Imagine Come Dine With Me without the cameras. So basically all the good bits – meeting new people, trying nice food, doing something a bit different – but no cameras and none of the competitive nastiness and showboating. Sounds good, right? That’s what I thought when I was told about Yumzee.
Yumzee arrived in Birmingham earlier this year and seems to have taken off rather wonderfully. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a way of ‘social dining’ and getting people together who love food, whether it’s cooking it or eating it. Its creators describe it as ‘AirBnB meets Come Dine With Me’ and it’s not a bad description.
Basically, you can choose to host a dinner, which involves setting the menu, the number of people you want to come, and the price you want to charge. Or if you’re a lazybones like me, you can just sign up to one of those meals, pay your money (not much, usually between £10 and £20) and show up and eat your fill, supper club style. It’ll be no surprise to you that I did the latter.
Most of the meals are in central Birmingham at the moment, but I found a lovely little night in Solihull. It’s not too far from me, but the menu also sounded fab. It was billed as a Fiesta Espanola – three courses of Spanish-inspired food clearly thought-up by someone who likes a bit of good scran themselves.
I hadn’t really thought much about the night itself until I arrived and realised I was about to have dinner with a bunch of people I’d never met before. Not your regular Friday night activity and a tiny bit nerve-wracking – until I knocked on the door.
Within a few minutes I was safely perched on the sofa, glass of sangria in hand, enjoying the wonderful smells coming from host Angus’ kitchen and getting to know my fellow food fans. As each new guest arrived, it got easier and easier until all six of us were yabbering on like old pals. I’ve always been a fan of food’s ability to bring people together and Yumzee is a great example of that. Put a bunch of people who don’t know each other from Adam together, with just one thing in common – food – then feed them, and they’ll have a ball.
We kicked off with a kind of tapas-style starter. Fresh bread, olives, a huge platter of manchego, nectarines drizzled in balsamic, and cured meats. With it was a gorgeous salad of aubergine and peppers with pine nuts, rocket and another generous slug of balsamic. It really was great – the veg was sweet and tender, the pine nuts added a nice bit of texture and the peppery rocket contrasted well with the sweet balsamic. I could’ve eaten a lot – in fact I probably did – but tried to bear in mind that I’d have two more courses to fill my face with.
Main course was the gorgeous smell I’d noticed when I arrived – Angus’ ‘signature dish’ Fabada Asturiana, a rich traditional Spanish stew. This was the real deal – slow-cooked pork in a rich saffron, chorizo and white bean sauce. This wasn’t a recipe our host had plucked out of nowhere, it turns out he’d actually been to Asturias, where ‘Fabada’ hails from, and had fallen in love with the dish.
I can see why. A rich, robust stew, it was packed with flavour. The pork fell apart and had clearly been cooked for the hours that it needed, while the chorizo added an extra level of flavour and definite Spanish feel to the dish. Angus served it up with creamy mash and simple veg, making a rustic, homely dinner that was a nice bit of comfort food, yet an impressive entertainer at the same time.
We were all fairly full by the time it came to dessert, but who could resist a slice of ‘Quesada Pasiega con ‘El Dimo’’ – yep, Dime Bar cheesecake. It was another thoughtfully-presented course and, more importantly, tasted fabulous. This dinner was actually on the same day that I’d spent the afternoon munching my way through Robata’s sugar-laden High Tea at Resorts World, so I’m not quite sure how I managed to tackle any more sweet stuff, but I’m never one to shy away from a challenge.
The cheesecake was, as you’d expect rich and chocolatey, with a crunchy biscuit base. It definitely wasn’t for the faint-hearted, but Angus had spared a thought for his guests and put a bit of tart raspberry coulis with it to help cut through the calorie-laden cheese.
Full to the brim, I’m sad to say I was the first to leave which is no reflection at all on the fun I had, more on the lack of public transport between Solihull and Rugby. I left full, happy, and having had an evening of great food and good company. I don’t think you can ask for much more from an evening out? And considering the fact it cost me a mere £14 for a slap-up three course meal, it’s definitely not bad value at all.
Hosting a dinner party isn’t easy, even when it’s for your nearest and dearest, so it’s no mean feat that Angus didn’t only produce tasty, well-presented food but managed to make a bunch of total strangers feel completely at ease and enjoy an evening of food and fun without a hint of awkwardness.
Yumzee is definitely onto something, in my view. Two of my fellow diners were regular Yumzee-ers and sung its praises as a great way to meet people and share a love of food. Yes, I know there’s some of you out there who will think it’s a bit weird to go and have dinner with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, but I’m an advocate of trying everything once.
You might be new to a city, you might be on a mission to meet people and expand your social circle, or hey, you might just want to meet a few new like-minded people. If you’re any of these, or if you just want to pretend you’re going on Come Dine With Me, then you should give it a go. You never know, you might like it.
I was asked by Yumzee to attend a meal and write about it. They offered to pay for my meal, but I thought £14 was such a snip for a great meal that I decided to pay for it myself.