This week Tom tries two British bistro-style feasts with a difference
Gary Usher, chef proprietor of the Elite Group of bistros in the Northwest, recently said that his Elite Bistros At Home ‘absolutely changed my business. Without it, we’d have gone under.’ Which is proof, if proof be needed, that these restaurant kits are no mere fickle flash in the pan. Rather an essential lockdown moneymaker that keeps doors unlocked, salaries paid and the pilot light still flickering away. Just about.
Usher’s Elite Bistros At Home (£12.95 delivery, elitebistros.com) is quietly magnificent. Sure, I’d rather be in Sticky Walnut or Hispi, but this is the next best thing. Braised octopus (£7) comes with great chunks of soft, gently sweet Spanish morcilla, to be plonked (well, we are at home) atop a chickpea stew, rich with red wine and octopus stock. The cooking involves little more than putting cephalopod and blood sausage into the oven, chopping the parsley and heating the stew in a bag. Magic.
Next, spatchcocked Cotswold White chicken (£38 for two), beautifully succulent and tasting of an outdoor life well lived. There’s a slow harissa heat – along with cumin, caraway and a jolt of lemon – in the marinade, and it’s served with creamy butterbeans, warmed in a pan, stained yellow with saffron, and slowly cooked in chicken stock. Plus purple carrots (£3.50) cooked in smoked garlic honey. Restaurant-quality comfort food.
More Northwestern delight from The Parkers Arms (parkersarms.co.uk) in Newton-in-Bowland. I tested their Chinese New Year Box (£65 for two, plus £15 delivery), which is obviously a seasonal special, and no longer available. But worry not, as there’s big talent behind those stoves.
I love their melding of the Lancastrian and Chinese: brown shrimp and spring onion pancakes are more hefty than usual (there’s spud in there), but heavenly, especially when dipped into their addictive ‘spicy home paste’. Then five spice confit short rib, the meat so soft that it can be cut with a finger, infused with ginger and chilli. Plus rice and greens too, and a pair of mighty Chinese egg custard tarts. Just beware boiling too many bags in the same pan. They can stick together and tear. This, though, is serious food. Just like Elite. I can’t wait to get back up North.
Drinks: Olly’s best pink fizz for Mother’s Day
With Mother’s Day next Sunday, there’s a week to plan a treat of pink fizz. Happily, there’s a bottle for every budget. I raise my glass to Laurent-Perrier and Taittinger whose non-vintage sparklers are first rate. Or choose the lesser-known Delamotte Rosé Brut (12%) for £54 from corneyandbarrow.com – sublime from the top Grand Cru level. And while pink Prosecco is fun, the elegance of British bubbly is hard to beat.
WINE OF THE WEEK: HOFFMANN & RATHBONE ROSÉ RÉSERVE 2011, (12%), £43, hoffmannandrathbonestore.co.uk. Rose gold, elegant finesse: this is sheer British brilliance. Cheers, Mum!
M&S PRESTIGE CAVA ROSADO BRUT (12%), £10, also via Ocado. Gorgeous fizz that feels like a fiesta in your face.
BOLLINGER NV ROSÉ (12%), £40, Morrisons. Grab this offer price! Made with over 85 per cent Grand and Premier Crus, it’s world class.
CHARLES HEIDSIECK ROSÉ RÉSERVE (12%), £58, thefinestbubble.com. Next-day delivery for this splendidly silky pink fizz. Worth every penny – go for it!
BOUVET SAUMUR ROSÉ BRUT (12.5%), £13.99, Majestic. Soaring zing, full of fruit, this crémant is a steal at the price.