At some point over the last few years, Antonio Simone obviously sat down and thought about chips.
Not in the way we all do in the odd lull, when you get that craving for the tang of salt and vinegar and the little puff of steam as you unwrap them because it’s cold and you can’t wait. No, he sat down and asked himself ‘what makes a good chip?’ And then, ‘what makes a great chip?’
When I had them at the restaurant a couple of times last year I said I couldn’t name a better chip anywhere local. Nothing since then has changed my mind. Chips this good are rare enough. Chips this good come from sheer craft, and it shows.
In your box you’ll find them ready for nothing more demanding than a drizzle of oil and a hot oven for around ten minutes. They’ve been blanched, pre-cooked and roughed up: some gently tousled, some clotheslined, all little playgrounds for heat and fat. They are, of course, superb. When even the at home version trumps most restaurant versions, you know you’ve got something special.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We start with airy sourdough, briefly toasted and pocked with holes for the hazelnut butter you’ll slather on. The slices demand to be slathered with the stuff, and alongside the onion soup-a lovely thing, tangy and warming- it starts things off very happily.
This box is all about the little touches: the opulence of shredded greens laced with beef fat, the faultless textures of the celeriac purée. And I haven’t mentioned the sauce yet.
The beef is a triumph, rolled featherblade already cooked and just waiting for you to give it a quick microwave blast and then gently heat it on the hob, finishing it by basting with the jus. It’s every bit as tender as you’d hope, that jus rich and and thick and suave, a sauce which will stay with you for days, opulent and viscous.
A sauce of real body, real legs.: a sauce which must have taken many patient hours to produce. The beef needs no more than a nudge to tumble into that sauce. All in all, it’s heady stuff. And did I tell you about the chips?
The salted caramel pannacotta is a lesson in wobble and silk, another favourite from their kitchen faithfully replicated in yours. It’s as good as ever and a fittingly impressive end to a remarkably satisfying meal. Delegate the dishes to someone else and book yourself a nap to round it all off nicely, would be my advice. It’s a hell of a meal for £32.50pp.
Everything from this Humble At Home collection is turned to one louder. The bread didn’t have to be wider than a shark’s grin, that sauce for that beef didn’t have to be that naggingly memorable, that sinfully dark and glossy. The chips didn’t have to be the chip all others want to be when they grow up. But I’m glad they did.
Antonio’s ‘Humble’ is, I suppose, about valuing every ingredient however unglamorous, elevating it to a thing of beauty through craft. A lack of pretension, a dedication to memorable flavours and textures. It brings something special to the area and you’d be missing out if you didn’t find out for yourself just how good these boxes are. As an aside, I can’t get my gusset in a bunch over the vagaries of the Michelin system and Wales- at the upper end, it’s becoming increasingly ludicrous, the refusal to give the spellbinding Ynyshir any advance on its current single star; but how Antonio’s cooking merits no mention at all when it is easily the match of many locally listed peers is an oversight which demands redress next year.
In the meantime, let’s be glad food like this is close at hand, and do what we can to support this locally-owned business and others like it.
Humble At Home- order from https://www.thehumbleonion.co.uk/humble-onion-menus/
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.