Ever since I discovered the joys of dining out and making my own meals, I have always loved cooking for and eating with other people.
I guess I just enjoy sharing food with others (I'm the kind of person who hates to eat alone) and taking time over dining - using it as an opportunity to relax and chat.
Unfortunately since moving into our slightly dilapidated house, cooking for company has taken somewhat of a back seat, mostly because our kitchen is still a state (despite my best attempts to remedy the situation).
When La Belle Assiette got in touch* regarding their private dining service provided by local chefs, my initial reaction was to politely decline, as there was no way I could let friends "enjoy" a sit down meal in our spartan surroundings, let alone have a professional chef in our water damaged kitchen!
Luckily Ben, my co editor at YOAF, came to the rescue and offered his much superior kitchen as a substitute. This also gave us a great opportunity to invite over fellow local bloggers for an evening of catching up and chatting about our favorite subject; food.
Now I know what you're thinking - a private chef Bethan!? What kind of luxury life are you living?!
(I'm writing this sat on my third hand sofa warmed only by my ancient cat)
From what I understand, La Belle Assiette are the Uber equivalent of the private dining world - connecting diners with chefs through their online platform.
Menus start from £39 per guest, based on a group of 6 or more, which is all inclusive, meaning that the chef not only comes to your house and cooks, but also cleans up afterwards!
So for the price of a decent meal out in a good restaurant you can actually have a very decent meal in.
What was it like?
We headed to Ben's house on our chosen evening full of anticipation and hunger, something which was especially acute after a rather perilous bike ride across the city.
Our chef for the evening was to be Yves Quemerais, a qualified ‘chef de cuisine’ with over 25 years’ experience in his home country of France. Yves' CV is really rather impressive - he trained under the acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse and worked in Paris as a private chef for governors, politicians and chief executives of large corporations.
Needless to say, he was extremely professional and arrived bang on time to start preparations in Ben's kitchen whilst we retired for nibbles and drinks in the lounge.
After a rather heated conversation about web design we made our way to the dining table for our Amuse Bouche - an extremely intense watercress velouté with pan fried scallop.
Whilst Ben was slightly unconvinced by the crockery, we all thought this small bite served as a very good first impression of things to come.
Part of the whole service is that your chef comes to the table and explains each dish, something which was appreciated by myself, as some of the ingredients were slightly unfamiliar to me, including the delicate pepper used in this dish (whose name I have helpfully forgotten - but that is my failing!)
This was swiftly followed by my favorite dish of the evening: chartreuse with large gamba, Whiby crab, celeriac and honeyed dressing.
I think it is evident from the photo below that a serious amount of care and consideration went into not only the flavours of this dish, but also the presentation.
This is something that I would be delighted with in a restaurant and to be honest (and no offence to Ben) I was amazed that Yves was able to recreate this in a domestic kitchen.
Our main arrived after a short, but well judged, break - Pan fried partridge breasts with verbena jus, wild mushroom and baby vegetables.
Again, I can't fault the presentation or the taste. The jus was incredibly rich with just the right about of verben - a herb which gives a lemony edge.
The pheasant was also perfectly cooked, though I did manage to get the shot!
After dessert we all relaxed into a slightly longer period of chatter, which allowed Yves to start on rather exciting and mysterious things in the kitchen in preparation for dessert.
Whilst the starter was my favorite dish, dessert was arguably the most impressive visually - a chocolate sphere filled with blond chocolate chantilly, served with warm caramel sauce.
This also had an interactive element to it - as Yves invited us to pour the scorching caramel sauce onto the chocolate spheres. This resulted in an almost geological transformation as the chocolate surface buckled under the heat.
I am a huge chocolate fan, so this was pretty much my dream situation - molten caramel and chocolate. The glitter coating on the spheres was also a lovely addition which really added to the "wow" factor.
Again, a dish not out of place in a fine dining context.
Overall the meal was above and beyond what I expected from the evening and was a lovely way to have a very special meal with friends in a homely setting. The fact that we could all bring our preferred drinks along with us was also great, as this naturally cuts down on costs and allows for more choice.
As I mentioned, I'm someone who loves having people over for parties and food, however what I really do hate is the inevitable clean up the morning after. The fact that the chef also does the washing up is perfect, as you literally have nothing to stress about as the host.
Finally, if you're a bit of a homebody like me, hiring a private chef is probably the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion without having to brave the cold or the drunk hordes in the city centre on your way to the restaurant. (I live in York where this is a huge issue)
Thank you to Yves and La Belle Assiette for a lovely evening - with a special thanks to Yves for delivering an outstanding meal!
Want to find out more about hiring your own private chef?
Head on over to the La Belle Assiette website
*The meal and service provided by La Belle Assiette was free, however my opinions are honest and my own, as always!