If you like your food, and tend to mark special occasions with the good-in-the-moment splurge of a good restaurant, then what the hell do you do when restaurants are closed, and likely to remain so for some time?
The answer lies in meal kits, but then you did not need me to tell you that. We were late out of the starting blocks for New Year’s Eve, as all limited release meal kits, the kind that are released by well-known chefs or their kitchens, were sold out come Twixmas. We did however get our hands on a tasty sounding ‘make your own’ sushi kit via Roka, which we had delivered along with some other dishes off their menu. We were a lot more organised for Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. ‘Love Day’, as it’s our anniversary too), ordering the ‘Jason Atherton at Home for Valentine’s Day’ kit. With both experiences, the principal fear was screwing up the execution, as the culinary balls are in your court. Meal kits, especially ones from well-known restaurants and names, are not cheap. We envisioned evenings of way too much alcohol, mistimed roasting or badly rolled sushi crumbling into our laps.
New Year’s Eve by Roka was of mixed success, but not in the manner I predicted. Roka’s part in our chilled evening in was flawless, kicking off with the box of sushi and food being delivered in an S-Class by man in a suit and chauffeur’s cap. An instructional Instagram video was helpful, if a little brief, necessitating us to rewind it with fingers stickied from handling sushi rice. After about forty-five minutes, we had prepared two platefuls of maki that looked a little bit hand-knitted but for all intents and purposes were, in terms of taste, balance and appearance… sushi! We chinked our champagne flutes in glee.
Starting well, the evening descended into yet another debacle involving the phrase “eyes bigger than our stomachs”. You see, either out of indecisiveness or fear of fudging up our sushi, we also ordered some ready-prepared soft-shell crab maki, kimchi fried rice, Japanese fried chicken, spicy soybeans, a wagyu burger and a huge lump of sticky toffee pudding. Having devoured a large part of our sushi and feeling stuffed by seven in the evening, we could have done without pretty much everything else, no atter how delicious it all was (even callously reheated in the microwave, wagyu burger was mind blowing). We “mmmned” and “aahhhed” through mouthfuls of the most moreish fried chicken the world has even laid witness to; like the perfect chocolate truffle, crunchy on the outside and silky-smooth inside. The prepared maki were joyous, but we both agreed, in the same fashion of doting parents, that our own attempts were better.
The combination of increasingly heavy food and a shedload of sparkling wine (including sparking sake) was too much, and by midnight I was almost comatose on the sofa trying to remember how to breathe. The European, having leaned more on the soybeans and less on the burger, fared better, trying to drag me onto my feet to watch all the fireworks of East London light up the Thames, from North Greenwich to Beckton. A considerable amount of sushi and sticky toffee pudding was kept for an indulgent New Year’s Day brunch, which turned out to be the only meal we needed all day.
After this pantomime, it took me at least six weeks to muster up the courage to eat sushi again.
Part two here…