Restaurant reviewer Simon Carlo tried out the best out there (Image: Simon Carlo)

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With the coronavirus lockdown dragging on into 2021, it feels like a lifetime ago that we were able to sit down in a restaurant.

Instead of tucking into our favourite chef-created meals, many of us are stuck in a rut of uninspiring home-cooked food.

But there is hope out there – in the form of ‘at home’ boxes prepared by the UK’s top chefs and restaurants.

It has become a boom industry for struggling hospitality businesses – and a god-send for people craving top-notch food.

The boxes contain high quality meals that can be delivered nationwide and then prepared in the comfort of your own home.

They need various levels of competency to finish them off to the required restaurant standard.

But whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just fancy a decent meal, they beat beans on toast hands down.

We set restaurant reviewer Simon Carlo, who runs the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Meat and One Veg blog, the challenge of picking the best at-home meals currently out there.

Below you can find a lowdown on what’s on offer and how much work is needed to turn your home into your favourite restaurant.

Peels on Wheels by Hampton Manor, 3 courses for £45 per person

This is a user friendly version of Hampton Manor's menu
(Image: Simon Carlo)

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Warwickshire's Hampton Manor have developed a user-friendly version of their Michelin starred Peels restaurant.

The three courses come complete with sourdough loaf and amuse bouche, and it's all very easy to plate-up, from starters of cured salmon with buttermilk dressing to a lamb shoulder main which needed just fifteen minutes in an oven to heat up.

All meals come with full instructions, and those wanting presentation tips can scan a QR code to watch owner James in action.

Want a drink? They have you covered with optional cocktails and/or natural wines from their award winning drinks list.

Some of the very best food I've eaten all lockdown has come from here.

Gauthier, £75 for four people

Chef Alexis Gauthier turned vegan many years ago, and whilst his Soho restaurant continues to serve meat, it is his plant-based cooking that continues to gain plaudits.

This all-vegan box contains a lot of food; essentially a tasting menu for four people, it's arguably best split up into many meals.

Courses require minimal preparation, mostly either served straight from the packaging or gently reheated.

I loved the aubergine and pumpkin Thai red curry, whilst the rum and pineapple financier dessert was the stuff of dreams.

For anyone looking to move towards a more plant based lifestyle, this is a great introduction.

Rudy's Pizza, £6.90-£7.90 per pizza

If you fancy a pizza Rudy's can help
(Image: Simon Carlo)

Whilst not quite the quality of the Neapolitan style pizza that Rudy’s serve from their stone ovens, this is a very good pizza at not much more than a supermarket price-point.

Arriving vacuum sealed and par cooked, they can be cooked straight away or frozen for later.

The sourdough pizzas needed a minute or two longer than the instructions say, with the first attempts a little doughy and underdone. Having ordered several, my personal favourites are the Calabrese with spicy 'nduja, and the vegan Ortolana with butternut squash, pine nuts, and red onion.



Ynyshir, £120 for two people

Presently occupying 5th place in the Good Food Guide and with a Michelin star to boot, Gareth Ward’s cooking is some of the hottest in demand across the UK.

This is a more wholesome experience than the twenty or so courses he usually serves in the restaurant, with flatbreads followed by the flavour bomb of chilli crab and deep fried bun.

The sharing main of lamb requires some simple cooking in the oven, though is a substantial leg joint which provides plenty of leftovers.

Sticky toffee pudding is a super-sized portion of the restaurant dish.

Exceptional from start to finish.

Aktar at Home, £70 for a box containing 10 curries, breads, and sides

The Aktar box is a feast
(Image: Simon Carlo)

Maybe the best value box to be had anywhere in the country.

The curry box from Michelin-starred chef Aktar Islam is a substantial feed of ten homestyle curries and sides from the sub continent.

Easily reheated in a pan, the quality of spicing is exactly what you’d expect from the Great British Menu winner.

The vegetable dishes are just as strong the meat and fish dishes, with a chickpea, sweet corn and pea curry up there with the best meals I ate during the last lockdown.

The greediest of couples would struggle to get this done in two meals, whilst most will stretch it out over four.


Bleecker Burger, from £21 for 4 burgers

Bleecker Burger has its own at home offering
(Image: Simon Carlo)

London burger dons Bleecker are up there in my top three burgers in the country – the Meatshack and Flying Cows are the other two, if you’re wondering.

The D.I.Y. kits come with instructions but will require pan-frying from raw; great if you know what you’re doing, but maybe one to avoid if your kitchen skills aren’t up to scratch.

When cooked properly the results are close to what is a really great burger from one of the very best.

Fazenda, £80 for 2-3 people

If meat is your thing Fazenda is the box for you
(Image: Simon Carlo)

If meat is your thing, call off the search, this is the box for you.

Containing four generous cuts of raw meat with instructions on how to best cook them as well as carve, this is a fun way to experience rodizio style dining with minimal prep (the meats are mostly grilled).

Sides include charcuterie, potato Anna and olives, whilst dessert comes in the way of chocolate and hazelnut churros.

Unlike other boxes, this comes with a bottle of good Malbec included in the price, meaning the temptation to upgrade the box to wagyu beef is all too real.

Northcote, £105 for two people

Northcote is a four course feast
(Image: xxxxxxxxxxx)

A four-course feast from Michelin-starred Northcote, with bread and fancy chocolates included to soften the dent in the wallet.

This isn’t one for incompetent cooks; the menu requires planning to serve as one meal, with the oven temperatures changing and some courses requiring multiple heating methods at once.

The results are unquestionably worth it; a cod curry with pomegranate is brilliant, as was roast chicken with truffle and brioche crust.

The show stopper is a faux apple cheesecake with a shell of white chocolate and salted caramel sauce. Stunning.