A refined Med-at-home experience that saves a lot of slicing
Restaurant dining is sadly not an option right now. So when many of our favourite chefs and restaurants - who had never previously offered delivery - began to do so, with some getting really creative in the face of lockdown, we were intrigued.
One of the most popular features on Manchester Confidential has always been our honest, unannounced and impartial restaurant reviews. Our readers come to us for the lowdown, confident that we know our stuff and will tell it straight. Without restaurants, we've not been able to write restaurant reviews. But it’s what we do.
So we’re giving you the scoop on some of the many delivery options that have sprung up. We’ll buy it, eat it - cook it if we have to - and let you know how it was. We’re not going to be scoring these ‘reviews’ - it doesn’t seem right - but we’ll let you know what you can expect and where's worth spending your money.
What? Cheese and wine night from Veeno
One thing I have really missed is a lazy post-work, people-watching selection of antipasti and wine in the sun and Veeno was a top pre-lockdown spot for this sort of thing.
I always like to try things I don't like, as occasionally you hit a delightful surprise
However, Veeno's online shop delivers nationwide, ordering is easy and you get next-day delivery if you order before noon Monday to Thursday. You can buy cases of wine from their estates as well as spirits and a selection of nibbles to go with it. The pack comes in a smartly squat square box lined with space-age silver bubble wrap and two ice bags to keep everything nicely chilled.
What do you get and how much does it cost?
The meat and cheese board is £47.90 (once you add VAT and delivery) - that's not cheap but it is great value (my hideous sun loungers cost about the same and the cheese was definitely a more tasteful investment). Yes, you could pick up a selection of home counties fromage and supermarket plonk for half the price, but this is a refined Med-at-home experience. It also saves a lot of slicing - in the recent 30-degree heat, convenience is king. It's an ideal selection for a date night or grown up socially distanced get-together in the garden. The portions are generous and perhaps more than you should probably order for a couple, but I got a bit giddy with the opulence.
What do you have to do and how difficult is it?
After carefully assembling this sophisticated cultured arrangement I realised I'd almost forgotten the crackers. Puglian taralli, made from a baked olive oil dough with white wine, have a light glaze and are similar to a curled-up breadstick but with better savoury flavour; the oil gives them a denser crumble than breadsticks' arid dusty texture too. My partner suggested that "flat bread would have been better than those hula hoop things...," but I disagree - I thought they were more interesting and pretty cute.
Montasio cheese has a fresh Edam-like smell and nutty flavour with a slight bite similar to halloumi. Scamorza smoked cheese undergoes a much more delicate smoking process than its German or Austrian counterparts and complements the freshness and subtle herb flavours rather than obliterating them with a fag-ash level of carbon.
The pecorino piccante spicy cheese has a tendency to fall apart on a hot day. It's mature and the heat from the chilli slowly sinks into the finish leaving a warm glow that will have you reaching for some more wine. Definitely have this one before the nduja.
I have issues with Gorgonzola - once having to hide some under a lettuce leaf to protect the feelings of an excited Italian waiter who had gleefully declared it to be his favourite cheese. I always like to try things I don't like, as occasionally you hit a delightful surprise, and this silky smooth Gorgonzola made the whole order worthwhile. It carries its burnt black garlic strength gracefully without walloping you around the head with any big blue hairy foot bits.
The nduja will set your tastebuds bubbling. It's a soft, smoky, almost paté-like salami where the chilli combines with paprika oil to become a mouth-watering lava. The soothing creamy Gorgonzola helps to calm your mouth down and the heat provides a worthy background for the cheese to show off.
The Olympic-sized Cerignola olives deliver another happy and moreish surprise. Spreading out the bitter brininess throughout a large volume of flesh makes for a mellower saline experience.
The cold meat portions are generous and filling - the salami Milano was my favourite. The rich savoury meat is well-rounded with oily pepperiness - I had to be reminded to share some of it. The speck ham is lightly smoked, has a rich fattyness and is also well-seasoned. The bresaola beef is succulent and herby. It took me back to the fragrant basil scent of the forrested hills of Lucca. That's not something you'll get with a supermarket pack of cold meats. Of all the food items, this was the best matched with the Nero D'Avola.
Is it any cop?
The only mistake I made is choosing the Tasari Nero D'Avola (£12 on its own) and not because it's a bad wine, it's one of my favourites. This fresh creamy cheese selection calls for an acidic white wine as a better pairing choice. I'm a big Zinfandel/Primitivo fan and this was quite similar with its bold Luxardo cherry flavour, reminiscent of the burnt jammy edges of a cherry pie. It's a bit lighter than a Californian zin and has soft pine tanins instead of oaky leather. The Gorgonzola was the only cheese that really stood up against the intense berry flavour. Fortunately I had a decent Greek white wine from the fridge to help out. There is also a rosé option which I think would work better than the red if you're not keen on white wine.
Veeno, 14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW
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Value for money
You're paying for an easy Med-at-home experience which is great value if you consider this to be around £25 per meal for two.
Packaging and delivery
Low-volume vacuum-packed waste and next-day delivery makes this a convenience masterpiece. Your phone number is included on the delivery info for the courier which is a nice little attention to detail for resolving any delivery issues.
Unsheath and gorge. Minimal washing up.
Quality and quantity
The portions are generous and you get a considered Italian experience from knowledgeable people who care - you won't match this from a supermarket.