Meal Box review: Dazzling food, a spectacular two Michelin star experience at home

Jordan Bailey has pulled off a meal kit that recreates his Michelin menu

Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Aimsir

Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Aimsir

 

I talked last week about how I needed a kitchen porter. This week, I fear it is a sous chef. An at-home meal kit that includes tweezers, an oyster knife and two piping bags is, to say the least, somewhat unusual. So, yes, the Aimsir-at-home meal kit involves work. Meticulous work. And money, the price at €210 is stratospheric. But if the idea of being let loose in a two Michelin star kitchen fills you with glee, this is gastro heaven.

Let us start with the first amuse bouche, puffed fish skin, a delicious morsel that I have eaten in Aimsir. Piping bags that contain creamy smoked cod’s roe and intense chive emulsion are snipped, pea-size dots are piped in alternating rows, the Aimsir-branded tweezers is used to place small fronds of fennel on each dot, “standing up slightly”, and it is finished by artfully positioning elderberry capers on this beautiful tableau.

Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Corinna Hardgrave
Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Corinna Hardgrave
Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Aimsir
Puffed fish skin amuse bouche. Photograph: Aimsir

It’s one fabulous bite. A crunch of crispy skin; the assertive cod’s roe balanced with the intensity of the chive, the grassy wisp of fennel with a touch of anise, the capers adding a vinegary kick.

This is pretty much how each dish works. Pristine ingredients, cleverly balanced with transcendent flavours and textures, each one requiring quite a bit of work, guided by videos from Jordan Bailey, the head chef.

An oyster knife and instructions on how to shuck an oyster are provided and the oyster is finished with warm koji butter and apple vinegar, uniting the flavours of sea and earth.

Pollack with mussel cream sauce with horseradish pearls and dill oil. Photograph: Aimsir
Pollack with mussel cream sauce with horseradish pearls and dill oil. Photograph: Aimsir
Pollack with mussel cream sauce with horseradish pearls and dill oil. Photograph: Corinna Hardgrave
Pollack with mussel cream sauce with horseradish pearls and dill oil. Photograph: Corinna Hardgrave

Soda bread comes with the most divine cultured butter, and the fish course, which requires steaming, is finished with a breathtaking mussel cream sauce with horseradish pearls and split with a dill oil. It’s the most wonderful foil for pollack, a fish that I know comes with a bagful of sustainable credentials, but one that is just too fishy and firm for me.

Wild Co Clare deer finished with a smoked butter and pine needles, and served with artichoke puree, crispy onions, chickweed, and a deer sauce. Photograph: Corinna Hardgrave
Wild Co Clare deer finished with a smoked butter and pine needles, and served with artichoke puree, crispy onions, chickweed, and a deer sauce. Photograph: Aimsir
Wild Co Clare deer finished with a smoked butter and pine needles, and served with artichoke puree, crispy onions, chickweed, and a deer sauce. Photograph: Aimsir

Wild Co Clare deer has been pre-cooked sous vide – an admirable use for a technique I hate to see in a restaurant – to be then seared on the pan with a smoked oil, finished with a smoked butter and pine needles, and served with artichoke puree, crispy onions, chickweed, and a deer sauce. The sauce is refined, pure, concentrated, yet not the least bit sticky; it leaves you puzzling at how so much complexity can go into one ambrosial sauce.

The cheese, a semi-circle of Ballylisk Triple Rose, is warmed through using a George Foreman grill, or, for most of us, a frying pan. So, you get mild, lactic cheese, that is just starting to melt, which is piled onto seedy stone-age bread, and drizzled with native black bee honey, using a sprig of lavender.

Dessert is heavenly. It’s a take on tarte tatin. Ribbons of apple are wound into an oval, and the restrained, quince caramel allows a delicious acidity to ring through. An oval of puff pastry on top provides crunch, and a perfect crème Anglaise is poured on the plate. Little sticks of Ballyhubbock raw sheep milk fudge bring this magnificent meal to an end.

Jordan Bailey has pulled off the seemingly impossible. These dishes are a true reflection of the dazzling food you get in Aimsir. Entrusting the finishing of these dishes to the unskilled is a huge act of faith, but the directions and videos ensure that it is absolutely achievable.

However, your degree of satisfaction does depend on what you’re looking for in a meal kit. The wonderful service at Aimsir is so much part of the pleasure in dining there, and assembling these dishes yourself is a different experience. If you have longed to work in a top-end kitchen, you will get a huge kick out of this. But if you want to enjoy it as the spectacular dinner that it is, delegate the preparation to someone else who clearly loves you dearly.

An eight-course dinner for two was €200

  • Where does it come from: Aimsir, Cliff at Lyons, Lyons Road, Kearneystown Lower, Celbridge, Co Kildare, W23 H3NP, aimsir.ie
  • The verdict: 9/10 Anyone who has longed to work in a top kitchen will be totally in love with this meal kit
  • Difficulty factor: Not for the fair weather cook, this is a load of work, but it’s worth it
  • Food provenance: Impeccable
  • Vegetarian options: Not available, just one option on the meal kit
  • Delivery: Click and collect at Aimsir, on Saturday, or delivery for €10 (“to all of Dublin and some towns close to the restaurant including Naas, Sallins, Newbridge and Celbridge”, according to Aimsir general manager Majken Bech Bailey.)

Valentine’s Three to Try

Kelly Oysters
Galway, order online, national delivery and click and collect, Tuesday to Friday, kellyoysters.com
Kelly’s wild native oysters are, in my opinion, the best in the country, so whether you buy into the aphrodisiac thing or not, their Wild Atlantic Medley would be stunning for Valentine’s Day. You get 25 wild native oysters, 2 x 1kg packs of Kelly’s blue mussels, and 1kg of Kelly’s wild surf clams, €48 plus €10 delivery.

Sustainable Seafood
Dublin, order online, Dublin delivery February 11th and 12th or collection at SSI, February 13th, sustainableseafood.ie
If you want to splash out in a big way, Niall Sabongi has the ultimate seafood supper for €180. Get out the mother of pearl spoon for the caviar, as well as oysters, and follow with halibut and lobster en croute with Champagne butter. And, as it’s Valentine’s Day, finish with Irish handmade chocolates.

Food by Sally Ann
Dublin 1, order online, deliveries Dublin and surrounding counties, Monday to Saturday, sallyann.ie
The Valentine’s dinner from highly rated caterer Sallyann Luykx (€45 per person) starts with a celebratory cocktail, a white peach Bellini; followed by coquilles St Jacques, or heritage tomatoes with goat’s cheese; duck breast or roast cod for main course; and a dessert of Valrhona chocolate mousse, finishing with petits fours.

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