So would you pay £465 for a New Year takeaway? JAN MOIR tucked in

So would you pay £465 for a New Year takeaway? That’s what one of London’s top hotels is charging for a blowout seven-course menu. JAN MOIR remortgaged her house… and tucked in

  • Daily Mail’s Jan Moir tries a £465 New Year takeaway from a top London hotel  
  • The extravagant menu is available from the Connaught hotel in Mayfair, London  
  • All five-courses were created by resident French chef, Helene Darroze

Friends, is this a scallop I see before me, the fan-shaped shell turned towards my hand? Come let me clutch thee. In fact, let me eat thee, drenched in thy saucing of butter, herbs and crushed hazelnuts, garnished with naughty slices of black truffle. My goodness, how delicious!

For this is no ordinary scallop. This is a saucer-sized, hand-harvested, five-star, XXL Scottish scallop from the Connaught hotel in London; it’s a king among scallops, served as part of the Mayfair hotel’s luxurious five-course New Year’s Eve takeaway menu, created by resident French chef, Helene Darroze.

This gourmet extravaganza costs £295 for two and includes a smoked-duck foie gras preparation, a dome-shaped capon pithivier as a main course — that’s a chicken pie to you and me — while desserts include freshly baked babas drenched in a vintage Armagnac which is made and bottled by the chef’s own family.

The Mayfair hotel’s luxurious five-course New Year’s Eve takeaway menu, created by resident French chef, Helene Darroze

Could it get any more decadent? I am afraid it could. If you want to push the boat out even further into the sea of gourmet shamelessness, you could add a cheeky starter of caviar for an extra £85. For another £85, you could bolt on an extra course of gnocchi with truffle — bringing a grand total of seven courses for £465, surely making it the most expensive takeaway in Britain.

Britain’s priciest home menu? 

◆ Caviar, sea urchin, cauliflower and hazelnut (includes pearl spoon) (£85 extra)

◆ Foie gras, onion, smoked duck, black truffle

◆ XXL scallop, black truffle, pumpkin, hazelnut and Parmigiano Reggiano

◆ Capon ‘pithivier’ with celeriac, pear, ginger, ‘Albufera sauce’

◆ Black truffle with potato gnocchi, Parmigiano Reggiano and egg yolk (includes truffle shaver) (£85 extra)

◆ Brillat-Savarin cheese, black truffle, sesame seeds and herb crackers

◆ Signature baba with Armagnac Darroze and lemongrass Chantilly Includes bread and butter, gougères and canelé cake 

£465 for two people including supplements

Tempting, but just like a scallop I have a well-developed nervous system and order the non-gnocchi and caviar-free option instead. Get me, practically the Little Match Girl, doing my bit for the beleaguered hospitality industry.

Of course, the Connaught is not the only elite establishment forced by Covid restrictions to close its dining-room doors and resort to takeaway business instead. Barely half a mile to the north, sister hotel Claridge’s has been offering festive dishes such as a £75 lobster wellington or a similarly priced beef fillet for pick up or delivery for most of December.

Who is buying this stuff? It is hard to imagine the core customers for such untrammelled luxury. Perhaps a few rich widows in boucle suits stranded in their central London mansions by the pandemic, eager for some savoury sumptuousness to knock the edges off lockdown boredom?

You’d be surprised. Everyone wants a piece of this pie. Both hotels could have sold out many times over.

The Helene Darroze team prepared 250 takeaway boxes — and have sold out completely. Claridge’s sold 175 three-course festive menus on Christmas Eve alone.

They have also sold 98 lobster wellingtons and 220 beef wellingtons in recent weeks, which suggests people are desperate for a bit of cheffy luxury in these dire times.

‘We look forward to spreading a little positivity and joy with our food, further than Mayfair and into people’s homes,’ said Darroze.

My Festive Menu arrived by cycle messenger in a canvas cool bag the size of a carry cot. Very nice but, at that price, I had hoped Helene might deliver it herself — and make the coffee afterwards, along with doing a little housework.

But, of course, she is not even in the country, spending the festive season locked down in Biarritz with her family, where she appears to be doing interesting things with veal and boudin blanc.

Back in London, her team seems to have thought of everything, from the cheese puffs to have with drinks before dinner, to the little pats of butter wrapped in wax paper and stamped with the Connaught logo.

XXL scallop, black truffle, pumpkin, hazelnut and Parmigiano Reggiano. The only cooking involved is heating up the scallop (inside its string-tied shell, tres rustique) for ten minutes

There are also slices of truffled cheese served with homemade crackers, rum-scented canele pastries and Kilner jars filled with Chantilly cream, alongside little bottles of Armagnac to pour over the fluffy, perfect baba.

Everything is beautifully packaged and the instructions are simple and clear. The only cooking involved is heating up the scallop (inside its string-tied shell, tres rustique) for ten minutes and baking the pithivier for 30. By some miracle of kitchen wizardry, the shellfish is cooked perfectly and the pie is a dream. Is this the way forward?

It was certainly an interesting experience to eat such delicious food in the comfort of my own home — a novelty! And the hospitality industry could certainly do with a fillip in this bleak time. In 2020, restaurants, pubs and bars have seen takings slump by a catastrophic 80 per cent, while the entire hospitality sector is £53 billion down.

Black truffle with potato gnocchi, Parmigiano Reggiano and egg yolk (includes truffle shaver) (£85 extra)

Caviar, sea urchin, cauliflower and hazelnut (includes pearl spoon) (£85 extra)

Vol au vent by Helene Darroze at The Connaught Hotel

No one is making a fortune from takeaway food — even at £500 for two — but every little helps. It helps to keep kitchens open, it helps to keep morale boosted and it helps to keep me swimming in shellfish, so what is not to love?

I also try the Claridge’s lobster dish, which arrives wrapped in a pastry straitjacket, claw arms aloft as if being held at gunpoint.

Again, the instructions were simple and, again, it emerged perfectly cooked, fragrant with tarragon, a truly celebratory dish, a miracle of pastry engineering.

To be honest, I did not have high hopes for any of this takeaway feast. And that is despite coming from Scotland, where our traditional New Year’s Eve delicacy is something called black bun — which is neither black nor a bun and, to be honest with you, it’s not much of a delicacy, either.

For pudding: Chocolate Carupano – Venezuela Cardamom, Bourbon vanilla

However, the quality here was astounding — with the emphasis on luxury ingredients simply prepared, my idea of heaven.

Takeaway usually means fish and chips, peeling the lid off a tinfoil tray of chicken curry or popping open a pizza box — and there is nothing wrong with that, either.

But if we must dive deep into the land of full-cream milk and honey, where the chicken pies are scented with pear and a hint of ginger and even the cheese has its own layer of truffle, there is no better place to be.

This might be just the thing for bored millionaires with money to burn — but if you are in the market for this sort of indulgence, this is not unreasonable value for money, caviar and truffles excluded. Don’t all scream at once.

Barely half a mile to the north, sister hotel Claridge’s has been offering festive dishes such as a £75 lobster wellington or a similarly priced beef fillet for pick up or delivery for most of December

For most of us, New Year’s Eve 2020 is going be different. No mixing and no partying for an evening Scots are calling ‘Hogma-nae’.

And I justify this extravagance by thinking that it is going to be a long, long time until we can enjoy all that London’s grand hotels have to offer once more.

It seems little short of miraculous — and a fond memory — that for the price of a drink or afternoon tea, you can enter these sumptuous citadels and enjoy their five-star magnificence. How I miss all that; the peppermint-striped crockery at Claridge’s, the dining room at the Ritz, the Blue Bar at the Berkeley, the olde-worlde elegance of the Connaught.

For now, I’ll just have to console myself with Helene’s baba, which is all right by me. For there is a time when we all need a little love and luxury, in whatever shape or form. And that time is now.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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