What’s the story?
With the surreal news of a near abolition of COVID restrictions last week, you may be wondering why we're using this time to highlight a dine-at-home meal box, but we've become fond of these boxes over the last couple of years, getting us through some tough lockdowns and giving us a break from the endless discussion on what to cook for dinner and/or opting for another average takeaway.
This is our homage to those boxes that got us through, and maybe a plea to our favourite restaurants to keep some going. It’s clear from talking to our readers that there’s a market for them, be it people who aren’t fully comfortable returning to normal life so suddenly, parents who want the date night without the extra 50 quid for a babysitter, or anyone who wants a restaurant experience without having to move very far.
Winedown opened in December 2020 (the sophisticated older sister of Meltdown), and between lockdowns we never managed to get in there to try their menu of small plates and sharing platters. They're trying to create a relaxed atmosphere focused on seasonal Irish food and delicious wine, and we can see how this is reflected in their supplier list which proudly supports mainly local Irish producers.
It’s clear that they're not skimping on quality with Sheridan’s Cheesemongers for their cheese selection, Carraignamuc Cottage for their fruit and veg, and Little Italy for pastas and other provisions. Their wine list is also extensive, however there are only around five options by the glass so be prepared to fork out for a bottle with prices starting at €29.50.
Like many restaurants, Winedown had to pivot a number of times since opening, and their most recent launch was an at-home box showcasing some of their signature dishes. We gave it a spin a couple of weeks ago when we couldn’t bear another 6pm dinner reservation.
How do I get it?
Place your order on their website, choosing between a regular box with meat or the vegetarian box, and you can add a wine pairing to your order (more on that later). The box is available on Friday and Saturday this weekend, but from February they're reducing this to just Fridays. As it’s all made fresh on the day it will keep in the fridge for up to three days, so you could always stow it away until you’re ready for it. You can opt to pick-up between 12:00 - 19:00, or they’ll deliver it within 6km of the restaurant for an extra €5.
What's in the box?
Everything you need! We ordered the regular box which was 6-courses and the box contained all components, helpfully numbered by course to make the whole process very simple. The instruction sheet tells you everything you need to do to pull the meal off seamlessly, and they time things perfectly to mimic the rhythm of a normal restaurant meal, leaving a bit of time between courses to digest.
Another nice touch was the very funky Spotify playlist, curated by DJ Tara Stewart, to set the scene for the evening. The tunes were so good that we downloaded the playlist to recycle for future dinner parties.
The meal started off with a focaccia with cep butter and Guinness Bread with black olive tapenade. The only part of this course that we didn’t love was the focaccia which quite dense and not oily enough, but everything else was delish, and we could have done with an extra helping of the cep butter to keep in the fridge.
Next up was the smoked fungi croquettes on a spicy tomato sauce. We adore a good croquette, and we could have eaten these ones all day. Generally we think a decent croquette needs to be freshly fried and served immediately, but even though these were just reheated in the oven they didn’t feel as though they had been pre-prepared. They were crispy on the outside with the most luscious, creamy filling once you bit into them. We would go to Winedown just to try these again (and a glance on their website shows us that they have two other flavours to try!)
From there we moved onto the grilled halloumi and grilled courgette in a sherry vinegar reduction, served with romesco. The star for us was the romesco sauce which was deliciously creamy and went really well with the other components. The nutty topping gave a lovely crunch which brought the dish together, and overall we thought it was excellent.
We moved on to the first meat dish of the evening – after a quick heat up in the oven and some light assembly it was time for slow-braised pork belly with celeriac puree, parsnip crisp and pickled apples. Full disclosure, pork belly is not our favourite cut, and this did the genre no favours with far too much unrendered fat and not enough meat, but everything else in the dish delivered. The puree was silky smooth and went wonderfully with the tartness of the pickled apples, and the textures were all there, it's just a shame about the meat.
The next dish was bavette steak skewers with pickled ginger and their homemade rayu. We were worried that after some time in the oven the steak would come out totally overdone but they got it spot on with the timing and the result was a perfect blush centre. The Asian style soy marinade tied in nicely with the rayu and ginger, and we really enjoyed tearing the meat off this one.
Finally we moved onto dessert. The chocolate Marquis had a rich, smooth mousse with a biscuit base which was a bit thicker than we expected, but it did lighten up the dessert and the biscuit itself was gorgeous. They touted chocolate budino on the side which we thought was going to be more like a traditional custardy budino, but in reality it was more of a thick caramel sauce.
It may sound like we had a few gripes with this course but we're nitpicking, and will shamelessly admit that we scraped up every last morsel.
The box feeds two, with enough food to feel comfortably full, but they’ve gone with quality over quantity so you’re not going to be ending up with any leftovers for the next day. The spaced-out timing of each course also lended to us not having to roll ourselves away onto the couch once we’d eaten.
What should we drink with it?
When we placed our order there was only one wine pairing option and it wasn't very exciting, so we drank our own, but they've expanded their offering since with some more interesting options. If you're looking for white you can't beat Ciello Bianco, a natural wine verging on orange which we think would go really well with all the flavours here. If you're after red, Gran Cerdo is a natural, juicy Rioja, without too much tannin, so again a good all round pairing.
And the damage? €55 for the kit, plus €5 if you choose to get it delivered. Given the quality and variety of the food we thought it was excellent value for money.
The verdict? Winedown clearly put a lot of thought into which dishes would translate well at home and made sure that each dish was nicely flavoured and texturally balanced to keep the experience interesting. We think they’ve done a great job and are glad to see that they’re taking orders for this weekend, but it does looks like they’ll reduce this to Friday pickups only in February. At €55 you really can’t go wrong with this for a relaxed night in, and if they do decide to discontinue it down the line, we’re excited to get into their Montague Street restaurant to try a few more things and get the full experience.
Winedown 15 Montague Street, Dublin 2 www.meltdown.ie/winedown