Lucie Loves… Food // How I hired my own private chef without winning the lottery with La Belle Assiette
Anyone who lives in London will agree that – after your rent or mortgage – the thing you end up spending most of your money on is food. I’ll give you an example of a leaving dinner we went out for recently, to say farewell to one of our besties, Roz – you all know Roz, if you don’t you need to read her guest blog posts, she’s hilarious! Anyway, Roz has left me. When I say me, I actually mean all of her UK friends (particularly those residing in London) but I couldn’t help but feel a personal loss, saying goodbye to one of my best friends in the whole entire world – as she embarked upon her new Sex and the City style life in New York, with her high flying job promotion. With London life soon behind her, we thought it only right to go out for a meal, in central London.
Herein lies the issue. Have you ever tried herding cats? Well, try to organise a restaurant for 8 people, who all have different tastes and dietary requirements, and you’ll soon get the idea. It’s difficult. We ended up settling on Bone Daddies Ramen Noodle House. Thinking: “Yeah, nooodles… that’ll be cheap-ish!“ Alas!
After a majority vote, it was decided that we would order the set menu… but it turns out that you can ONLY order the set menu if 8 out of 8 of you are having it… not 7 out of 8. And so, £240 later, we’d committed to £30pp and waited as plate after plate of food was delivered to our table. The service was unenthusiastic, often slow and the food was no better than I’d have had if I’d paid half the price down the road in China Town. I was disappointed. When the bill came, and we ended up paying £50pp, I was mortified and felt thoroughly ripped off. We’re never doing that again.
You might be wondering why I’m ranting like this. Well, there’s a good reason for it. As it happens, you can actually hire a private chef in London, and have them come to your home and cook a dinner for you and your guests.
Not only do they give you a choice of menus, they also buy the ingredients, prep and cook the food, serve it AND wash up. It’s bloody marvellous. But do you know what the best thing is about it? It costs from just £39pp to experience it. It’s incredible value for money. Ok, so the cost of drinks is obviously on top of that – and you can choose whether you splash out on fine wine, or get your guests to bring it. It just shows that there’s a really good alternative to dining out in central London.
Our chef, Neal Otter, was warm, well-mannered and a great person to entertain us with his tales of cooking over years gone by. As we found out later, he’s also a dab hand at mixology, so if you’re not really much of wine or beer drinker, and want your chef to make recommendations regarding drinks pairings for your meal, then speak up! You’ll be amazed at what they know.
This is the second review dinner that I’ve done for La Belle Assiette. It’s all part of the process when a new chef joins them. They must prove themselves, and cook for a minimum of 6 guests, in order to meet the La Belle Assiette standards and get on their books. The only great hardship for me was trying to whittle down my guest list, gathering email addresses (La Belle Assiette sends out the invites) and then dragging my dining table into the middle of my living room, so that we had enough space to seat everyone.
It was a wonderful evening. We savoured twists on dishes that we’d never tried before, and enjoyed a four course meal at our own pace. That’s the beauty of hosting at your own home – everyone comes to you! It’s highly recommended if you have children and don’t want to have to get a babysitter – or maybe you just cant be faffed travelling or finding parking.
Chef Neal Otter’s La Belle Assiette Menu
Watermelon, avocado and crab stack with a toasted sesame and wasabi dressing and micro coriander
Vennison carpaccio with rocket, parmesan, caramelised figs and an asian pesto
Roasted monkfish wrapped in Parma ham with butternut squash puree, samphire, new potatoes and a caper beurre blanc
Summer fruit mille feuille with fruit coulis and a spiced rum salted caramel