Dinner parties bring me joy: great food, fancy wine and wonderful friends all in one place at one time is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s also a very rare occurrence nowadays – since moving house we have a bubblegum pink kitchen in need of complete renovation, coupled with young children who like to cling onto my legs as I try and whip up a bowl of pasta. So dinner parties are on hold here, much to my sadness. Or, at least ones where I cook.
We had tried La Belle Assiette once before for a girls night in and loved our experience. But that was entirely child-free and booze-fuelled (i.e. amazing!) – could it work come family dinner party time? Could we pull off a adults dinner party with four children in bed/watching DVDs/screaming in the background?
The answer is yes, all thanks to the skill and calm of our private chef, Tim Bygrave. If you’ve not heard of La Belle Assiette before then essential they provide restaurant quality food in your own home. A private chef based in your area comes to you to cook you up a feast in your very own kitchen – they create the menu, they buy the ingredients, they cook and then they even wash up before they leave. I mean, heaven right?
On our chosen evening, we laid the table, cleared the kitchen of the children’s supper bits and then got out the way to leave Tim to it. He had arrived fully stocked and prepped up and immediately got busy in the kitchen. It was perfect – it meant we could play with the children, let them run crazy in the garden and all enjoy a glass of wine together without anyone having to disappear to make dinner.
We’d been excited abut the food since we’d spied Tim’s menu online the week before – it was full of all our favourites. Scallops, beef and lemon posset – what a combo!
Our amuse bouche got the evening off to a wonderful start – a pea and mint veloute, presently beautifully in a dainty cup with our Parma ham arrancini on the side. No-one slurped, everyone sipped daintily and nibbled their risotto ball with glee. The veloute had just the right hint of mint and was seasoned to perfection. The salty hit of the crisped ham alongside the creamy risotto had us all complimenting the chef.
Our starter arrived after a pause to look in on the children; a dish of scallops on spiced lentils. It was the ideal size and left you wanting more which is always a good sign. The apple and coriander cut through the spiced lentil dahl nicely – if anything I would have loved more of the tart apple. Empty plates all round once again!
Every main course should steal the show – everyone loves the build up; the tantalising plates that lead up to the main event, but without a show-stopping main, it’s all a little bit of an anti-climax.
Tim’s aged beef reached the show-stopping heights that every great dinner party should. The beef fillet had been seared and cooked in the oven before being sliced into dainty thins of melting meat. It was a steak sensation. The pomme anne made for an exceptional carb-loaded side – not as creamy as a dauphinoise and without the garlic so it didn’t take away from the fillet as the heart of the dish. The giroles were full of earthy flavour which worked seamlessly alongside the butternut puree. We all greedily finished the lot and declared it our dinner party main of dreams.
Pudding came in two parts – with the second as an added extra from Tim to thank us for being a kind audience to his return to the kitchen from a recent career break. That’s the great thing about La Belle Asseitte from the chef’s side of things – it gives them the chance to cook up great dishes but without the 7 days a week, finishing a 1am everyday thing.
The lemon posset was crisp and with all the right sour notes. Lemon is always a winner for capping a meal off nicely in my book. But we had dessert wine – large glasses of – and we needed a sweetness that was lacking so Tim’s extra dessert of rose and violet macarons with ice cream extra dessert was the icing on the cake to the most lovely family meal. And meant that Sauternes slipped down wonderfully.
Needless to say if you are looking to hire a private chef in Cambridge, we couldn’t recommend La Belle Assiette and Tim more thoroughly. We can’t think of a scenario it wouldn’t be perfect for – faking a fancy dinner party for friends, a celebratory meal for new parents who can’t get a babysitter or like for us, just a really great family get together without the stress.