As the pandemic has continued, many restaurants have had to think of new ways to serve their clientele, keep some revenue coming in and hold onto their staff. In Newcastle, my housemate and I have tried the Sunday lunch offer from two different restaurants – Blackfriars & 21. These are two of our favourite restaurants in the city and considered by many to be two of its best. It’s not particularly cheap, however both offer excellent food. Both restaurants offer other meals during the week to eat at home and their menus change regularly.
Although offering the Sunday lunch to eat at home, the two restaurants have gone about the concept in different ways.
Blackfriars at Home
This restaurant fully cooks the Sunday lunch and either delivers (for a fee) or allows contact-free collection. There is a choice of meat and a vegetarian option too, Up to 3 courses can be ordered, with a limited range of 3 starters and 3 puddings. This is simple (and less hassle for us) but of course the food is never at its hottest when it’s delivered, although its hot enough to eat if you wish to. You can of course warm it up at home, but that risks drying the food out.
The food is delivered with the meat/nut roast and portions of veg, cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes in several foil containers, with Yorkshire puddings in a paper bag and gravy in plastic pots (which can be heated up in the microwave). Starters and puddings are delivered in a similar manner, depending on the food (pots for soup, containers for starters like goats cheese and walnuts or for puddings like sticky toffee puddings.
The quality of the food is always very good, and often excellent. Blackfriars have changed their delivery method to be a taxi rather than their own staff, which has helped the food arrive hotter. Delivery charge for us (about 2 miles away) is £8, so collection makes it cheaper. A 3 course Sunday lunch is £22.50 per person.
21 at Home
21 is probably our favourite restaurant in Newcastle. It is, without fail, excellent and staff are professional without being too formal. It has been a Newcastle institution for many years and does a fantastic cheddar cheese and spinach soufflé (more on that later).
21 only part cook their lunches and sell it in a box for 2, with the main for 2 (beef) costing £32. Although its billed as for 2 people, the food provided is enough for 3. The restaurant only offer collection and this happens on the preceding Saturday.
Although only partly cooked, the final preparation isn’t difficult; the restaurant provides detailed instructions and a timing sheet – the timing starts at Lunch-50 minutes. The beef, swede/carrot mash and bacon/cabbage come in vacuum packed plastic which go in a pan of hot water, with the beef then going in the oven for a short while before resting. Cauliflower cheese, roast potatoes & Yorkshire puddings just go in the oven.
As well as the Sunday lunch box, starters and puddings and many other items from their menu are available to add to the order. These items include the aforementioned soufflé, which comes part prepared as a part-cooked soufflé with sauce to pour over. This soufflé is a favourite when we go to the actual restaurant.
One drawback of 21’s Eat at Home offering is that you have to book at least a week in advance, which can be limiting. Collection is on the Saturday afternoon, with efficient time slots for turning up with the car and a friendly welcome to patrons.
Other Eat at Home options
Another very good restaurant in Newcastle is Dobson & Parnell, which is a sister restaurant to Blackfriars. It is another that we frequent often and, like Blackfriars, when at their best they can equal or surpass 21. The added attraction of Blackfriars and Dobson & Parnell is their staff, who are unfailingly friendly and willing to accommodate dietary needs in a way that few others will. For example, my housemate has a nut allergy and they will not just remove the nuts from a dish but also go out of their way to replace them with something that works as well, or better.
Dobson & Parnell do not usually do a Sunday lunch option for eating at home, but they do have a midweek eat at home option, which we haven’t yet used. Their website is here.
The Future of Restaurant Eating at Home options
When I picked up today’s lunch from 21, they asked whether we would continue to use the service after the restaurant opens up in May (they have no outdoor seating, so cannot open before then). I think that we would, although would prefer to eat at the restaurant itself. There are occasions when we might wish to eat at home though and as there’s enough food for 3 people in the main course, it’s a potentially cheaper option.
I expect that other restaurants will consider carrying on with the eat at home option as long as there’s demand for it and it doesn’t get in the way of their restaurant service. All such establishments will be keen to maximise revenue to make up for the unprecedented period they’d suffered and the Eat at Home option could make better use of kitchens and staff during quiet periods, or when demand outstrips their seating capacity.