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Orasay chef-owner Jackson Boxer threw himself full force into meal delivery during lockdown, working six days a week to keep his suppliers and loyal customers happy. "I don't have a clue what I'm doing," he told The Caterer. "I'm trying to start two brand-new businesses at the same time, without any clue of how the model works, in a completely strange and upside-down world. It's probably the most incredibly stressful thing I've ever attempted."
That was his disarmingly honest appraisal of his situation in mid-April 2020, a week and a half into running a delivery and takeaway service from his year-old Notting Hill restaurant Orasay, and the day before starting a similar service from Brunswick House, the restaurant he's operated in Vauxhall for more than a decade.
But he was certainly doing something right. A loyal circle of regular customers quickly pushed up his sales from 20 orders a day to 60, and anyone looking at the restaurant's Instagram account will have been salivating over the likes of 24-hour braised short rib of Hereford beef and celeriac purée and Datterini tomatoes, grilled Cuore Verde chickpeas, pickled shallots, basil and hazelnut pistou.
Boxer altered the Orasay menu daily, depending on what produce was available while navigating the changes to his supplier network wrought by the lockdown measures. However, he was still able to source high-quality ingredients, including chickens from Springfield Farm in Gloucestershire, which appeared on the menu as half a roast Springfield Farm chicken with Madeira sauce.
To create the dish, Boxer roasts the chicken's wing tips and backbone to make a strong, dark stock. This is then added to a caramelised onion and white wine reduction, along with Madeira, brandy, star anise, chervil, garlic, rosemary and thyme, before being finished with cream and more Madeira. The chicken is brined and roasted slowly. Customers then simply place the chicken in a hot oven to crisp the skin, and warm the sauce in a pan.
For the first time, Boxer started selling a range of sandwiches, made with his signature grilled potato bread (also on the delivery menu, served with smoked cod's roe or sour cream) and fillings such as fried aubergine, grilled peppers and smoked mozzarella, or fried chicken thigh, Gruyère, tomato and mayonnaise. "I get in at 7am and get the dough working and it's ready for midday. It's made with fermented potato, fresh yeast, olive oil, 00 flour, salt and milk. It's shaped into rounds and cooked directly over the wood fire."
Launching the delivery service meant Boxer didn't miss out on spring and early summer English produce, including asparagus, which he served with grilled courgette, chilli, garlic and shallots, and peas, which he paired with La Latteria burrata and wild garlic.
For Boxer, delivery/takeaway has also had some unexpected benefits. "It has been incredibly wonderful to receive messages of gratitude, support and delight from customers."
What the judges said
"I have watched this prodigious talent grow over the years and am increasingly impressed with the care and attention that each ingredient in each dish receives. The menus always read like a celebration of all that is good." - Jeremy Lee
- Kolamba, Soho, London
- Restaurant Hjem, Hexham, Northumberland
- Orasay, Notting Hill, London
- Osip, Bruton, Somerset
- Neil Borthwick, head chef, the French House
- Richard Corrigan, chef-patron, Corrigan Collection
- Jeremy Lee, head chef, Quo Vadis
- James Mackenzie, chef-proprietor, the Pipe and Glass Inn