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Connoisseur Chronicles

Alex

Food blogger based in Cambridge, UK. Passionate about trying out recipes from all over the world, tasting drinks of all sorts and dining out in England and beyond. Read More

Dine at Home: Banquist

While there was a run on cooking boxes in the past few years, the fine-dining sector has long been ignored. Now you can get three-course menus from renowned UK chefs delivered. There are some cooking steps still to be done by you – Banquist boxes are therefore an excellent way to take your cooking skills to the next level. With a price of around £100 for two, the boxes are on the upper scale, but certainly the perfect treat for special occasions. 

 

How it works

Banquist collaborates with top UK chefs who are running prestigious restaurants – many even hold a Michelin star! Every three weeks, a new chef develops a three-course menu, which is available for UK-wide delivery on Fridays, just in time for the weekend. Each hamper comes with top ingredients (carefully insulated with cool packs), some pre-cooked elements, a bottle of wine and detailed cooking instructions, including a video of the chef guiding you through each cooking step. Boxes vary in price, but are usually around £100 for two diners. Sparkling wine and a cheese platter are optional add-ons. Feeling competitive? You can post your food shots on social media and the best plating wins free box for two.

 

How it tastes

Adam Handling Experience

Having visited Adam Handling‘s London restaurant Frog a few months ago, I was incredibly excited to prepare his food at home. When unpacking the box, I was particularly impressed by the size of the beautifully marbled Iberico pork – a very generous portion for two! They even delivered a cute little springform cake tin for the dessert.

Adam Handling Banquist Ingredients

The starter, Lobster Tagliatelle, Micro Coriander & Baby Plum Tomatoes came with a challenge – making tagliatelle without a pasta machine definitely requires some time and effort. The result, however, was very satisfying: The al dente pasta was soaking up the divine sauce from seafood stock. Topped with lobster pieces, fresh baby plum tomatoes and micro coriander, you could probably impress the grumpiest of Italian nonnas.

Lobster Tagliatelle

Next to come was a super tender Iberico Pork Presa with Burnt Cauliflower Purée, Kimchi Emulsion & Togarashi. The roasting aroma from the cauliflower puree went very well with the pork, that was grilled in the pan over high heat and finished off in the oven. The pre-made Kimchi emulsion added freshness and Umami flavour, the Togarashi powder provided an extra pleasing level of spiciness. Not to forget the bottle of Ode d’Aydie Blanc, 2016, included in the box: A wonderfully fresh, yet complex white wine from the lesser-known grapes Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng.

Iberico Pork Cauliflower

As a dessert, Adam provided a French classic: Apple Tarte Tatin with Salted Caramel & Fresh Custard – basically apple tart with a caramelised top that is baked upside down. All I had to do was assembling the apples on a layer of caramel in the baking tin. The melange of sweet apples, caramel and custard was extremely comforting.

Tarte Tatin

I went all-in for my first box and got the optional Cheese Board: Appleby’s Cheshire, Forume d’Ambert, Comté d’Estive. Being quite full after the three-course menu, I was happy to have some cheesy treats on the days after.

Banquist Cheese Board

 

Gareth Ward Experience

While Adam Handling definitely had some fusion elements in his menu, Gareth Ward went really wild with his crossover menu. The Welsh head chef of Michelin-starred Ynishir showcased his unique cooking style, marrying European techniques with Japanese flavours. Looking at the hamper and the ingredients, I was pleased with the quality of the scallops and the Scottish Wagyu beef. Also, this box came with fresh sourdough bread and black garlic butter. They were delicious to munch on while preparing the food. To be honest, I was quite sceptical about a few flavour combinations: Scallops with Curry Ketchup – really?

Gareth Ward Banquist Ingredients

Surprisingly. the starter of Katsu Scallop with Brown Butter Panko & Coriander turned out to be my absolute favourite. The play of different textures and flavours, juicy scallops with crispy panko breadcrumbs with some punchy curry ketchup was pure excitement on the palate.

Katsu Scallop Panko Coriander

Notes of Teriyaki were dominant in the main: Wagyu Steak with Newcastle Brown Ale Glaze, Nori Seaweed & Shiitake Mushroom. Maybe not quite as marbled and unique as Japanese Wagyu, the Scottish version was tender nonetheless and covered with an umami bomb of a sauce: Ale, Miso, Sake, Mirin and Koji (fermented rice), in combination with freshly oven-dried shiitake mushrooms and Nori Seaweed were an effective flavour enhancer. Puffed rice added a fun crispiness, but to avoid it looking like little bugs, I crushed them before sprinkling over the meat. In the cooking instructions, Gareth Ward claimed not to “buy into that bullshit” of wine pairing and encouraged you to “simply get pissed”. Nevertheless, the Donnafugata ‘Sherazade’, 2019, from Marsala, Sicily, was a good match and did its job perfectly!

Wagyu Shitake

The dessert, Poached Bramley Apples with Fresh Custard were very humble and no-fuss. Maybe the simplicity you need after two dishes full of complexity? I couldn’t resist but making a cute apple rose from the leftover apple peel.

Apple Custard

 

Conclusion

Banquist is the meal box that brings you as close as possible to a fine dining restaurant experience during the times of temporary restaurant closures and travel restrictions. If you enjoy cooking, why not transform your dining room into a proper restaurant for one night. ‘Experience’ is the right word for Banquist, as they really do a great job connecting you with the chef behind the food. If I could ask for one more thing, it would be the recipes for the pre-made elements of the box – just in case, you want to cook the menu again on another occasion.

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