Craig’s 30th birthday is looming, so I’ve been planning a number of different events in order for us to celebrate in style! Pre-kids, I loved nothing more than hosting a dinner party, but since having the children, it never really seems to be fun anymore. But when La Belle Assiette got in touch to ask if we would like to host a validation dinner party, I jumped at the chance. Fine dining, cooked by someone else, served by someone else, cleared up by someone else, without having to leave the comfort of your own home? What’s not to love!
When I was first approached, my thoughts flitted between “great, a night off cooking”, to “our kitchen is a bit small” and “is it weird to have a stranger cooking in my house??”. I was mostly excited, but it is a very different concept to an evening “out” so I did wonder how it would go. I honestly should not have been worried because it was brilliant!
The idea behind La Belle Assiette is that you host a dinner party with your own private chef. Using their website, you can select your date and time, and then chose a chef in your area by browsing their menus. Prices start at £39 for a party of 6 people, which when you think about how much you’d spend in a restaurant, is pretty reasonable.
We were allocated chef Fabrice for our meal, and after setting a date and time, we arranged a phone call to discuss menus and any special requirements we had. This was unfortunately a bit of a disaster on my part as I had Alfie at home and of course he wanted to talk to the person on the phone, so the first 10 minutes was me trying to talk to the chef whilst wrestling the phone away from an angry 3 year old! However, Fabrice was the ultimate professional, and we managed to discuss menu options, dietary requirements, what my kitchen was like and finally any special occasion. I mentioned that it was my husband’s 30th birthday coming up, so this was an early celebration for him.
The communication in the run up to the event was fab – we had an event set up on the La Belle Assiette website that all the guests were invited to. This meant we could log in and see the date and time of the event, as well as the address details, and the menu. I was also emailed the menu, and was sent an email and text message on the day wishing us a lovely evening! Fabrice emailed me the day before to ask if he could bring an assistant with him, and to confirm the time he would be arriving.
At 5.30 on the dot, Fabrice arrived with his assistant and began to bring in all his equipment and ingredients. I showed them my kitchen and where the basics were, and then left them to sort themselves out. Apart from a few questions about where things were and how things worked, we barely heard a peep from the chef! I was busy putting the final touches to our decorations and it was lovely to be able to do this without worrying about cooking, or having to make Craig cook his own birthday meal! As we were celebrating Craig’s 30th, we invited his parents and brother and sister-in-law.
The one good thing about having a dinner party at home when you are parents is being able to have your children there. Since having two kids, it can be difficult to get a babysitter (and honestly, I’m not ready to leave Henry yet anyway as he is so dependent on me). We had managed to arrange a babysitter for Alfie, however he was sick the day before we felt it was best to keep him at home. The fact our night “off” was at home meant that we didn’t need to change any of our plans as we could just put him to bed as normal (and pray that he didn’t get up!). Henry joined us for the evening because we usually spend the evening feeding and cuddling, so I knew there wasn’t going to be any change there!
After a bit of catching up with our guests, our food was ready to go! The assistant was even kind enough to pour our drinks for us, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping glasses topped up – literally everything is thought of! We had to supply our own drinks, but this meant we could pick what we wanted. Our appetiser was tomato and buffalo mozzarella and was so delicious for something so simple. It kicked off the dinner nicely! You could tell that all the ingredients were good quality and fresh too. Fabrice and his assistant served the food for us, and Fabrice explained what we were eating – as he did with each course. Our glasses were filled with wine and we were ready to enjoy our food and our company.
The starter was served next and I think this was my favourite part of the meal. We had roasted butternut squash orange soup. I was feeding Henry on the sofa when it was served, and all I could hear was the exclamations of enjoyment from my guests. They were clearly all really enjoying it, even those who said they didn’t really enjoy soup. Butternut squash is a relatively new flavour to me, but something I really like, and this soup was not a disappointment! The added orange was really noticeable, but in a very good way. It was served with a delicious biscuit which really enhanced the flavour. Once I had finished feeding Henry, I gobbled it all up quickly, ready for our main course to be served.
I loved that there was no rushing between the courses. I could see the chef’s assistant checking from the kitchen if we had finished, but there was no rush at all for us to eat our food so the next course could be served. I especially appreciated this because Henry was being a bit fussy and I was up and down feeding and cuddling him, so I spent a bit of time away from the table. However, being in the comfort of our own home meant that I could attend to him, still interact with my guests and not have to worry about making sure the food was being served on time! So even though I still had to attend to his needs, I didn’t feel left out or awkward about doing so.
The main course was one we were all looking forward to, being lovers of lamb! We were served lamb tenderloin with mash, root vegetables and the most gorgeous beetroot puree. Not only did it look superb, it tasted out of this world! The presentation was brilliant, and although at first you think “there’s not much there”, actually it was just the perfect amount. All the guests admitted that they expected to be a bit hungry afterwards, as I think sometimes when you think of fine dining, you think of tiny portions, and the Jones family are all big eaters! However, everyone was thoroughly stuffed by the time the dessert came out (don’t worry, we made room for it though!)
As we were celebrating Craig’s birthday, Fabrice had created a dessert that was a bit special – he added a candle that I had bought and we all sang happy birthday. It was a really lovely way to finish off our meal (much to Craig’s embarrassment!!) The dessert was a rich manjari chocolate torta nocciola with summer berries and berry compote. I LOVE anything chocolatey and this did not disappoint. I almost couldn’t finish it because the portion was so generous (but don’t worry, I powered through!)
The food was just astounding. I’ll admit, I’m not one for fancy food. I don’t go to posh restaurants often, but I have been lucky to eat in some lovely places in recent years. This was by far the best food I have had in a long time. The whole experience was just brilliant – from the first moment the chef entered our house, to the time he left we were just able to have a fun and enjoyable evening. There was no awkwardness, our kitchen was left absolutely spotless and apart from the wine glasses on the table that we were still drinking out of, you wouldn’t have even known we’d had a four course meal.
If you are looking for an experience for someone who has done everything, or you have a special occasion to celebrate, I would highly recommend booking a private chef through La Belle Assiette. I would be very surprised if you were disappointed! I would definitely do this again, it was special without being too fussy which is basically my husband’s definition of a perfect night.
Great food, great wine, great company and not having to lift a finger yourself – what more could you ask for?
Disclaimer: We were gifted this experience to review for the purpose of a ‘validation dinner’ for the chef and in exchange for a write up on the blog. All opinions are my own (and my guests!) and are completely honest.
Special thanks to Jon Dixon Photography for the amazing photos of the food!