If there’s one thing that I dream about when I win the lottery, it’s having my own private chef cook my favourite meals every day. Notice I say ‘when’ I win – ever the optimist!
I mean, can you imagine finishing work every night and not having to start fishing around in the freezer for something to cook? Instead, you could dine like a queen and have some energy left in the tank to do something else that evening. Result.
Well, little old me actually got a taste of what this would be like when We Dine asked me if I wanted to trial their service in return for my honest opinion. Having just finished six months of chemo, my taste buds were ready to come back fighting and show that they’re still in full-working order.
I loved the concept of We Dine when I first heard about it, and I knew that it was something I’d really appreciate. I also knew that it was something that VIP would be all over; he’s always hankering after going out to nice restaurants and trying something new – and this way, it would be a more relaxed affair.
And my mother? Well, being a northerner she came right out with it: “Will you not feel like a silly bugger sat there while someone cooks for you?”
“Why would I?” I retorted. “VIP cooks for me most nights and I don’t feel like a silly bugger. And besides, I get the best of both worlds – a restaurant quality meal, conversation with my husband PLUS I don't even have to leave my home. If that's not a treat, I don't know what is.”
And this was definitely my kind of treat.
How it all works
With a budget in mind, you register online and, after setting up your profile, you start putting in some details – the sort of food you like, your preferences, any allergies and anything else you can think of relating to food.
So here’s what I wrote for my profile: “I have a huge sweet tooth but I'm on a mission to eat more healthily! Not too fond of spicy food but I'm getting better..!”
After that, you post your request; I asked for “…a nourishing, healthy and comforting eating experience would be awesome. No red meat please and not a fan of spicy food.”
You then complete the details like the date you want a private chef, for how many people, whether you want a buffet or a course, your budget and if you require a ‘basic’ or ‘premium’ service. The former offers shopping, cooking and serving, while the premium service includes the washing up (except the dessert dishes as the chef leaves you to enjoy your last course while they head off). Naturally I opted for the premium service – if I was going to make the most of my own private dining experience it had to include the full works.
And then you sit back and wait for the magic to happen.
After a couple of days I logged back on to check if I had received any responses and there were two waiting for me.
One was from a chef called Anthony who offered a choice of either pan fried scallops, crushed cauliflower and Samphire; Confit duck leg, figs, onion, bok choi, hoisin sauce; or Red onion goat cheese tart for starters.
For the mains I could choose from guinea fowl with Savoy cabbage, Anna potatoes, honey mustard glazed carrots; wild mushrooms and asparagus ravioli; or sea bass with crushed potatoes, asparagus, confit tomatoes and lemon butter sauce.
And the dessert options included apple tartin with ice cream or chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.
The second chef, called Nicusor, offered one food choice for each of the courses – salmon Tataki, marinated basil, mango, avocado, pickled onion and an Asian dressing for starters; Duck leg confit, potato fondant, french style peas, glazed carrots served with a tamarind sauce for the mains; and Spanish style blueberry cheesecake for dessert.
It was incredibly hard choosing between the two chefs; they were clearly very talented and passionate about what they did and I deliberated over my choice for a few days.
In the end, I went back to look at their profiles to help me decide. Nicusor (Nico) hadn’t received as many reviews as Anthony, so that was my deciding factor. I also read that he was a finalist on Masterchef Romania a few years ago, which was the icing on the cake – sorry, couldn’t resist.
There were a few tweaks though that I needed to make to Nico’s menu. I first challenged him to come up with an alternative main meal (just for comparison purposes) – he came up with two alternatives (Braised pork belly, cabbage, broad beans and potato rosti or Pan fried sea bass, buttered mussels, pea purée, beetroot and apple salad served with lemongrass sauce), but I ended up sticking with the duck.
Secondly, I wanted to change the dessert as I wasn’t overly keen on blueberries. I hinted to Nico that I was a fan of traditional English puddings – you know, things like Spotted Dick and custard and Gypsy Tart – trust me!
Nico suggested sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream or apple and plum pie with custard sauce. He had me at Sticky Toffee, so it was decision made.
VIP and I looked forward to our We dine experience all week. It’s all we could chat about; we were mostly excited about having the place to ourselves with no kids and the chance to have a good old chinwag.
Having just finished chemo (and waiting for radiotherapy to start), I was glad of a few things private home dining would offer…
- Not having to leave the warmth of our home to sit in traffic, find somewhere to park then complain that “it’s freezing” every five minutes to dine out
- I wouldn’t have to raise my voice over other diners to be heard (my voice isn’t the strongest or loudest at the mo)
- I could sit inside and wear my comfy clothes – heck, even sit in my dressing gown if I wanted. Just for the record, I didn’t. I put on a smart(ish) top on and wore my Trackie Bs 😉
I felt really sorry for Nico the night he arrived; his journey was severely delayed through no fault of his own due to transport cancellations. But being a professional chef he also had a professional mindset – straighten your jacket and crack on; he only needed a few things pointing out (where our plates, pots and cutlery were), and within a matter of minutes our nostrils were filled with the delights being concocted in the kitchen.
The food (and service)
I have to say right now that although I was anticipating the food to taste great, I didn’t realise how amazing it would actually be. Maybe ‘hunger is the best spice’ rang true for us that night, but all I know is that we delighted in sampling the five-star dining experience in our home, albeit using our plates and cutlery, which felt a bit surreal.
The starter was one of my favourite dishes – Nico had finely diced the peppers and they tasted incredibly sweet. This, combined with the salmon, mango and sweet Asian dressing, meant that it ticked all the boxes. In fact, it was that delicious that I could have had a second helping and gone straight for dessert – I simply didn’t want to stop eating.
We didn’t have to wait long before our main course was ready. But why is it that when professional chefs cook a meal the veggies look different to what you find in a supermarket?
For the main, Nico had produced these wonderful glazed carrots to sit alongside the duck leg confit, potato fondant and french style peas, but the carrots were none like I’ve seen before; small, dark and incredibly sweet. I don’t know where he sourced them, but I want the name of that place.
VIP was suitably impressed with the courses so far; in fact, for fear of missing out on enjoying the dessert because I was too full, I reserved a little of my main meal for VIP, much to his delight. As he loves cooking – and experimenting with cooking – I also think he felt inspired by the dishes we were presented with. I was particularly proud of my starter suggestion of cutting up the peppers into tiny pieces as Nico had done. I wonder if a pepper dicer has been invented yet?
Finally came the dessert – typically my favourite dish of any meal. When it was consumed (gobbled if you were witness to the occasion), the salty edge of the sauce really complimented the sweetness of the pudding. It was a ten out of ten on the score chart for me.
And in terms of the actual service, Nico’s conduct was exemplary. From the little white gloves that he wore to serve us (how cute?), to the fact that he gave a little bow after serving our food; if I didn’t feel like a VIP myself, I did now. It felt strange having someone bow to me; I felt like I didn’t deserve it, but it was lovely to feel like a queen for a couple of hours.
Private dining à la We Dine is a foodie’s dream. I mean, having the option of being connected to over 200 professional chefs and passionate cooks that can make you something in the comfort of your own home is something that we should all have the pleasure of experiencing.
And there are some great reasons we can all find to get We Dine booked in – from having a few friends, colleagues or family members over for a group get-together for the festive season, to a wedding anniversary, milestone birthday, Valentine’s meal, celebratory event… And if you’ve got a foodie friend, vouchers would make an alternative gift.
And the best bit is that you won’t even have to lift a finger when it comes to the shopping, cooking and clearing up.
In terms of prices, we had a higher end chef experience where you can expect to pay around £70 per head. However, prices for a talented chef for group bookings start from around £40-£50 per person. When you work out how much it costs to eat out – and on top of this, either having to get taxis or find and pay for parking and a few rounds of drinks, you can enjoy the whole experience from home for less. It’s great value so a huge win-win in my book.
At the end of our meal I commented to VIP about feeling like a queen and suggested that when we win the lottery, instead of upgrading the house, we could do a few home extension projects and have a private chef on a daily basis for us to enjoy. And despite the fact that VIP enjoys cooking, he agreed with me, which is the biggest testament of all to the wonderful experience we’d just enjoyed.
Well done We Dine – and well done Nico! I have a feeling that’s not the last time I’ll be logging onto the platform.
I received a complimentary experience in return for an honest opinion – and this was as honest as it gets.
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