Monday, August 23, 2010

Cook - or rather don’t cook

A new shop’s opened up on the Whiteladies road in Bristol on the unlikely site of the former Britannia building society. It’s called Cook and it looks a bit like a farm shop. Apart from the fact that it’s full not of fresh produce but freezers.

I must admit we went in in a highly sceptical frame of mind. It’s packed with frozen dishes to take away none of which look particularly inspiring in their frozen form.

It looked like a chain and it turns out it is - with a startling 32 branches mainly in such genteel home counties outposts as Haywards Heath and Tunbridge Wells.

We thought we’d buy a couple of their dishes to try and you know what? They were jolly good - and I feel jolly is the right word. A bit like a 1970s dinner party - but none the worse for that. You’d be pleased if your friends cooked as well. You’d be ecstatic to have food this good in the average pub (as well you might since they apparently supply pubs and restaurants too)

One was a Wild Mushroom, Spinach and Butternut Lasagne (£3.75 for one) with a really good wild mushroom taste. The other a dish of Liver, Bacon and Onions (£2.85) with a proper gravy. I couldn't fault them for the price.

The blurb in the free 'Cook Book' or catalogue they give away says “most of our customers are good cooks who appreciate good food but Cook exists for those two or three nights a week when frankly you have got better things to do than cook and you want to serve a meal that is as good as your own cooking.” They single out new parents, the elderly and people who are suffering from ill-health as target customers to whom I would add students (assuming their parents are willing to sub them a delivery) and anyone living on their own.

The only criticism I’d make is that their ‘best before’ dates seem a bit lengthy. I remember from my days running a frozen food service (Frozen Assets!) that cooked meals were best eaten within 3 months of freezing. The date on the liver was May 2011 - 9 months away.

If you don't live near one of their shops you can order the range online.

How often do you order food from a takeaway and would you use one like this?


  1. We have a takeaway once a month or so and although we have a 'Cook!' in Lewes, we've not yet tried their offerings. Perhaps we may do now.

  2. We've got one in Cheltenham too - haven't felt the need to go in funnily enough. Actually it was reading an article on them (and a couple of similar businesses) in the business pages of the newspaper 4 1/2 years ago that gave me the idea to do the same thing but fresh and delivered to the door. I quickly found out why they do it frozen - all to do with economics. As well as their own shops they also sell to farm shops. Interesting origin story too.

  3. I think I was probably impressed because my expectations were so low but you don't roll out a chain like that by under-delivering. Wish I lived in Cheltenham and could take advantage of your service, James!

    And worth trying, Miss Natz, I'd have said although I may have struck lucky with my choice of dishes.

  4. Seems like quite a good idea to me. Funnily enough I reviewed a similar business recently:

  5. Interesting, George. There's obviously a big market for 'home-cooked' takeaway, despite the recession. And actually it need be no more expensive than making a meal from scratch yourself.