I don’t get out much. Oh, apart from my Christmas party in London last Sunday … and dancing in the middle of my local pub last week, but generally, I’m a bit of a homebody. I like the comforts of my home. I like not having to pay £8 for an Aperol Spritz when I can make one at home twice as strong, for 1/16 of the price, but mainly, I like bowling about in my leggings with no make-up on. But my dilemma is, I also like good food, preferably cooked by someone that knows what they’re doing.
But I have a solution and oh … my … god, it is brilliant (if I say so myself). A private dining company called La Belle Assiette got in touch a few months ago and asked if I’d like to try out their services. It would entail a private chef coming round to my house and cooking for myself and five other people and eating glorious food whilst wearing my leggings …. YESSSSS!!
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance, and fixed a date of 2nd December. My thinking was that I would invite my family round (apart from Dad as he’s busy on Saturdays), and it would be my way of ‘cooking’ Christmas dinner for them as I never have. They’ve only ever come round for BBQs before and to be honest, I felt guilty. One of the main problems is the size of my kitchen and dining room table, but I’ll get onto that later.
(All my mis-matched glasses and cheese for later .. that we didn’t eat because we were too full up!)
I was asked what I’d like my chef to cook, and some sample menus were sent. They all sounded lovely so I just chose what I would like to eat (selfish much?) – salmon, beef and Pavlova. I didn’t know what type of meals they’d be, so it was going to be a nice surprise. I had to pay for one extra guest, which cost £59, and although it does sound quite a bit of money, I’m going to explain why it was worth it. The communication with the company was great, everything ran smoothly and we were all set to go.
(My dining table is so small some of the family had to eat sat on the sofa … they look thrilled haha!)
Zara, a private chef from Kent, turned up a little early and was the loveliest lady you could ever meet. She lugged in several big, plastic boxes full of ingredients and some equipment (she used some of mine too – saucepans etc), and set to work. I’d pre-warned her that my rented kitchen was tiny, but she wasn’t phased at all and got straight to work. In fact, I left her to it and popped to the shops to stock up on booze and pre-dinner snacks.
(Strong snack game.)
When I came back an hour or so later, the smells emanating from the kitchen were delicious. My mouth was watering and I couldn’t wait for dinner. But here’s the thing. When you’re used to being the one who cooks all the time, whether you’re single like me, or you are just in charge of cooking at home, it is really weird to have someone else cook for you. I’m only cooked for when Ben comes home from Wiltshire and he wants to show me his new cheffy skills or when I go to my brother’s for Christmas day, so it took a little time for me to relax if I’m honest. But a couple of gins helped! Plus, I’d done that thing I used to do when I had a cleaner … cleaned like a mad woman so a ‘stranger’ wouldn’t think bad of me. So much so, I actually hired a professional oven cleaner that cleaned the oven last month! So I was pretty tired. It was nice to not have to worry about looking after the food, knowing that Zara was completely in control.
(Cheeky Sloe Gin before dinner.)
Let me show you what we ate.
We had an Amuse Bouche to start with – a pumpkin soup (I think) with truffle oil drizzled on top. We then had smoked, roasted salmon, with new potatoes, creme fraiche, horseradish, avocado and cucumber and a balsamic drizzle.
The main course of ‘melt in the mouth’ beef had been cooking for hours and really did … melt in your mouth! Served with carrots slowly cooked in Star Anise (that I haven’t stopped wanging on about ever since), green beans and the crunchiest, crispiest roast potatoes I’ve ever eaten. God it’s making my mouth water just looking at these photos!
The piece de resistance! A magnificent Pavlova full of cream and berries, decorated with edible flowers and drizzled with a fruity sauce. I think you’ll agree it was a showstopper! In fact, it was so big, it fed all seven of us and there’s still a big slice left in the fridge which I may, or may not (I will) have later.
We did encounter a couple of problems. Firstly, my oven broke. The temperature kept dropping to 160 degrees and it was something I noticed had begun happening a week ago but I guess I hoped it would miraculously fix itself. It didn’t, but Zara was a trouper and just worked round it. Secondly, I forgot my niece was a vegetarian. Ooops. Not only that, she doesn’t like eggs and rarely eats vegetables. And I only sprung this on Zara when she dished up the main course and my poor niece reminded me why she couldn’t eat it. I felt so awful. As did Zara, although it wasn’t her fault, of course, it was mine. So I asked my niece if pasta would be OK, found some ingredients in the cupboard and Zara quickly set to work to make her a lovely pasta in tomato sauce. Crisis averted, and everyone was happy.
As I said, it was £59 a head but what I will say is this. That covers all ingredients, for all meals, for all of you. Zara’s professional service and my kitchen has honestly never been as clean as Zara left it, so I’d pay big money for that alone. But in all seriousness, I can’t recommend the concept of private dining enough. How romantic would it be if you wanted to impress someone on a special occasion? (Take note man I’m dating!) Or you have small children and it’s difficult to get a babysitter? Or, like me, you just like the comfort of your own home. It truly was worth every penny.
So another big thank you to Zara, our chef, and to La Belle Assiette for an amazing evening. My family and I went on to finish our drinks in the lounge and watch The Chase, whilst I divvied up some beauty products I’d been sent between my nieces and sister-in-law. A random end to a great night and I just wish I could have the whole evening over again.
If you want to hire a private chef in Kent, then please do contact La Belle Assiette on:
- 020 3318 5003
- Twiter – @LaBelleA_UK