I’ve got a serious case of chef anxiety. I can cook perfectly for myself but, as soon as somebody else enters the equation, my dishes are better off in the dustbin.
When serving others, I have burned soup, created an unidentifiable slop meant to be lasagne not dissimilar to the meals in Orange is The New Black and I regularly pass off store-bought gnocchi for my own.
But here’s my predicament: I actually adore hosting dinner parties, but my food leaves a lot to be desired.
Enter… La Belle Assiette.
La Belle Assiette is a private chef directory of more than 550 across the UK. The service aims to bring a swanky restaurant experience into the comfort of your own home.
It is simple to use: visit the website, select a menu designed by a local chef and book the date. You invite guests via email and can even split the bill in advance.
You even get individual menus
Your personal chef buys fresh ingredients, prepares your meal, acts as waiter for the evening, and cleans up after. The DREAM.
So when La Belle Assiette asked if we would test out Michael Clay in Manchester for a validation dinner, I was delighted. Surely, with the cooking out of the way, I could be the ultimate hostess? (Spoiler: not quite).
Michael called me in advance of the party and asked questions about the meal – any dietary requirements, how spicy do I like my food and did I have a chopping board?
And, in turn, I raised my concerns about my minuscule kitchen (it’s a two bed flat with an oven and hob – we don’t even have a masher). He reassured me he could prepare lots beforehand and bring utensils… unfortunately, I still ran out of plates.
I was completely reassured about the cooking but I still had to fit seven guests into my flat and I didn’t have a dinner table. One friend brought desk chairs and a table and, with the help of table cloth and a little imagination, we managed to create a passable dining room.
Of course, by the time this was done, Michael had arrived to prepare the meal. I, of course, had 3-day-old hair and my dressing gown on and had to sprint into the shower to get ready.
Meanwhile, my guests arrived and Michael served as a host while I readied myself. Even without the cooking, I was late.
Anyway, here’s a low down of the food:
The Starter: Thai fried chicken wings with galangal, chilli and coriander root
These were heavenly. Just the right amount of crunch before getting into the bone and the chilli sauce complimented the wings perfectly. Michael served the sauce in bowls he bought in Thailand, to add an extra authentic touch.
The main was served as a mix of three dishes …
Tom Sum with herbs and dried shrimp
I’m not a big fan of spice, but my friends are and they loved this spicy papaya dish.
Beef rendang served with jasmine rice
I can’t fault this one at all. The slow cooked shredded beef in a coconut curry paired perfectly with the sticky jasmine rice.
Morning glory with yellow bean and chilli
It might carry a naughty name buthis was the majority favourite. The stir fry dish was made with Pak Boong (ผักบุ้ง; Water Morning Glory; Water Spinach) and it’s a bit like broccoli but with more flavour. The only problem was everyone wanted more, so we could have had a bigger portion.
Dessert: apple, chilli and palm sugar crumble with ice cream
I’m a sucker for anything sweet so I loved this dish. The crunchy crumble went well with the soft apples and you could really taste the palm sugar. Although I enjoyed the chilli kick, it was a bit overpowering – lots of extra ice cream was needed by all to cleanse our palettes.
Initially I thought the experience – which starts at £39 per head for six or more guests – was a little pricey, but if you compare it to a three course meal at a restaurant +BYOB then it is actually quite reasonable.
I doubt I’ll ever be able to host an stress-free dinner party but La Belle Assiette certainly helped bring some ease, class and edible food to the occasion.
To get £30 off at La Belle Assiette, sign up here.