This week I have stepped into a new era of the ready meal. It is the exclusive, top end ready meal. To seek out this gem it wasn’t a matter of trotting to Asda and scouring the shelves in the hope I’d find some Bruce Forsyth cornflakes or David Beckham beans, this required a special trip to Harrods. Michael Caines is Harrod’s current chef of the season and as such has created a range of restaurant looking dishes to enjoy in the pleasure of your own home.
Michael Caines is the chef behind the two starred Gidleigh Park in Devon, he also has a hand in Bath Priory and oversees the restaurants in Abode hotels. I haven’t made it to Gidleigh Park yet, but have had a lovely time in Bath Priory and Abode Exeter and so was quite excited to find the Harrod’s range.
The dishes look amazing and not like any ready meal I’ve ever seen before. They really are Michelin dishes ready for the microwave, except that if you put any of them in the microwave they would be destroyed. There’s a spectacular looking bouillabaisse that comes in at £12.95 and a rack of herb crusted lamb for £14.95, there’s a more reasonable chicken dish (I can’t remember exactly what) for £7.95, but I went in at the lower end of the market and got a starter dish of goats cheese mousse with hazelnuts for £3.95 and an apple tart for £4.95 (review to come). As you can see, they aren’t cheap dishes, but then they are exclusive to Harrods so you wouldn’t expect them to be.
I carried the dishes home with great care so as to maintain their presentation – part of the fun of a dish like this is the delusion that you’re eating restaurant food in your own house, however ridiculous that is.
I plunged my spoon in and scooped up some mousse. It was light and whipped, but not particularly moussey, it fell somewhere between yoghurt and thick cream in consistency. There was a strange bitterness to the mousse which contained chunks of apple that were 100% free of flavour – they were just pieces of crunch, in fact I’m only saying it was apple because that’s what my girlfriend said it was, I wouldn’t have known. The real star of the dish was the hazelnuts, they were delicious and creamy and the perfect addition. Overall the dish was surprisingly dull, it lacked depth and complexity. When a dish looks as exciting as this, it’s such a shame that the flavour doesn’t match it.
If this was a dish being sold in Sainsbury’s created by Gary Barlow or someone I’d probably have been a lot more forgiving, but the fact is, it is being marketed as a Michael Caines dish in the poshest shop in the country so it therefore should be judged on those terms. If it had been served up at Gidleigh Park as an amuse bouche I’d have been disappointed and I’m equally disappointed when it is served up it my own home.
Michael you’ve created a thing of beauty, but sadly there’s no substance to back it up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the apple tart though. Watch this space…
Michael Caines Goats Cheese Mousse with Hazelnuts £3.95