Restaurant review: Dine in with Barry Bryson/Honeycomb & Co
Partnership between Honeycomb and private chef Barry Bryson is the Bee’s Knees, Emma Newlands finds
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a private chef – perhaps no more so than on the days in lockdown that involved toast for breakfast and lunch, and possibly dinner too.For the foreseeable, the closest I will get is with this recently launched tie-up between top private chef Barry Bryson and Edinburgh restaurant Honeycomb & Co.
The set menu has been devised by Barry, and it changes weekly, with an exclusive “guest list” of just 50 dinners for two available each time.
“Everything will be prepared, perfectly packaged and complete with straightforward instructions on simple heating and plating from Barry to help you serve a special dinner at home,” they say.
Fingers crossed, I think, my optimism boosted by Bryson’s top-class CV, that includes launching a pop-up cafe at Jupiter Artland in October, his business Cater Edinburgh, and having worked with the likes of Nigel Slater, Waitrose, Louis Vuitton, and Aston Martin.
This time around, I place my order at the start of the week for collection from Honeycomb & Co in Bruntsfield on the Thursday.
And it sounds excellent – kicking off with salmon and crab dumplings with free range chicken miso, black sesame seeds and fennel seed crackers.
The main is a confit of duck leg, with celeriac chips, red cabbage and apple, and jus (can’t we just call it gravy?). The meal is then rounded off with pear, apple and plum crumble with cinnamon and ginger with vanilla custard and honeycomb.
The order is collected, complete with a label that says ‘with love’. Along with the various containers are a few sheets of paper, one of which states: “Your order is helping two local businesses to keep on going… There may have been better times for all of us, but they will return, we are sure.”
I am pleased to see this free serving of gratitude and optimism – while there is another piece of paper with details of how to access the online instructions of how to reheat everything.
After a few technical hiccups – it doesn’t work on my phone and it wouldn’t go amiss to also put in written instructions – and firing up a tablet, we get cracking. It’s indeed pretty simple and having the video of Barry explaining everything also gives it a personal touch.
The promised salmon and blinis seem to be missing – or have perhaps fallen out of the bag in the car. Therefore the first thing to tackle is the dumplings and broth, and all that’s required is reheating the latter and then poaching the former, which have been made with great care, placed delicately in their container.
I had high hopes for the resulting dish, but these are exceeded by what is possibly one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. The light, subtle flavour of the thin-skinned dumplings is a match made in heaven with the lip-smacking broth, which sees the the schmaltzy richness of the chicken soup put the intense miso flavour into a supporting, albeit still crucial to the plot, role.
It’s a hard act to follow, but the main more than holds its own, with each component to be cooked for about the same length of time (Barry has thought this through). I would also say I prefer celeriac chips to their potato counterpart, if anyone is wondering (nobody is).
I dish it all up – realising that one downside of the dining at home concept is that my presentation skills are more “bad-tempered dinner lady” than skilled chef. But thankfully the majority of the cooking has been done by a professional and I’m just the final relay runner.
The duck is tender and moist – I know from cooking it myself that it can easily be dry – and boosted by its confit presentation, which also means the portion is just right.
The cabbage is served very generously, with a fragrant cinnamon aroma, and the chips are excellent if slightly too al dente for my taste.
Lastly is the crumble. Wasn’t it Nigella who said she’s never met anyone who doesn’t like crumble? I concur wholeheartedly in any case.
Its component parts are served in three containers, avoiding any soggy topping. I’m tempted to drink the frothy, yellow custard straight out of its takeaway coffee cup style container, but manage to resist, and combine the topping, and the base. I’d choose this over any fancily decorated, sauce-smeared restaurant pudding.
It too is a triumph, the fruity base just sweet enough, and not mouth-puckeringly tart. There has also been wine – a reasonably priced and epically named ‘Man Meets Mountain’ Argentinian Malbec (£11).
This is a meal that has ticked many, many boxes. Clear instructions, the at-home cooking merely the cherry on the cake of professional skill, and a menu that translates well to a home setting – as well as appreciation of supporting the businesses involved. A high-end homely treat.
Honeycomb and co
1 Merchiston PlaceEdinburgh, EH10 4NP(0131) 228 4641
£50 for 2 plus £11 wine – £61
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