My Private Dining at Home Experience

I was invited to validate a private dining experience by

Meaning I could pick an evening, choose 5 other guests while we all sat back to enjoy a three-course meal prepared fresh in my kitchen, served in my dining room and all cleared away at the end, including the washing up – meaning I had to do exactly nothing – Zilch –  Zero –  de-nada – No-Thing.

Bliss, for me as a cookery tutor and mum to two hungry teens plus a husband who loves food nearly as much as I do. It’s like feeding time at the zoo seven days a week, two times a day in our house! all year round.

So – – 

I said yes.

We decided to treat the mother in law, she was due to come over anyway and we’d already bribed her to look after the place while we escaped to London for a few days the week after – so since it was her birthday that weekend we thought we would honour her (and keep her sweet). I invited my parents over, along with us that made a cosy six.

It was strange doing nothing, but nice too – I just had to open the door to Ian Cooke (good name for a chef) 2 hours before the 6.30 planned service. And he got to work straight away, working ever so professionally – well, like the way I would. A chef works tidy, dresses smart, keeps clean and has prepping and serving areas. Organisation in prep is key with an agenda and time schedule. He ticked all the right boxes and got to work super efficiently – because after all I couldn’t resit popping in to the kitchen occasionally for a chat and a sneaky look over.

Which left me in between to get ready and drink with my guests for a change, I’m usually buzzing around the kitchen, with a stack of dishes and a sweat on!

A little while later the photographer arrived to get all the pictures for Ian’s validation so he can be launched on to the Norwich private dining scene via La Belle – 

Ian Cooke’s roots are in catering, he’s been a professional cook, restaurant owner and a Sushi chef, so he knows his onions. Plus he supports all local produce, substanabity and an advocator of cooking fresh tasty food.

He called me a few times to discuss menus – 

We’d settled on a Sushi starter so he gave us 

  • Tempura Soft Shell Crab and Prawn Futomaki with pickled ginger & Wasabi – the crab was crispy and luscious, the rice moist the pickle refreshing and a wonderful presented plate. A good portion with the perfect balance of flavours – very popular amongst my guests.
  • For Mains, the meat eaters got a slow cooked Beef Brisket, baby turnips, Nan’s rational horseradish, jus and a big dish of crushed new potatoes. There were baby beets, charred spring onion and carrot as well – all cooked to perfection with great flavours. The beef was so tender, it didn’t look too sexy but it did pack flavour and was very umptious with a generous portion. Again, a good balance of meat, to veggies and plenty of sauce on the side. 

Ian explained each dish and item on the menu – like the beef was local Norfolk beef, the vegetables were from the farm shop and the gravy had some beetroot juice in it. While the horseradish sauce was made from his grandmother’s recipe – that was especially good.

  • The pescaterians got treated to a fine-looking dish of Cod on pea shoots, a parmesan crust and quail eggs along with smoked salt cherry tomatoes on the vine. The fish was flaky, the parmesan crisp and the egg yolks runny – all good. 

Ian also brought out some freshly baked rolls with an amazing goats butter – hard to resist.

  • For dessert, we got a Single Origin Chocolate Brownie with Clotted Cream, Berry’s and Toasted Hazelnuts with a few splodges of fruity coulis. 

I’m a massive brownie fan and this was up there, gooey, rich with a slight crispy exterior – just like they should be.

We carried on chatting while the kitchen was cleaned up and the dishes removed. 

How often do you end a dinner party with a clean kitchen and all the washing up done before you’ve even got up?

An amazing experience – one I’d like to repeat. I could get used to this!!!

All the information is on their website, details below. 

A dinner party for 6 starts from £45 per person – that’s incredible value, a tasting menu in a restaurant is around £60 pp, a three-course meal in our local pub costs around £35 – 40 pp just for the food, then you have to buy the drinks and get home! I paid £55 last week just in-service charge – but we won’t go in to that. 

So, for a treat it’s a bargain, for a regular occurrence – its only around £5 – 10 pp more than going out but when you put the drinks in to the equation – – it’s cheaper! I spend £7.50 on a bottle of water last week – but we won’t go in to that either!

There is three price bands £45, £65 and £95 – – I’m assuming the £95 is a magnificent generous feast of the senses with all the little touches and treats of the big guns.

020 3318 5003/ /

By Zena Leech-Calton ©