Meal Box Review: A live fire barbecue with zero graft
A barbecue dinner with 90 per cent of the work done and all the flavour you could want
Spatchcock chicken, charred and smothered in piri piri spices, pickled red onions, carrots and fennel, ember-baked beetroots and chocolate and peanut tart are among the dishes from Mister S’s meal kit
You know the joke about how to defuse a bomb? “Cut the red wire.” Snip. “But first . . .”
Yikes. I’ve followed my meal kit instructions dutifully, only to discover that I should have cut the chocolate and peanut tart with a hot knife while it was still chilled. But that’s the last instruction on the sheet and I am only at step one: “Remove all items from the fridge two hours before eating.”
It is, however, the only misstep in a particularly well-designed meal kit that has colour-coded, fully compostable packaging (with the exception of a tinfoil tray), exquisitely-sourced produce and the all-important spark that comes with cooking over live fire. A QR code on the box directs me to the instructions, no unnecessary printing required, or you can download the emailed PDF. Hurrah for the planet.
The spatchcock chicken is a well-raised, organic bird from Rings Farm in Kilkenny, charred and smothered in piri piri spices
Anyone who has eaten in Mister S, back in the day, will know that it is hipster central. Thumping music, filament bulbs, furniture made from salvaged wood, and charred chunks of food from the custom-made live fire grill, dished up on colourful plates. So, when the food is laid bare in a meal kit with no backing track, it had better sing.
Cue the greatest hits, starting with burnt-end rendang encased in two substantial nuggets of breadcrumbs. Reheated in the oven for 12 minutes, they have all the complexity of beef that has been brined, barbecued slowly, shredded and mixed with Malaysian spice, and are given a little bit of heat when dipped into the gochujang mayo.
For our second starter, chunks of room-temperature, ember-baked beetroots find themselves in the viral company of feta cheese, doing quite a bit more to show its potential than any TikTok pasta recipe will, with sweet, smoky notes and a hint of orange zest. A generous dusting of toasted, lightly sugared hazelnuts and almonds is sprinkled over and do the all-important textural thing. It sounds simple, but somehow I don’t think I could quite pull this off on my own.
I always find the cartoonish appearance of spatchcock chicken a little alarming, it looks like it wants to get up and run away. Here it’s a well-raised, organic bird from Rings Farm in Kilkenny, charred and smothered in piri piri spices. As it has already had its skirmish with the embers, it just needs to be finished in the oven. This is an approach that works incredibly well. Hot spices tinged with smoke reverberate around every part of your mouth.
The side dish of smoky peppers from the grill is there to soothe and restore the equilibrium, the caponata-like dressing of capers and herbs adds freshness, as do the pickled red onions, carrots and fennel, and a slick of lime-infused oil on yoghurt.
The potatoes, another Mister S blockbuster, which spend 10 minutes in the oven, are full of jagged crispy bits begging to be dipped into the brown butter aioli.
This is a barbecue dinner where 90 per cent of the work is already done. As well as chicken, there are porchetta, ribeye and monkfish options. It requires a minimum amount of assembly and some time in the oven. If this makes you feel like a fraud, by all means fire up the coals. I’m sure the piri piri chicken would reheat quite happily over indirect heat. But it has got all the flavour, so there’s no need to.
As for the chocolate and peanut tart, while it wouldn’t win prizes for presentation on MasterChef after my bungling the room-temperature slicing, it was fittingly indulgent. A creamy mousse, chocolate ganache and roasted peanuts on a crispy base. Very millennial, my Gen-Z 19 year old tells me. Which maybe means that it’s rich. I don’t know. But you may want to save this slice of deliciousness for another day.
Dinner for two was €54.
Where does it come from: Mister S, 32 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2; misters.ie
Difficulty factor: It’s a doddle, just a bit of reheating for vibrant barbecue flavours
Food provenance: Local, top-quality producers are at the heart of the ethos here
Vegetarian options: None available
Delivery: Click and collect, delivery, Friday and Saturday, anywhere in Dublin
THE VERDICT: 8.5/10 Live fire flavours with none of the graft
Three to Try
Dublin 2; phone and collect on Friday and Saturday, delivery within 10km radius of Pembroke Street or Monkstown restaurants; fxbuckley.ie
Among the seriously good FXB prepared meals you can buy is the Porterhouse kit for two (€60), which includes a sizeable T-bone, pepper sauce, onions, mushrooms, creamed spinach and oven-baked chips. Follow the instructions and get a perfect result from the oven, or cook it on the grill. Dessert is chocolate fondant.
Dublin 2; click and collect or delivery for €4.95 from Thursday to Saturday in Dublin, Kildare and Meath; bbqinabox.ie
Barbecue kits start at €39.99 for two to three people and include smoked brisket, North Carolina pulled pork and baby back ribs, as well as smoked pitt beans, corn on the cob, slaw and buns. The meat just needs to be reheated in a hot oven. Order before 9pm for next-day delivery.
Dublin 8; click and collect, Thursday to Saturday; €7.50 delivery nationwide, Thursday and Friday; bastebbq.com
Andy Noonan’s range of barbecue kits, which are sold cold, include a lazy day pulled pork nacho kit (€17.50) and a free-range chicken burger kit (€35). He’s continuing with his hot takeaway, which can be ordered online. Menus and delivery options change regularly so check for updates.