Muddy review: Ravenous Beasts
Not all food boxes are created equal. Ravenous Beasts in Thame delivers fine-dining three-course meals to your home and they are delicious. Be warned, says Muddy writer Lucy Foster, you may never venture outdoors again.
Lockdown hasn’t delivered an awful lot by the way of positives but there have been some silver linings. Of course, we all welcome the renewed community spirit and the precious months upon end with our families, but what I really want to talk about here is food boxes. More precisely, Ravenous Beasts‘ food boxes. Because they are a game changer.
Ravenous Beasts, based in Thame, is a creation of old friends Scott and Henry, who with a heady combination of classically trained cheffing, food PR, and ad agency experience between them, decided – after a lockdown redundancy – to make a setback an opportunity and start up their own food delivery business. But this is no Deliveroo dupe. Quite the other end of the scale, in fact. These guys want to deliver you the sort of meal you would happily pay over £100 for in a restaurant. This is three-course-meal fine dining on your doorstep. And yes, unless you have a butler on hand – (do you?) – there is an element of DIY with the cooking and plating up, but as we can’t go anywhere anyway, this is about as close to the restaurant experience any of us are going to get until at least April.
I was – perhaps stupidly – expecting just a faceless delivery man to turn up, once I’d been given an hour delivery time slot by founder Scott for the box to arrive. So I was a little flustered to answer the door to Scott himself. Charm personified, with a branded clear face covering, he carefully placed the food box on the floor of my filthy porch, while I, frizzy haired, and dressed in grey tracksuit bottoms and worn-down sheepskin slippers, tried my best to boot my kids back inside. I’ll be honest: I’ve felt more professional in my time. But heigh ho, it’s lockdown. I bet he’s used to it. (He said he was.)
We had a lovely, socially distanced chat about how far they deliver (Oxfordshire and West Bucks), the limited number of boxes they produce a week and how they try to use as much local produce as possible and then off he drove. I was left with a rather tantalising cardboard box, which part of me didn’t want to ruin by opening. But I was starving, so that thought didn’t last long.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
Once the kids were away, the husband and I set about unboxing. All beautifully presented, with branded stickers and tissue paper, it did feel a bit like opening a rather expensive present. All the boxes are clearly marked – starter, main, etc – and the instructions (presented in a Ravenous Beasts envelope, no less) were super easy to follow. Instruction No.1. Preheat oven. Instruction No.2. Lay table. Instruction No.3. Pour wine. I remember thinking that me and this food box are going to get on just fine.
We thought we’d make it as much like a restaurant experience as possible so peeled off the felt-tip-stained table cloth and got our posh placemats out. It sounds silly, but it was all rather lovely. The other half had been dispatched earlier in the day to buy a nice bottle of wine for the occasion so we opened that (as per instructions) and started on our complimentary amuse bouche.
This was salmon and coriander mousse with pickled cucumber and salmon eggs on croutons – three each. They looked amazing (even with our cack-handed plating up skills) and to be honest, I was so excited at this point, I think I just inhaled them along with quite a large glass of wine.
No matter. Lobster bisque with brandy and cream was next and all we had to do was warm it up and not boil it. As I poured it into the pan, you could see the huge chunks of fresh lobster tail in the soup. If you think that’s indulgent, you should taste it. We didn’t speak much during the starter course and you can’t blame us; rich and decadent and probably 1,000 calories but who cares? It was glorious.
So next was the main course, of which we had been provided with two; fillet of beef with truffle and cognac reduction and roast chicken with Sauternes jus. Sides were gratin dauphinoise and french beans with walnut and herb dressing.
“Which main do you want?” asked the husband as we leisurely waited the 25 minutes for the chicken and dauphinoise to cook. I was feeling generous – that might have been the wine – and thinking he’d want the steak, opted for the chicken.
Now, maybe a year eating my kids’ leftover baked beans has dulled my tastebuds but I can’t remember tasting a chicken dish as good as that in my life. The sauce was incredible. Seriously, I would bottle it. And I would have put it in a bottle, if we hadn’t scraped up every last drop. Sweet and rich against the incredibly moist chicken, it was by far the stand-out dish of the lot, which is high praise indeed as it was all beautiful.
The steak too was delicious. Cleverly, I think they sear the steak before boxing it and then the length of time you leave it in the oven decides how it is cooked – we were given various timings for the beef depending on whether we wanted it rare or medium. (NB: you cook the meals in the cardboard boxes and the boxes get insanely hot, so do take care.)
At this juncture, I should mention that the restaurant vibe we were so keen to muster up had been lost as we refused to remove the boxes from the table, so enraptured we were with sticking every last bit of potato and bean in one of the sauces. We’re classy like that.
Anyway, the issue at this point – and isn’t it always – that we were getting a bit full and, as parents of young children, a bit tired. All the wine and excitement early doors had inevitably led to a slump in energy. But help was at hand in the form of dessert: hazelnut and milk chocolate cheesecake.
Individually wrapped in paper, like they’d been picked straight out of an upmarket deli, the smoothness of the cheesecake was perfectly offset by the chunky, fresh nuts on top. It really was perfection. We just sat and grinned at each other (which doesn’t happen very often), delighted with the incredible meal that had been delivered to us in our toddler-decimated kitchen. They even included an after dinner chocolate each but that was just one step too far. We put them in the fridge for the next day and dragged ourselves to bed in readiness for the 6am wake-up. And while I got into bed full and happy, it did strike me that while it’s been a tough 12 months and there haven’t been many perks, this – our Ravenous Beasts night in – was, without doubt, one of them.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Anyone who misses restaurant food. And even when restaurants are back up, it’s a brilliant cost-effective option for parents who can’t go out much anyway or for couples who want a really special night in.
NOT FOR: It is fine dining so you probably wouldn’t order it for a family meal take out. But if you have a butler, maybe you would.
THE DAMAGE: Menus start at £29 per person going up to £44 per person if you order steak. There’s also the option for a cheese course for £9 per person. And you can order wine on the site too that is delivered with the food.
Ravenous Beasts. Tel: 07917 555 792.
Still hungry? Head to our Eat section for more local gastronomic inspiration.