[Disclosure – I was asked to try the very first Peach at Home kit to provide feedback so was given it free of charge. I’ll likely be ordering one at full price very soon because it’s good]
I feel that Peach Pubs is a bit of an unsung hero in Coventry and Warwickshire. The people behind places like the Star & Garter in Leamington, the Rose & Crown in Warwick, the One Elm in Stratford and more around the county and beyond, it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing.
They’re not brash, they don’t shout loudly about what they do, but they quietly get on with what’s important – serving good food, creating a lovely atmosphere and rather than being a one-hit wonder being a place you find yourself going back to again and again and never being disappointed.
Of course, we can’t walk into a warm pub with good music, friendly staff and nice food right now. But Lockdown 3 has seen the launch of Peach at Home – Peach’s very own at-home offering that easily rivals some of the others on offer out there and flies yet another fabulous flag for our local area.
They may not have launched Peach at Home straight away but it doesn’t mean Peach have been idle. In the first lockdown they set up ‘Your Hub’ which saw half of their pubs open for takeaway and essential shops, run by staff on a voluntary basis, with all proceeds going to charity. They provided just over 7,000 meals for the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and 300 meals a week for Helping Hands Charity feeding the homeless in Warwickshire.
They’re continuing to work with Helping Hands each week from The Star & Garter in Leamington, but with Lockdown 3 somewhat different to our first period of imprisonment they weren’t sure if there was the same need for Your Hub, so decided to throw their efforts into bringing the ‘special occasion’ vibe into our own homes.
The idea isn’t just about selling takeaway food. It’s about helping you throw a dinner party at home, mimicking more than just the dishes you get in their establishments but the ambience too, helping you forget for just a few hours what’s going on in the world. In Peach partner David Cumberlidge’s own words: “I want our boxes to be indulgent, always the good stuff and a dinner party!”
I can confirm the Peach at Home boxes definitely meet all three of these criteria. Since I tried their first box, they’ve made a few tweaks to make their offering even better, but it was pretty darn good as it was.
Beautifully packaged, you get all the elements of your three-course meal along with your menu, cooking instructions and a brief list of the equipment and any extras you’ll need. There’s also info on the provenance of the ingredients that goes into your food as well as a QR code to check all the allergens.
On top of this, Peach have thought of some lovely extra touches to help add a bit of atmosphere, like a candle and matches and a handful of the smarties that you can expect with your bill when you actually get to go to a Peach pub. There’s even a Spotify playlist to whack on while you’re cooking and eating. Small things, but these days they’re more important than ever.
The menus are classic, crowd-pleasing dishes that I for one will never complain about. Just because they’re firm favourites, it doesn’t mean they’re not superlative.
For us, a starter of game parfait that had a meaty texture and was perhaps more akin to a terrine but seasoned beautifully to accentuate the gamey flavour. Served with brioche that we simply had to toast and dish up with the sticky, sweet red onion marmalade it came with, it was a promising start but only a hint of what was to come.
Next up – the first beef Wellington I’ve had in a long time. It’s a popular choice for at-home meals and understandably so. Impressive, easy to prepare in advance, and simple for us amateurs to finish off at home.
The use of Aubrey Allen’s 28-day dry-aged fillet for Peach’s dish is testament to the importance Peach puts on sourcing and provenance, and undoubtedly key to ensuring quality.
Teamed with a hefty slab of Dauphinoise potato, finishing it off at home made for a simple task. Put in the oven for the allotted time, pop the creamed spinach accompaniment in the microwave and heat up the rich, silky red wine sauce ready for that gravy-pour moment.
Now, I don’t know how hard it is to cook a beef Wellington perfectly ready for someone to heat up at home. I also don’t really care. All I really care about is having good food on my plate, and this hit the spot.
On top of being tasty as hell (we’ll get to that bit in a second), there was a certain degree of joy in not having to stress or fuss around with complex instructions to finish off this meal. Instead we set a timer, enjoyed a glass of wine and simply allowed it to cook for the time on the instructions.
Less than half an hour later, all we had to do was the obligatory ‘cut-it-in-half-and-take-a-picture-for-the-‘gram’ bit then we could tuck in.
I think the pictures probably say it all. The Wellington was a sizeable portion, and while the buttery pastry and rich mushroom layer meant even with a blind taste-test you’d identify the dish immediately, it didn’t in any way detract from the star of the show – the beef.
Cooked perfectly, it was tender, tasty and everything we’ve all come to expect from Aubrey Allen, kept moist by the layers wrapped around it. The Dauphinoise was creamy and rich, yet still had discernible layers and a bite to the carefully-constructed cube.
When it comes to accompaniments – especially teamed with a big hitter like a beef Wellington – it’s difficult to balance something being impressive in its own right yet not detracting from the main event. Yet somehow this Dauphinoise was divine without ruining the glory of its Wellington plate-mate. Bravo Peach.
The creamed spinach was earthy and muted – just right for such a rich dish – and the red wine sauce was the final element to bring together a plate of indulgent, great-tasting food.
Dessert was another dish that appears more often than a TikTok four-way wrap yet somehow never gets old. Chocolate fondant with a simple addition of creme fraiche and honeycomb.
Another one that’s supremely easy to finish at home, and needs little in the way of additional presentation yet still provides the showstopping moment when you dig into it, of course it was a success.
Light sponge on the outside, gooey, sweet fondant inside, and all balanced by the slight sour taste of creme fraiche and the crunch of honeycomb. The perfect finale.
As I expected, the food was great. This isn’t about boundary-pushing, experimental food or playful riffs on classics. This is about the classics themselves. The dishes we turn to for crowd-pleasing moments, for happy memories, and for comfort.
They also just happen to be dishes that are easy to prepare in advance which means that date night really can be date night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fun of following instructions to finish off a meal together and plating it perfectly. I even love cooking from scratch sometimes.
But occasionally, when you’re playing the game of pretending the dining table is a restaurant table, it’s quite nice to kick back and do as little as possible together while everything almost cooks itself.
Peach at Home is another great addition to the lockdown offering from our local restaurants in Warwickshire. It’s well thought-out, tastes good, is reasonably priced and includes some lovely touches that remind exactly why Peach Pubs are so popular in towns across our county.
Peach promised a dinner party, and with these boxes that’s exactly what you get. For more information on Peach at Home, keep an eye on their social media or sign up to their mailing list here.