Jackson Boxer has thrown himself full force into meal delivery, working six days a week to keep both his loyal customers and his suppliers happy. Andy Lynes reports
"I don't have a clue what I'm doing. 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 to do."
That was Jackson Boxer's disarmingly honest appraisal of his situation in mid-April, 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 run in Vauxhall for more than a decade.
Boxer admits that he has no idea if the services will be profitable, but decided to launch in order to keep buying from his network of suppliers and pay the money he owes them, provide employment for friends who have found themselves out of work and pay his landlords, with whom he says he has very good relationships.
But he's obviously doing something right. A loyal audience of regular customers soon saw sales quickly increase from 20 orders per 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 (£16,) and datterini tomatoes, grilled Cuore Verde chickpeas, pickled shallots, basil and hazelnut pistou (£8).
"It's very different from the food I normally cook in the restaurant. It's much more like the food I cook at home for my family. However it's the sort of food that people are really craving at the moment," says Boxer, who launched the six-day-a-week service single-handedly, but is now helped by one other chef.
"I'm only allowing people to work with me if they've been isolating and if they are able to travel here without using public transport," Boxer explains. "In terms of our interaction with people who collect or deliver, we have almost like an airlock system, where they ring a bell, give us their order number, we put their order on a table, unlock the restaurant, go back into the kitchen, they pick up their order and we lock the door behind them."
Boxer is altering the menu daily, dependent on what produce is available, and is having to navigate the changes to his supplier network wrought by the lockdown measures. However, he is still able to source high-quality ingredients, including chickens from Springfield Farm in Gloucestershire, which appear on the menu as half a roast Springfield Farm chicken with Madeira sauce (£22).
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. The guests 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 has 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, £5) with fillings including fried aubergine, grilled peppers and smoked mozzarella, or fried chicken thigh, Gruyère, tomato and mayonnaise (£9 each). "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 has also meant that Boxer won't miss out on spring and early summer English produce, including asparagus, which he is serving with grilled courgette, chilli, garlic and shallots (£7), and peas, which he is pairing with La Latteria burrata and wild garlic (£8).
Boxer says that, between Orasay and Brunswick House, he is able to cover a "good chunk" of west and south London and is for the moment eschewing the major delivery firms in favour of the Shoreditch-based Slerp. "It has a much more reasonable service than the big companies. It's much less slick and obviously you get it in front of far fewer eyes, but it's a less punitive way to find out how this works."
At a very upsetting, disorienting and demoralising time, it's so nice to still feel we have that connection with the people we're cooking for
For Boxer, the delivery and takeaway market has had some unexpected benefits. "It has been incredibly wonderful to receive messages of gratitude, support and delight from customers."
31 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU
From the menu
- Wood-grilled tropea onions, hazelnuts, parsley £6
- Baby Gem lettuce, elderflower Champagne, Parmesan £6
- Grilled courgette, asparagus, chilli, garlic, shallots £7
- Smoked halibut, white leg prawns, jersey royals and coconut curry £13
- Pot-roast duck leg, smoked bacon and red wine sauce £11
- 12-hour glazed lamb shank, cocco bianco beans, parsley crumb £16
- Cru Virunga chocolate, caramelised white chocolate £4.50
- Mango mousse, pineapple, lime £5
- Truffled brie de Mieux (75g) £6
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