On one of the last hen dos I went on (I go on a lot of hen dos), the girls organised a caterer to come in and cook us dinner. It was a great idea. It cost no more per head than all going out for a meal, but meant that we didn't have to leave the house AND that none of us had to miss out on the fun while slaving over a hot stove. They even tidied up for us! "That's a tip to store away for the future," I thought. And it's the perfect way to introduce La Belle Assiette, who offer that very service.
They invited me to a dinner recently to celebrate adding their 100th chef to their London service (and what a chef!). Their website is really easy to use - you just pop in your postcode, the number of guests you're planning to have and the date and time of your event and they let you know what's available. They're not just London-based, either - there are 551 chefs throughout the UK, so you're in with a good chance of finding someone to cater your event. Prices are around £35/45 per person, depending on who you choose and what they serve, and you get to tailor your menus to your tastes. They'll also cater for people with extra dietary requirements, but I'll get to that.
So here was our menu:
Our chef, Miguel Mesquita, told us afterwards that he deliberately keeps it simple because he wants people to be surprised as it adds more to the experience. I had even more of a surprise, because - being difficult - I'd fed back beforehand that I don't eat seafood or bananas, so I had no clue what I was going to get! I know, this is the second time recently I've had to demand a non-fish-dish, and it makes me feel very fussy. I'm actually not at all - I eat almost everything else, but fish is something that I couldn't even take a bite of to be polite. It can be quite limiting though, and prevents me trying a lot of tasting menus! I also often find people assume it means I'm vegetarian, but luckily Miguel didn't. He's Portuguese, and was keen to show us what really GOOD Portuguese food could be.
The Amuse Bouche was a little pot of pea and truffle mousse. It was incredible. Truffle can be quite a strong flavour, but it complemented the sweet pea taste perfectly. It was served with a plate of toast, which sounds a little dull, but this had been drizzled with olive oil and sea salt and was incredibly moreish. Must try that at home!
Our starter was Beef and Saba. The beef was served tartare style, so completely raw, topped with a parmesan crisp. Saba is a grape reduction, cooked for hours until liquid and incredibly sweet. By itself, it may have been too sweet, but combined with the beef and the parmesan, the flavours harmonised and zinged. Most pretentious thing I've ever written? Probably.
The main was Octopus and Chorizo. lt looked BEAUTIFUL. And this is from someone who loathes octopus - more than any other fish, actually, because the sight of it is so gross to me. Also that one scene in Oldboy. That'd put anyone off.
I had pork, served in the same way - on a bed of garlic and rosemary scented kale and punched potatoes, with a scattering of chorizo niblets. It was incredible, the best pork I've ever tasted (which led to many lewd replies to this tweet). Miguel served it slightly rare in the middle, which I've never had before. I didn't actually realise you could serve pork rare. I'm not sure I'd try it at home - he said it was quite a specific point just before it's done, so it was slightly pink in the middle. But it made it incredibly moist and so flavoursome. Pork can so often be really bland, but this was off the charts in terms of flavour.
Dessert was banana cheesecake for most people, but Miss 'I'm not fussy, honest' struck again so I got an orange puddding, served on a cheesecake-style crust (I couldn't get enough of those buttery bits of biscuit). It was yummy - so yummy that everyone around the table wanted to try some. Luckily, Miguel made extra, as I really wasn't keen on sharing!
The meal was served alongside some great wines which were selected by My Sommelier - champagne to start (Grand Cru Blanc de Blanc NV Cuvee), then white wine (Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 2012 - Maison Champy) and finally red wine with the main (Cotes du Rhone "Terre de Fruits" 2013).
Miguel put on an amazing evening, and when we quizzed him afterwards found out that he trained at the Cordon Bleu and won a cooking show back in Portugal (Guerra dos Pratos) which spurred him to leave his job as an industrial engineer and follow his love of cooking. He obviously loves what he does and he's incredibly good at it. It was also really nice to meet some new bloggers - at the food events I've been to, it seems to be a different crowd every time, which is a lot of fun.
If you'd like to try out La Belle Assiette - and you should - you can get £30 off with the code LOVEFOOD15.