Petworth deli’s cool new freezer shop
I can probably count on one hand the number of ready meals I’ve ever bought. I’ve always associated them with poor quality, poor value and sky-high fat and salt. The rise of the gourmet handmade ready meal piqued my interest in recent years but I was still a bit ‘meh’ about the whole thing.
An experience around New Year helped change my mind. We were due to drop in on some London friends for tea but an ill-fated furniture shopping mission pushed the time back and they invited us for dinner. They were able to pull a couple of small batch ready meal curries out of the freezer and rustle up a dhal themselves as a side dish and, let me tell you, it was delicious.
So, when I was headed to Petworth I thought I’d give The Hungry Guest’s new frozen meals shop a whirl.
If you’re a regular Petworth visitor, or indeed a local, you’ll know the fantastic, and quite extensive Hungry Guest Deli (I mean they even have their own walk-in cheese fridge!) There’s also a Hungry Guest café.
Their latest venture launched in December and came about because their ready meals were doing so well in the deli. The new shop is brilliantly situated just on the edge of the town’s car park (free for the first hour – read it and weep Brighton peeps) so you can buy something and pop it straight in your boot as you’re ready to go. In my case it survived the hour and half’s drive home still solid.
I didn’t expect a freezer shop to be so pretty!
The bags are rather attractive too, the same as the deli uses, in fact, my friend commented on them when I took her some of the deli’s chocolate brownies (which by the way are super rich).
My husband was away for work so the idea was to buy a quick meal for one, but seeing the gnocchi with Gorgonzola and roasted walnut and realising it was right up his street I bought that too and kept the meals for his return.
I was a little worried, pig that I am, they looked a bit small but like takeaway containers they are tardis-like, with the food crammed in.
I had the Thai curry, which had an authentic taste and just the right amount of spice for me.
My husband, as predicted, enjoyed his gnocchi, which tasted a lot better than our flopped out serving would suggest.
There was just the right amount of rice with my curry, though, with my aforementioned appetite, I would have preferred perhaps a whole container of the curry and to cook up my own rice to go with it. I suppose it depends on how much speed (and greed!) is important to you. Some of the other meals come with sides separate. You can also pick up sourdough baguettes at the counter.
A word of caution on the time factor – though all meals cook best from frozen and most can be microwaved, some, like the gnocchi, must be oven cooked which takes a lot longer, so check you buy the one to suit your purpose.
The menu is helpfully divided into fish, meat and vegetarian, plus side dishes and desserts. Dishes include hot Goan fish curry, fish cakes, chilli con carne, venison lasagne, pheasant casserole, various risottos, Aubergine all Parmigiana and cauliflower cheese.
The shelves are divided into meals for one, two, families and entertainment (love that idea), though not every dish comes in all those size combinations.
I mostly eat vegetarian at home because my husband’s veggie so it was nice to have easy separate meals for a change. In fact my vegetarian London friends stock up the freezer with similar fare when a parent who won’t eat vegetables (tsk tsk) comes to stay.
Both my Thai curry and the gnocchi cost £4.95. Meals for two are £6.25-£10.95 (most around £9.75); family meals £10.95-£18.95 (most £18.95); entertainment dishes are from £16.95 for Dauphinoise potatoes to £33.95 for Tuscan fish stew.
The food is decent takeaway standard and at a shade less than a takeaway price point my new way of thinking is it’s a takeaway I can keep in my freezer.