciality butter, spiced chicken flatbreads, confit duck leg and rich, creamy lentils and an almost intimidatingly rich and caramel-coated sticky toffee putting. There’s not much to be done in terms of preparation: just heating things in the oven and microwave. Although you do have to do a bit of maths to ensure you time your courses perfectly. And the result? Classic, indulgent food that feels posh and fills you up. If I was going to get a box to impress my northern parents, it would be this. Kate Lloyd

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If, like me, you’ve barely left the confines of the M25 this year, José Pizarro’s tapas-style DIY kit (£55 for two) will make you yearn for balmy Mediterranean nights spent ordering glasses of ‘vino tinto’ and pretending you can speak Spanish. And while you might be stuck at your kitchen table right now, the food on offer here totally makes up for it. Tapas lends itself well to the DIY meal kit format, too – you can cook a few things, eat a few things – and repeat. With a glass of vino tinto on the go throughout, obviously. It comes with a handy booklet with clear instructions, pictures and even QR codes if you want to watch a video demo by José himself. You get loads of food, including padron peppers, chicken croquetas, Iberico ham and Spanish tortilla, seafood and chicken arroz with alioli and a deliciously rich chocolate pot with salt and olive oil for dessert. Isabelle Aron

EDITOR’S NOTE: This meal kit is no longer on the menu but there is a Basque box featuring jamón croquetas, filled piquillo peppers, tortilla, anchovy-stuffed olives, hake with wild mushrooms and a cheesecake with lavender honey for dessert.

Kolamba’s DIY meal kits are the ideal antidote if you’re fed up with your own bland cooking. The Soho-based Sri Lankan restaurant has done an ace job of giving its dishes the DIY treatment, with ‘feast’ kits that feature a selection of fiery and fragrant dishes. I tried the Ceylon chicken curry feast, which serves two for £40 and includes a generous amount of food. Everything comes in pouches and it’s basically just a reheating job. The most strenuous part is cooking the rice, which does involve boiling a kettle – deal with it. As well as the Ceylon chicken curry, the selection includes a beetroot curry, green bean curry, dhal, aromatic rice and a selection of sambols, chutneys and pickles. All you need to add is an ice-cold beer. Isabelle Aron

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If Burmese cuisine is not your area of expertise, Shoreditch’s Lahpet is here to fill the gap with beautifully presented, easily assembled kits. The stand-out for me was the coconut noodles with chicken (£15 for two), which reminded me a little of an Indonesian laksa with its spicy kick and glorious collision of textures, along with a tea leaf salad (£12). Sharply refreshing Lahpet Margaritas (£6), made with betel leaf tequila, are available to wash it all down with. Order via lahpet.co.uk/pantry – dinner hampers are available too (£35 for 2). Phil de Semlyen

A fancy French restaurant in Bank, Le Coq D'Argent has a few different DIY kit options, all of which look good. We went for the three-course lamb shank option and let me tell you, the experience very much transformed my squalid living quarters. The fresh French bread, the lamb shank, the huge prawns to start. The jus. It's all so classy (and at £45 per person, pretty damn reasonable). Thank you for bring a touch of delicious class to my otherwise benighted existence, Le Coq d'Argent. Joe Mackertich

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If you’re lucky enough to have ever visited a fine-dining restaurant, then you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s all about the bread. I’m talking oven-fresh house-made sourdough, delicately crunchy and cloud-soft within, slathered with butter that I can only assume comes from the finest cows in all the land. That bread.

It’s a surreal experience eating that bread at home, and not a low-lit Michelin-starred restaurant with waiters poised to attend to my every need – but the kind of surreal I can very much deal with. This sourdough bread, with winter tarn butter, is the first course of Simon Rogan at Home; a meal kit by the famous chef behind L’Enclume and Rogan & Co in Cartmel, and chef table experience Aulis in Soho. Each week, the chef releases a new three-course meal (£45 per person), featuring produce harvested from Rogan’s very own farm in the Cartmel valley.

You’d think that re-creating this kind of culinary artistry at home would be basically impossible, but to Rogan’s credit, each of the many components is clearly labelled and the process outlined simply. I couldn’t quite believe that in ten minutes I had simmered, basted, boiled and piped my way to creating a gorgeous plate of confit heritage potatoes with champagne and buttermilk sauce, pepper dulse and dill, and roast mushroom on a bed of silky-smooth artichoke purée. Portions are pleasingly substantial, although I would’ve loved a bit more bread to mop up all that flavourful sauce.

I have two tips: first, it’s best to prepare this with someone else – the steps are simple but numerous, so it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. And second: Watch. The. Video. You’ll never be able to plate up quite like a pro chef, but to even attempt it, you’ll need some visual cues. Rose Johnstone

Recreating a restaurant experience at home is always going to be tricky, but the folks behind Lyle’s have given it a bloody good go. Everything about the menu box feels carefully curated and well thought out. There’s an instruction card for each course with detailed guidance and a picture of what it should look like. There are no complicated cooking techniques required, as Lyle’s has done all the hard work, but assembling the various components is fairly hands-on.

That’s no bad thing, though – I enjoyed getting an insight into what goes into fancy cooking (hint: the answer is most probably butter). The kit aims to recreate the structure of a meal you’d have in the restaurant, starting with sourdough and cultured butter (which obviously shits all over the Lurpak in my fridge) and ending with its signature brown butter cakes. In between, my kit features an incredible pumpkin and whey soup (honestly, who knew soup could be so good?), crab and barley porridge, dexter rib with slow-cooked beetroot, quince cake with vanilla custard and caramel chocolates. Every course blew me away. Obviously, at £140 for two, it’s not a casual Monday night meal, but for a special occasion, this is a wonderful way to spend an evening. Easily the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my kitchen. Isabelle Aron

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The hunk of salt beef (or pastrami) at the heart of this £41 kit, which comes with enough ingredients for three stacked Reuben sandwiches, needs to be steamed for a few minutes, and the bread toasted, but otherwise this is a simple assembly job.

You slather the grilled rye bread with squeezy mustard, pile on the melt-in-your-mouth meat, add a heap of Monty’s own-made sauerkraut, balance a slice of Swiss cheese on top and cover with the addictive Russian dressing. Voilà! A deli classic that tastes just as good as the one served in Monty’s. Sarah Cohen

Instructions for my kit were actually missing, but luckily I found a video on this street-food titan’s social media account that made things as clear as can be. It’s one of the messier kits, given that you’re going to have to triple-coat chicken pieces before shallow frying. But once you’ve got your production line set up, it’s actually pretty fun slapping those strips around in buttermilk and breadcrumbs – I felt just like Nigella. The resulting nugs are unlike any lockdown junk food I’ve been able to cook up when left to my own devices. The chicken was incredibly tender, all thanks to Mother Clucker’s brine and absolutely nothing to do with my flash-frying skills. It comes with hot sauce and lime-spiked mayo, plus a similarly citrus-heavy slaw (all for £18 for two or £27.50 for four). Together, it's like a big ol’ slap to the senses. Laura Richards

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Musette by Tom Aikens, Finish & Feast box
Nacho Rivera

Musette by Tom Aikens, Finish & Feast box

Tom Aikens, someone you might describe as a ‘Michelin-honoured maestro’, is pretty prolific – so it’s no surprise that he’s set up his own dedicated ‘meal assembly kit platform’. Finish & Feast aims to allow people like you and I enjoy fine dining at home – a pretty admirable goal.

My dinner is the three-course Musette, which comprises a starter of salt-baked beetroot, a main of cod loin, and for dessert, a chocolate, pumpkin and hazelnut tart (£98 for two). So, is it anywhere near as good as something you’d get in one of his restaurants?

It certainly sounds delicious. And things do start well. The beetroot dish involves lots of dotting and dolloping and drizzling. You feel almost as pro as the hunky, award-winning chef who stares at you from inside the recipe booklet. It’s a fun dish to share, and you’d definitely order it again. The next two dishes, however, are far too sweet. The cod loin is exquisitely flaky, but the orange sauce cloying. The chocolate tart is gratifying to put together, but the various sauces you pipe on top excessively rich. Not so good. If you do want to try an Aikens meal kit, I’d suggest going for one of the others. Huw Oliver

Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes are famous for requiring a lot of spices – sometimes as many as all of them. Happily, the meal kit from his Soho brasserie takes away all the faff of scouring your local Tesco for star anise and Szechuan peppercorns. The Asian and Middle Eastern flavours come pre-prepped in an insanely rich masterstock you just have to heat up and bung over a roasted poussin (posh chicken, basically). It comes with a fiery chilli sauce, cucumber salad and sticky Thai rice – and holy moly, do they work together perfectly. Nopi? Yep-pi, more like. Phil de Semlyen

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This sexy Sicilian-inspired joint in Fitzrovia had not long opened when the first lockdown hit. Luckily you can order its comforting Mediterranean fare to your door, including its culinary flagship product: the Feasting Box for Two (£100). Kaboom. A cursory glance at the instructions might cause a bit of trepidation (any mention of a pomegranate dressing will always create panic in my household) but this is all joyously basic. You’re just chucking stuff in the oven at different times. The delica pumpkin comes out all nice and caramelised and the huge chunk of lamb shoulder was exactly as tender as you’d expect. Other highlights include extremely fresh bread, a chard gratin and a Negroni cocktail. As the price suggests, there’s a ton to get through here, so clearly it’s meant as more than ‘a bit of dinner’. Got something to celebrate? This treasure trove of tastiness could be the perfect way to mark the occasion. Joe Mackertich

It’s just a burger, right? Weeeeellll… not exactly. Patty & Bun serves up top-dollar meat sandwiches, and if you fancy making one yourself (or just finding out what goes into them – it’s definitely not health food) then this kit is a doddle to put together.

Twenty-five quid gets you four posh patties and brioche buns plus bacon, cheese, pickled onions and trademark P&B mayo. (Vegan alternatives are available.) That adds up to two Ari Gold and two Smokey Robinson burgers, with detailed instructions on which order to stack the ingredients in. Warning: your kitchen will smell of beef fat for days. James Manning

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This DIY kit (£14.50) won a coveted Time In Award for keeping you lot happy in lockdown. So what’s all the fuss about? The packaging is appealing, for starters: a snazzy pizza box that opens on all your ingredients. Inside, there’s enough dough for two ’zas and it’s pretty fun spinning that around before you slap it in a pan and top with pre-made marinara and mozzarella (a handy video on the website shows you how).

It’s quite hard to get a crispy crust under the grill without the right kind of pan, but the results are still delicious and it’s made within minutes – easy as pie. You could get experimental with toppings if you fancy reliving a classic rainy day childhood activity, but a straight-up marg is just as bellissima. Laura Richards

Where do I even start with this one? The vast array of flavours, easy to follow cooking instructions, yummy garnishes, or perfectly paired accompanying beer? I’ve got to be honest, cooking the gyoza was a daunting task. You’ve gotta place the gyoza in a pan of oil, add water (yes add water to oil!) and leave to steam for 5 mins. Splash a bit more oil once the water has evaporated and they should come out crisp and ready to eat. It’s a bit tricky at first but after a few burnt attempts I got the hang of it and once you do, it becomes super easy. Rope in a housemate as an assistant and you’ll be whipping up gyoza as though it’s your life’s calling. Flavour wise, expect succulent chicken, tangy mushroom, crispy duck, tender pork, and aromatic prawn fillings. There’s a gyoza to fit everyone’s taste. The fiery dipping sauce, chilli oil and pickles were the perfect accompaniments - and don’t even get me started on the traditional Japanese beer. Mellow with a warm finish. Seriously spectacular! Emily Canegan

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Dreamed up by Riding House patron chef (and absolute physical goliath) Henry Omereye, the Soul Ride Carribean-sytle roast might be the best roast I've ever eaten. Genuinely. I don't know what he's done to that pimento chicken, but my word it packs a flavour punch. Every other element, from the grilled cauliflower to the creamed corn works perfectly. And, considering there are quite a lot of bits and bobs that go into this feast, it's amazing how simple it all is. You're mainly sticking plastic bags in boiling water for a bit. So barely any washing up either. Honestly, I cannot fault this huge, creative and beautiful meal. I wish I was eating it now. Joe Mackertich

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  • Thai
  • Spitalfields

A stir-fry might not seem like the kind of dish you need numbered instructions to make, but follow the steps for this Pad Thai from London mini-chain Rosa’s Thai Café and you’ll have a meal far superior to the usual bunged together homemade effort. As with any one-pan wonder, it’s quick and uncomplicated to put together, helped by a step-by-step cook-along video hosted by the chain’s founder Saiphin Moore, which is available via a QR code in the kit. The most taxing step is boiling water to soak the noodles and then scrambling eggs (the only part of the dish you’ll have to provide yourself) in hot oil. Then, it’s simply a matter of adding each ingredient to the pan in Saiphin’s desired order. It’s simple enough, but the results are restaurant quality, with huge, meaty prawns, crunchy specks of dried turnip and Rosa’s special pad thai sauce, which uses sweet and sour tamarind from Phetchabun to give it a zinging umami tang. It’s not the cheapest - £32 may seem steep for a noodle dish. But, each kit serves four and you get a punchy yet comforting meal that’ll brighten up another evening at home. Alexandra Sims

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I’m writing this about a week after eating Rovi’s Celeriac Shawarma Kit and I still can’t get over how delicious it was. Honestly, this £38 box was one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. The kit – made by the Ottolenghi spin-off to serve two people – comes boxed up in very swish reusable jars and recyclable tubs. It has many, many parts. The spiced celeriac, which you pop in the oven for 20 minutes and serve in pita. Bekeila – a citrusy spinach mix – which you heat in a pan and smear on the bread. Plus all kinds of other bits to layer on (crispy onions, pickles, shawarma mix, fermented tomato and chilli sauce). There’s also a tasty kale and radish salad that you mix a yoghurt dressing into and serve on the side. Assembly is a fun, messy process.

While many DIY boxes are really glorified ready meals, this one involves effort, which makes it feel more like an occasion dinner. (Although I wouldn’t recommend following my lead and attempting it on a coffee table because it’s the ‘biggest surface’ in your flat. A dining table is preferable.) The result? A proper posh restaurant meal in a box. It’s complex, spicy, comforting – flawless, to be honest. I couldn't recommend it more. Kate Lloyd

If your perception of veganism is all Buddha bowls, açaí smoothies and watery dahl, then you’ve clearly not been paying attention. Like all humans, sometimes vegans just want to chomp into a juicy, salty burger. Rudy’s Vegan Diner answered this call back in 2018, opening London’s first eatery of its kind in Camden Market. Now, the plant-based pioneers are offering a four-person Dirty Burger kit for £36, and let me tell you, it’s worth every penny. The assembly is about as simple as it gets: chuck those vegan milk buns in a pan, add the patties (which, if you’re new to Rudy’s, are borderline alarming in their meat-like texture and flavour), melt the ‘cheese’ on top and top it with ‘bacon’, pickles, mayo and lettuce. The ‘bacon’ doesn’t have quite the same juicy realism as the patties, but does add the all-important crispy texture. Burgers are notoriously terrible at travelling, so getting them delivered as a meal kit instead of ready-made is a godsend. How did no one think of this earlier? Rose Johnstone

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If you’ve been missing the slurpy joys of ramen, Shoryu’s signature Ganso ramen is a DIY delight. The kit costs £20 and serves two hungry ramen fiends.

All the trimmings – including char siu pork belly that you’ll need to briefly pan fry – come in little pouches. But it’s all about the broth, and the tonkotsu is every bit as flavourful as you’d expect in a Tokyo noodle shop. You can freeze the kit for up to a month, but, honestly, why would you want to? Phil de Semlyen

Prepare yourself before embarking on this kit by Israeli Borough Market outfit Shuk – there's a lot of food. My household was still feasting on the lamb neck three days later, but that was no bad thing, as the slow-cooked meat from the Ginger Pig was delicious, especially when smeared with Shuk's amba tahini.
The mega-kit is split into three parts, making the £160 price for up to four people a bit of a bargain. We enjoyed the first - spiced lamb meatballs that we stuffed inside pillowy pita breads - after a Bicep DJ set we watched finished, making this a more bougie take on a post-Friday night out kebab. Then, there's the hangover-busting shakshuka for the next morning, all yellow yolks that soak into fluffy challah. And finally, the main event, the Erev kit - a feast of the lamb neck (you can go for seabass instead), and a host of sides including a rich hummus topped with beef brisket, grilled broccoli with yoghurt tahini and slow roasted sweet potato with chilli yoghurt. While it all initially looked daunting, the clear instructions meant it was easy to assemble, and having a few hours where you're occupied during a weekend in lockdown is no bad thing. Our highlight was the chocolate and hazelnut babka - a Bake Off-worthy dessert you have to spread with chocolate and cookie crumble, before proofing, twisting it into shape, and baking it yourself. It's was the perfect finish to a brilliant weekend of food. Kate Lloyd

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When the box (£30 for enough grub for four people) contains a pound of beef brisket and a pot of beef dripping, you know it’s going to be good. Thankfully, the folks at Smokestak have done all the hard work – all you have to do is heat up the pre-cooked brisket, shred it, toast your buns and assemble.

Toppings include the aforementioned beef dripping to smear on the bun if you’re feeling extra (I was), barbecue sauce and a jar of totally addictive pickled red chillies (you’ll have leftovers). Instructions are easy to follow and it feels like a totally legit recreation of the real deal – even if you do have to wash up your own plates afterwards. Isabelle Aron

So the instant-noodle dinners have started to get repetitive. Well, you can elevate your lockdown slurping with a limited-edition ramen kit (available throughout January, from £18 per person) from Chelsea’s swanky Japanese spot Dinings SW3. The broth made by executive chef Masaki Sugisaki – a balance of chicken and shiitake mushroom stock – is three days in the making. But all you have to do is gently reheat it in a pan before plunging in curly Taka-Suimen noodles. Lots of little elements are added during plating up and the order seems almost ceremonial; a dash of yuzu here, a sprinkling of julienne leeks there. But follow the provided instructions or an Instagram video carefully and it’s hard not to achieve soupy perfection. The result is a delicate, subtle dish compared to what you get from some of London’s main noodle peddlers. Except for chef’s Nitamago egg, which provides a rich and unctious reverential ramen moment. Laura Richards

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In some ways, tacos are the DIY meal kit of the street food world. Amping up the spice with a splatter of salsa; sprinkling on more teensy bits of onion – it’s pure, delicious graft that you can tailor to your own palate. So launching an at-home option seems a no-brainer for relative newbies to Borough Market, Tacos Padre. Each order (from £27) comes complete with a big old baggy of succulent marinated meat (sweet cochinita pork pibil in this instance, but there's also lamb, steak and cauliflower options) – that you simply reheat. Slap ready-made corn tortillas (ten in total – plenty for two!) on to a pan for half a minute apiece. Then get loading up: pink pickled onions (ready for their camera close-up, if you’re that way inclined), a fiery habanero salsa and those little bits of onion and coriander complete the fiesta. Eat on your doorstep for authenticity’s sake. Laura Richards

Easily one of the best meal kits I've ever had. And an absolute piece of piss to assemble. Sorry to use the word 'piss' in the context of eating. But that's how excited I am. The aged, braised beef is stupidly tasty. Cramming it into charming little warmed-over tortillas and then slathering each one in habanero salsa is a blast. Quick and powerful. Strongly recommended. Joe Mackertich

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You might know them from their beloved neighbourhood restaurant or famous lockdown wine deliveries, but the nice people at Top Cuvée have now found yet another thing to be top at. Meal kits. Their boxes are a no-choice deal and are made up of three courses of fancy takes on comfort food that’ll leave you in a perfect snoozy haze. (Line up ‘Home Alone’ for after.) In my box I got a thick, creamy bramley apple soup with moreish cheese scones to start. Then a flaky pie filled with tender chicken and more creamy stuff (served with all kinds of posh restaurant veg) and a salty-and-sweet sticky toffee pudding. It’s all packaged in heat-in-the-bag plastic pouches or oven-friendly foil tins so you barely have to dirty a pan. And the instructions are super-easy to follow too. (My only challenge was telling the mash and the soup apart, but that’s because I’m an idiot.) Most importantly: it’s pretty affordable compared to loads of other meal kits – £35 for two – and it’s all wildly delicious. Did I find myself standing alone in the kitchen scraping the last bits of sticky toffee off the foil case while no one was looking? Yes, maybe I did. Kate Lloyd

EDITOR’S NOTE: These boxes were on pause in the depths of winter, but after the release of a special Valentine’s box in you can expect their return soon. 

We plumped for the potato dumpling prawn butter starter (£7) and a trout main course (£12). This is top-notch restaurant food, focusing on simple dishes that owe their deliciousness to fresh, high-quality ingredients.

Instructions were easy to follow, even when it required an all-four-hobs cooker situation to prepare the starter and main simultaneously (I refuse to cook myself dinner twice). For dessert, eton mess (£6). As teeth-rattlingly sweet as you’d expect. Joe Mackertich

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You can't really go wrong with a very high quality steak, so the Bavette number from The Tramshed Project was always going to be a win. Costing £25 for two, it contains four primo steaks to grill and a rich homemade peppercorn sauce to go with them. The instructions are super detailed so you don't need to worry about over or under cooking your beef. (The only mistake I made was not reading the instructions early enough as you are supposed to leave the steaks out of the fridge for an hour before cooking). There's a whole range of small plate sides to order alongside your meet. I loved the sticky heritage carrots with cauliflower cream and pistachio dukkah and the winter tomato salad is also fresh and tasty. 

Since staying in is the new going out, the retro dinner party is also having a moment. What could suit the occasion better than a kitsch ‘fondue-it-yourself’ kit from Camden’s fromage-loving restaurant (£28 for two)?

It comes with a coolea and kingham cheese mix ready to melt, plus dippables: potatoes, cornichons and crusty bread. But who’s to say you can’t get inventive with the contents of your lockdown larder?

You can also order shots of cherry kirsch liqueur and a crisp alpine wine, in case fondue is more about après-ski for you. It makes a cosy event out of staying in, although admittedly, not one best suited to a sticky summer day in your flat. Laura Richards

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I have eaten a lot of meal kits over the past year, and this has just taken the top spot for me. In it are the ingredients you need to make chicken bao and rice wraps. The flavours are fresh. It doesn't leave you so full that you can barely roll yourself into bed, but it is more than enough food. And, the process of putting it all together is slightly more challenging than that of other meal kits. It feels like you're actually cooking. 

You pan fry and then roast the Chicken 1, while also prepping some aromats and pickles. Then you brush rice wraps with turmeric water and roll them up with all the ingredients inside. Then for Chicken 2, you breadcrumb it, bake it, prep some veg and more pickles and steam your buns. (Warning: you will need a steamer or microwave for that.) By the end? You feel like you've earned your dinner. And it's a very good dinner indeed. Kate Lloyd 

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